RVA Parenting: Why co-sleeping is my favorite mistake

RVA Parenting: Why co-sleeping is my favorite mistake

Tara Gray is a stay at home mom in Hanover county. She says she was a mom in her heart before she became one. Tara enjoys any opportunity to get outside as a family. Carytown, Colonial beach, Belle Isle or a picnic in Maymont.

I consider myself a confident, experienced mom, a veteran at this point. Let me back up a bit to a time when I was not. I had my first daughter at 21. I read the book for expecting moms front to back twice, even highlighting sections. I was nervous, over thinking everything, clueless, and inexperienced. Allowing love and my very young instincts to guide me. I began to lay her on my chest as she napped.

I could feel her whole body relax as she drifted off to sleep. I assumed because she could hear my heartbeat. My grandma commented on that while visiting. I still remember her advice. She said "Tara if you don't stop letting her sleep on your chest she is going to think that is where she belongs". I laughed, secretly loving that time of the day. I really was in awe. I remember just staring at her as she slept. If I am being completly honest, it was comforting for me too. My grandmas words came back to bite me because soon that was the only way she could go to sleep. She needed to be with me to fall asleep. This is welcomed the first couple months quickly taking on a life of it's on when that snuggy baby turns into a cranky, restless toddler. I would get her to sleep tip toe to her crib gently bending over to lay her in her crib, trying not to breathe to loudly hoping this would be the time she did not notice I was moving her. Praying that she would be content to stay asleep in her crib! Immediately she would wake up. Eyes wide open and looking as if how dare I disturb her and a gotcha!! For all the moms that can relate as you know this gets very tiring. My second baby was a much needed break. Like night and day from the first. She slept like a dream. She was sleeping through the night at three months, in her own crib.

Moving on to baby number three. I felt so successful as she was rounding the fourth month mark. I was cocky and feeling like I should have done this from day one with my first child. This must be what other moms do. Laying her down in her crib and walking away became the routine. Then for seemingly no reason the routine changed, you guessed it only falling asleep with me. At her regular baby check up, I mentioned my concern seeming as if her quality of sleep and routine had changed in an instant. It was going so good. Her response hit me like a smack in the face. She simply replied, well you can't force a baby to sleep. I was so exhausted and confused and I felt like I was in the game of chutes and ladders. I was going all the way back to the beginning. I did not want to cave yet. Knowing what the outcome could become. I began frantically researching for tips to help a baby sleep through the night in their crib. We had taken all the safety precautions for her crib. We bought a sound machine, we even added extra padding in her crib. If it seemed reasonable I tried it. Millions of babies go to sleep in their crib, right...do I happen to have the only baby in the world that does not stay asleep unless she is with me? Flattering and frustrating.

After all of the sleeping issues, I can only say this, I know the times I had with each baby as they took a nap or settled down for the night I will always consider it one of the most precious, intimate bonding times. Do what you feel is right and works for your baby. Each baby is different and that is ok. I understand many moms will consider it the easy way out or have the stand that co-sleeping is not safe.

When I was tired and had a list of to do's the length of my arm for the next day. I chose what allowed me and baby to sleep comfortably. I learned that the sleep pattern that is working today is no guarantee for tomorrow and most definitely will change. For example when your baby is sick.  All to quickly the baby that can only fall asleep with you becomes a preteen that wants to pretend he or she doesn't have parents. If I think back to day one home with my first baby I regret not sticking to a more firm sleeping pattern. I regret not leaving her in her crib sleepy and crying. I regret running to comfort her every single time. I regret not having a very strict schedule, putting her down even when she is not tired. I regret not letting her learn to self soothe. I would ignore my desire to be the one to soothe her. Honestly, I would have always mothered in a way that felt right for me. I would have missed the peaceful, loving looks my daughter gave me as she was relaxing and going to sleep. I was doing what seemed to work. I would have missed the feeling of knowing I was comforting her. The beautiful fact that my heartbeat does put her to sleep. A time in my life that I would not trade, undo or take back. Which is why co-sleeping is my favorite mistake!