I love to wake up to a baby in my bed, or any child for that matter. One of my favorite times of the day is when we take our afternoon nap. I lay down on my queen-size mattress with my son nursing next to me. I’m lying on my side, with a pillow placed against my back to discourage me from rolling over backwards – just a personal preference in sleeping positions – and my five-year-old daughter snuggles in against me, using that pillow for her head. My four-year-old daughter grabs a third pillow and lies across the end of the bed. Sometimes, one or both of our house cats will join in, too.
We usually drift off as the afternoon light begins to wane, and I wake up a couple hours later, the only light being the night light plugged in beside the bed – its soft glow on each of my children, often still asleep. My son resting his head against my chest, a tiny hand just loosening its grip on the edge of my shirt, a tiny foot wedged against my thigh. My daughters peacefully off to dreamland – they never have nightmares when sleeping in my bed. My oldest daughter’s asthma away for now, her at times raspy wheeze calmed to a gentle snore.
It saddens me to think of families who haven’t discovered the joys of cosleeping, whether the parents outright believe that sharing sleep is inappropriate or the parents who try cosleeping but are frustrated with their still-waking baby. It’s not that children who sleep in another bed in another room don’t wake up at night; they do. But they’re expected to soothe themselves back to sleep alone, despite their fears and despite the fact that they simply are not able to do so! Babies aren’t developmentally able to understand that when Moms goes into the next room without them that she didn’t just disappear, and preschoolers whose budding imaginations conjure up monsters aren’t developmentally able to know that they aren’t real. Try having your worst nightmare appear before your eyes – what’s likely to be your reaction? That’s right, terror.
Even when my daughters began sleeping in their own room – they share a room, which I think is an important step in gently “weaning” a child out of the parents’ room – I have always maintained an open-door policy: If someone has a bad dream or hears the wind and thinks it’s a dragon, they can come back. Sometimes, it’s not so easy to configure the bed with the whole family in it, so we have sleeping bags and toddler mattresses for the floor. And periodically, I plan a slumber party, so family sleep isn’t always about nighttime fears and sometimes just about fun.
I understand the importance of practicing all the attachment-oriented parenting principles together and seeing each as equally valuable as the next, but I do think that cosleeping can be particularly powerful in mother-child bonding. It encompasses not only safe sleep but nurturing touch and responding with sensitivity, as well as feeding with love and respect when with a breastfed babe. Whether you stay at home with your children or you work, it’s a wonderful way to reconnect, particularly after a separation or a difficult moment of discipline. And you’re taking time to regain personal balance without taking time out from being with your children, which is near impossible some days. Yes, cosleeping is probably my favorite parenting technique.
Article by Rita Brhel
Rita Brhel is a stay-at-home mother to three children. She is also a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for the Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska, the Publications Coordinator for Attachment Parenting International, the managing editor of the Attached Family magazine, an API Support Group Leader, PSI Postpartum Support Coordinator, Sidelines High-Risk Pregnancy Peer Counselor.
Rita has written 41 awesome articles for Natural Family Today.
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