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Co-Sleeping Advice from a (Sometimes) Lonely Mama

When Niya was born, I remember getting tons of advice from the nurses in the hospital. These include one nurse sharing a scary story about a mom who was co-sleeping with her newborn and ended up smothering the baby (or crushing her… I can’t quite remember exactly). The nurse said, “Whatever you do, make sure you DO NOT fall asleep in bed with your baby. If you feel sleepy, put her in her crib, then go to bed.” Trouble was Niya came into the world a few weeks earlier than I expected — I didn’t even get the chance to set up the crib before being discharged from the hospital!

We co-slept for the first two weeks — there were problems with setting up the crib and I eventually was able to borrow a crib from my sister who lived nearby. After that, co-sleeping would occur quite by accident on those exhausting nights when I’d end up falling asleep while breastfeeding Niya.

She’d find a perfect position atop my sometimes naked chest, root for the nipple, latch… I’d look at her face with half-asleep eyes, not knowing when I drifted off to sleep. Then the morning light would seep through my window or I’d wake at the sound of Niya’s whimperings.

Co-sleeping has worked miracles though I must admit my ambivalence towards it didn’t change until my return to Jamaica. One of the benefits is the beautiful 5+ hours sleep that began about 2 weeks after Niya’s birth.

Thankfully, I’ve never experienced the kind of sleep-deprivation many other new mommies talk about. Nowadays at 3.5 months, Niya sleeps throughout the night for at least 10 hours… The fact that she’s right beside me makes it easy to simply pop my nipple in her mouth when she cries out in her sleep. She often feeds at least once in the night. We are both half-asleep during the process.

Of course, one of the main reasons I decided to officially accept co-sleeping — at least for now — is because it soothes the loneliness. Being away from her Daddy is tough. In the past year, we’ve spent a total of 7 months apart.

I love having her near me at nights, feeling her warmth when she turns and snuggles against me. (I told her Daddy a few nights ago how she sleeps just like me because when he’s home I often cuddle up to him and he ends up close to the edge of the bed. He used to say how I bruised his arms with all my snuggling. Haha! Poor soul.)

The best part of co-sleeping with Niya is waking up to see her smiling face (No, she actually grins… unlike her mommy who is definitely not a morning person).

If you are a new mother, don’t feel guilty for doing what works best for you! You have the right as mother of your baby to follow your gut and not be afraid. Of course, it’s best to follow wise counsel and to research your options but remember you carried that baby inside you for 9 months… Your hormones have coursed through her, your blood nourished her… You have that instinct to do what’s right for your baby and family.

Don’t be afraid! And good luck!

Love,

Tricia.

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4 thoughts on “Co-Sleeping Advice from a (Sometimes) Lonely Mama”

  1. Hi Tricia, as always, love your post. You are a brilliant writer and I just love your graphics and have great admiration for you as a person and a writer.
    Re this post, although I do agree with your basic premise that mothers should follow their gut, I disagree with your co-sleeping advice. I know, I know – mothers have slept with their kids for generations and nothing happens. However, there have been cases where the child was smothered, few and far between, but it does happen.But, we have learned and evolved from the few incidents that did occur.
    I think mothers should heed the advice of the nurse your mentioned.
    If a new mother doesn’t have a crib, there are alternatives such as a cardboard box, a dresser drawer, suitcase, or a basket.
    Your baby is beautiful and I hope your husband rejoins you soon. All the best.
    Jennifer

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    1. Thank you for your comment JHM. It is true, that those cases do happen. I do not advice every mother to co-sleep because I know it is not for everyone but I do believe strongly that it works for some and may be the best option depending on personal circumstances. In my case for instance as a mother who currently lives alone, co-sleeping has helped me get the rest I need so I can best take care of my baby. There’s the fact too that I sleep lightly — this was not always the case but ever since I’ve given birth it seems my senses are heightened and I easily wake to the slightest sound she makes. I know that not every mother may have this experience of being super-aware of their sleeping baby and therefore, I wouldn’t recommend it to them. I also know that there are many alternatives to co-sleeping as you have mentioned and hope mothers who do not choose co-sleeping will make use of those options whatever their circumstances may be. I feel there is so much anxiety over co-sleeping though… My hope is that this post will help reduce the anxiety. Thanks again for stopping by Jennifer! Always a pleasure hearing from you 🙂

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  2. I think it’s wonderful! When my daughter was a baby I used to love having her asleep on my chest, to feel her breathing so close made me feel the love I carried through her life. I believe that contact is needed and was the way nature intended to be. I don’t know the dangers behind the warnings you are given but I still think you are doing a beautiful job with Niya. 🙂

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    1. Thank you Hector. I am grateful I’ve been able to spend lots of time with her and provide a loving environment. I can tell she feels loved and she is growing more beautiful each day 🙂

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