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Co-sleeping, contact naps, and life in between: A look into our baby sleep experience

You know that time when you first find out you’re pregnant, or even before then, and you have all of these preconceived notions about motherhood? You have a list of things you will do, and a list of things you thought “oh heck no” to. Well co-sleeping was on that second list for me. Why? I honestly have no specific reason. It didn’t interest me and I truly knew absolutely nothing about biological infant sleep needs, or sleep needs in general. Fast forward four years and the funny thing is, while I’m sitting here writing this blog post, I have a 3.5 year old cuddled up on one side of me and a 1 year old laying on my chest, both sound asleep. So let me tell you how it all came to this. 

The preconceived notion:

I had a lot of experience with children prior to becoming a mother. I was a nanny for many years and also ran my own home daycare. I don’t know what it was, but the kids always slept so well for me! The parents would end up so surprised and I just thought it was normal. I thought that babies always slept in cribs and mostly fell asleep on on their own. I obviously did some research before Isla was born and learned about wake windows, drowsy but awake, and always saw so much on sleep training. It honestly seemed like the normal thing to do. But again, just like with breastfeeding, I went into motherhood with an open mind and ready to expect anything. 

What actually happened:

If you’ve read my previous posts on here you’ll remember that I breastfed Isla until she was almost 2 and I’m still breastfeeding Elliot at 15 months old. I feel like that has had a huge factor into how we decided to approach sleep as a family. When Isla was a newborn I did the normal waking up every few hours, sit up in bed to nurse her and try my hardest to stay awake, then put her back into her bedside bassinet. She was honestly a really easy going newborn, I actually had to wake her to make sure she got her night feeds in since she wasn’t gaining weight well. All of her naps were either contact naps or supervised in her Snuggle Me because it’s just what made sense for us. When she was about 3 months old I started bringing her into our bed when she would wake up around 5am and nurse her until 7 or so when we got up for the day. One of the craniosacral therapists we had seen talked a lot about side laying nursing and it turns out it makes life so much easier! Those morning co-sleeping sessions soon evolved into bringing her into bed upon her first wake up. I grew to love co-sleeping throughout the next few months and even more so during the 6 month sleep regression since it saved us so so many sleepless nights. We always followed the safety guidelines and I never felt (or currently feel like) I’m doing anything irresponsible. Naps were a whole different story though. Isla thrived on contact naps and anything that wasn’t a contact nap well.. it just didn’t happen until she was over 9 months old. She was and still is a low sleep needs child, so much so that she went down to one nap at only 6 months old and  completely stopped napping right at 2 years. I contemplated sleep training because it seemed like a “hot topic”,  but the more and more I researched and learned about the process and the importance of responding to your child I decided it just was not right for our family and I was lucky to have Daniel agree. I highly recommend @heysleepybaby for all the best baby sleep content. Suddenly at t 9 months old, things shifted. Isla had a tiny Pooh bear stuffed animal that she used as a comfort item and it magically made crib naps possible! Although they were short (1 hour max) and would usually end in a contact nap it was a HUGE win in my book. Once Elliot was born she stopped napping entirely but even now will still have quiet time in her room. When she turned one we moved her into her own room and would bring her into our room to sleep if she would wake up. 

As a second time mom I have become so much more relaxed and easy going about most things. From day one Elliot co-slept if we needed to. He again, was a very easy going baby so he did okay sleeping in his bedside bassinet but there were nights when co-sleeping was just needed to get any sleep. Isla started waking consistently when he was born so we’d frequently have the 4 of us (safely) squeezed in our king sized bed. Being a second child, Elliot kind of lived life on the go, especially since we started traveling in our RV when he was just 6 months old. A lot of his naps were car naps, some were crib naps, and others were contact naps. He honestly didn’t care as long as he got his nap in somewhere. Elliot is now 15 months old and nurses to sleep for naps and night time. He’ll nap in his crib some days but honestly prefers contact naps or car naps. At night time he’ll stay in his crib for a few hours and then wake up and Daniel will bring him to our bed. He tries so hard to nurse all night long but we’re working on just cuddling in bed instead of nursing (it’s not easy! He’s a boob obsessed baby). Isla is 3.5 and her sleep ebbs and flows. Some months she’ll happily fall asleep on her own and stay in her bed all night long, and others she’ll need Daniel or I to cuddle her to sleep and she’ll make her way into our bed each night. As much as I love to spread out and have my own space in bed, it’s always comforting to look over and see both of my babies sweet, sleeping faces laying in bed between Daniel and I. 

A father and husband’s point of view: 

“I didn’t like the idea of it at first, I was so unsure of it. I was nervous because I thought I would roll over on them when I was sleeping, but Taylor showed me how to safely co-sleep and kept them on her side of them bed when they were really small. Something about knowing they’re in your bed makes you more aware of your body. Now, I really enjoy co-sleeping because I like to see that they are safe and happy in our bed. We love to have weekend “family naps” where we all lay in bed or the couch and take a nap together instead of having the kids in their rooms. They’re still so little so I don’t see them sleeping in their own beds for while, but I know that one day they will so I am not worried about it.” 

-- Daniel 

Moving forward:

Like Daniel said, the kids are only little for so long. There will be a point where they will stay in their beds all night long and I know when that day comes we will miss their little warm bodies cuddled up next to ours during the night. I want them to always know that they are welcome to lay with us, whether they had a bad dream or are experiencing their first broken heart. Until the day comes where our king bed feels big again, we will embrace this season of life we are in. 

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