Taking it back to 2017, I am a new Mom recovering from childbirth and beginning my journey with breastfeeding. We couldn’t be happier having finally brought home our beautiful boy.
Now, prior to bringing him home, I had completed his nursey and it was absolutely adorable. I throw this piece of information in there as it will make sense here in a little bit.
By his two week visit, he not only got back to birth weight, he was one pound over. I no longer needed to wake him to feed and was switching to feeding on demand. At this point, this is when my journey to becoming a human pacifier began and severe exhaustion was about to be upon me. Additionally, at the early age of two weeks old, my son decided he no longer wanted to be swaddled.
Knowing what I know now, most children will remain swaddled until they are about four months of age. As newborns still need the comfort of the womb, and wrapping them up like a little cocoon also prevents them from feeling like they are falling as they still have startle reflex at this age (where they do not have control of their arms and legs). Him being un-swaddled so young was another piece to my struggle of a sleep puzzle.
When we brought him home, our plan was to have him sleep in the bassinet in our room for six months. It sounded good at the time, but since he was dependent on nursing to sleep and refused to sleep in his bassinet for longer than 5 minutes, our plan quickly derailed.
This little two week old was a master escape artist. He would fuss and fuss, and FUSS until he would get an arm out. Once that happened, he would stay sleeping for a small period of time before that cat nap was over. This pattern repeated all night. My husband and I would go back and forth on the right way to swaddle. I’m pretty sure we were both wrong as neither of us ever swaddled him like the swaddle nurse ninjas could. At just two weeks old, I gave up.
Yup, I brought him into bed with us, terrified and with him by my side. He would nurse to sleep. By the way, I was one of those pregnant mamas who said “I would never sleep with my child!” oh how wrong I was.
I would also like to note that I was aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep in their parents room for at least the first six months if not a year. The recommendation is to not co-sleep in bed. They should be placed in their own sleep space, i.e. bassinet close to the parents. I was aware of the risks which of course was why I was terrified every night and not sleeping.
Here I was co-sleeping, like so many parents do when we are exhausted and just don’t know what else to do. I also want to say, we originally put him in the bassinet and when that failed, we put him in the dock-a-tot in between us in bed. He had been taking his naps in the dock-a-tot, so it made the most sense to me to also try that at night time. Now, this option was much more comfortable and I felt good about him being in the bed, but having his own space and being semi-swaddled (arms out or loosely swaddled). But, no matter what, he still would not remain asleep.
We had the quilt comforter on the bed tucked tight. He and I slept on top of it as I was terrified of even having him under the covers. I slept with a light blanket only around my waist and below him. He wore pajamas only and on some nights just a onesie. During Indian Summer here in the Bay Area, the house is warm with no air conditioning. I wouldn’t even put my arm near him, so I often slept with light pajama pants on that had pockets so that my hand and arm wouldn’t fall over him. My husband would sleep on the edge of the other side of our king bed. I even kept a night light on near the bed so that I could watch him.
Once he would fall asleep, I was frozen, even when I did fall asleep. It was a light stage of sleep and I was so fearful of rolling over. I can’t tell you how many nights I was holding my urge to pee in fear of waking him up by moving. We would start off nursing and when he would fall asleep, I would stealthy and gently break his latch praying not to wake him. I then slowly would tilt his little face slightly upward so that he wasn’t sleeping directly into my boob or near the bed. I would repeatedly wake to make sure he was breathing. These nights were nothing short of exhausting and never restful.
As a new mom, I knew what I had signed up for, I knew my prior 8+ hours of night sleep was long gone, and I was ok with that, but, can a girl get 2-4 hours? With D.J. waking every hour or so, night after night, week after week was severely taking a tole on my mental clarity. My reality was that I ended up co-sleeping, exhausted, and quickly knowing that this was just not sustainable, for me anyways.
As you can read in my breastfeeding journey blog post, it was a journey far from smooth, so nursing struggles on top of no sleep had me in a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that I didn’t realize was possible. I started thinking, why was I focused for 9 months about labor and delivery? in comparison, that was the easy part. This right here, was the real hard part and I wasn’t prepared.
My turning point. At four weeks post partum, two weeks of co-sleeping and still madly in love with my son (despite being beyond tired), a close couple friend of ours came over to see our new baby. She started sharing with me that they finally, at one year, got their little boy sleeping and had used WeeSleep. Um, what!? I asked her. Give me their information please! While I knew enough to know that D.J. was too young for any coaching of course, I had to reach out and see what I could be doing differently at four weeks and beyond to get him into his own safe sleep environment and to get mama some sleep!
That was where WeeSleep found me and my path to becoming a consultant began. I will share that story in another post, but I share this because co-sleeping just wasn’t for me. I remember being told that women have been sleeping with their children for thousands of years, which is true, but for me, I couldn’t live with myself if anything ever happened, and honestly, none of us were even sleeping.
I was too scared and it would have been different had I brought him into bed and we all were getting sleep and rest, but we weren’t. There was zero healthy sleep happening. He still couldn’t stay asleep, he was still waking two, three, five, six times per night nursing and going back to sleep. Even without the sleep education that I know now, I knew he was not getting healthy sleep, nor were daddy and I.
When new families reach out to me to discuss wanting to sleep coach their child, so often they too have ended up co-sleeping and are dealing with un-restful nights. (By the way, I NEVER make any family feel bad for their current sleep situation. We are parents, we are just trying to survive sleep exhaustion). They are confused on how to get their child into a bassinet or crib safely and easily. They are arguing with their spouse depending on who wants to co-sleep and who does not. They have become used to waking throughout the night and exhaustion a new norm. These are all things that I can empathize with as I was there.
I realize that it sounds crazy, a sleep consultant that used to co-sleep with her son. Look, I’m not against anyone who does it, enjoys it, it works for them, etc. Your child, your choice! It is likely that my experience is more severe or dramatic than other parents’ experience with co-sleeping. All I know is that it’s important to me to be honest, transparent and share with you my experience.
At four months, I safely transitioned my son into his crib. He was finally sleeping in the adorable nursery that had been waiting for him and by night three he slept twelve hours, I was in shock! He finally was getting the rest he needs, he was sleeping on his back in a clear safe crib, and while I frequently was checking on him through the baby monitor (as mom worry never stops), I felt a huge weigh lifted. It took daddy and I a few more days to adjust, but even though I was still waking to pump, we were all sleeping healthy.
If you are a parent struggling with co-sleeping and have ended up doing so against your wishes, I am here to help. I was there, I know all about the struggle and I help parents to safely transition!
Please share with me your experience, any comments, questions. I would love to hear from you!