For couple of days ago, in one of the children/parents/parenting groups on Facebook where I take a look from time to time came a question about how and where upcoming babies are going to sleep. Even though I know how a big majority of Western and by that also Danish families believes how children should sleep in their cribs and preferably in their rooms from very early days, I still get a slightly shock every time when that question is raised and the outcome shows how few of them choose co-sleeping.
I must admit that I haven’t always been “there” and that in many ways I was and still am very conventional.
Back in 2012 when we were expecting L I didn’t give many thoughts to co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby wearing and other “alternative” approaches. I believed that everything will come by it self and that I will know. Today I know that I didn’t know much (if I knew anything) and nobody did prepare me for what was coming on the horizon.
I took first brave steps into motherhood and I still believed we would be just fine. We did but I wish I knew differently.
L came one warm night at the end of the summer 2012. We had a baby crib in our room already waiting on her. We stayed in hospital longer than expected due to my caesarean and we even gave her to the nurses those first nights to take care of her so we could get some sleep. I don’t think that that is a custom and I don’t think they offer that any more but it was how it was back then. When we came home with her we slept in a same room afterwards but we didn’t share bed even though I breastfed all night long. I didn’t mind getting up and laying her back in the crib afterwards. When she 6 months later decided that there is not better place than to sleep on me and preferably on top of me all night long and when I wasn’t able to sleep one single minute like that, when everything on me was stiff and in pain, when I was crushed over how hard it was, I searched for the advice. I wish that back then there were people around me – parents that knew about normal baby behaviour and sleep, that knew about alternatives and that knew how to give a support and comfort. Yes, a tribe of mine that shared the same views and principals and was able to support on the different way than just put everything in the same box. But on opposite of that I “learned” that babies are supposed to sleep all night through, stop breastfeeding and be on their own in their own rooms. While I was crushed, with huge sleep deprivation and at the same time tremendously vulnerable, I did exactly what everybody else did: moved the baby in her own room. She didn’t fuss much about it and she did start sleeping on her own all night long and by that she also stopped night feedings. It wasn’t very painful but somehow it didn’t feel natural.
Danish Health Board called “Sundhedsstyrelsen” recommends that infants sleep in a same room with parents but in their own bed/crib as a prevention of SIDS (Sudden Infant death syndrome). Recommendations based on old and not completely valid science data also stress that infants are most safe in the separate cribs while sharing the same room as parents.
Then in 2015 S came to us and the first ting the midwife said to us, leaving home from hospital couple of hours after the birth, was to lay her in our bed and not to be afraid something bad would happen and she advised us how we should secure our bed so it was safe for her to sleep in it together with us. We did have the crib ready but she never got there and I can probably count less then 10 times she slept there. S calls our bed for mamas, dads and hers bed and the crib is there to decorate her room (the one she only uses to play in) but it will be leaving soon as we by now figured out we never going to use it again. Co-sleeping didn’t come naturally and it wasn’t the first and best choice we took. It was a process and learning, developing and getting to the point where we are now. But we are not done yet. My husband counted days before S will leave our bed but alle of a sudden in stead L came back to us 4 years after she was moved on her own and now we are expanding our bed with one that will go from wall to wall. Yes, we are that kind of family now and our master bedroom turned to be a master bed.
We do love it now. We really do. I learned to sleep on the tiny space, to be the one many lay on, to be their comfort, pillow, hand in need and I learned to sleep without noticing any of that. I also figured out how simple and easy things can be and how if we just except we can make our own life much less complicated and frustrated in this process. Co-sleeping reminded me of all those nights when L was sick, teething or just fussing in her sleep when we were sitting in her dark room, holding her hand, waiting to be able to leave and sleep again. I wish I counted all those sleepless hours so I could prove how stupid it was, but even without that register deep in me I know that it was a mistake needed to be taken so we could learn in the process.
I don’t say that co-sleeping is the one and only solution for all. I don’t even say you should consider it. I am always for doing what feels right for each and every individual/family and as long as it is not harmful and functions for you, that is the right one to do. But I wish that more parents/people in general gave this a thought, were informed, just knew what it was and how perfectly normal it is.
We are by nature pack animals, we always lived in tribes and we survived cause we had each other not cause we individually were the chosen ones. We slept together and most of us feel best by sharing bed with some other. I do. I never preferred sleeping alone and I hate when my husband is away. I never understood why so we believe that our children are made to do and enjoy the opposite.
Before we all moved to one bed we took a short trip two years ago and we stayed on the tiny hotel where we had a mini bedroom with just one bed for us 4. It was the first time I have seen my big girl get so excited as she was figuring out she is going to share the same bed as her baby sister. It was the first time seeing her holding her sisters hand in sleep and smiling while her eyes got heavier. I knew there and than that they also need a company by their side and when L gradually and slowly concord our bed, that that was the right ting. Now I know that what feels wrong is wrong and that doing the opposite of society norms isn’t necessary the wrong to do. It is totally ok being alternative and doing things differently than what is “supposed” to. There is a saying in Danish that says: “sådan er det bare”, meaning “it is just the way it is”. I would say it is how we make it to be.
In this moment I am not panicking of the thought that our third upcoming child will join us in the master bed some time in October and I am not panicking knowing that I don’t know when we will get the room for us self again. I feel like we are a tribe and being close is nice. With bed full of tiny bodies my heart gets full.