It's probably a little embarrassing, albeit pretty typical I imagine, the amount of research I did before the birth of my daughter. I looked into both sides of the crib bumper debate, the benefits of breastfeeding over formula, disposable versus reusable diapers and beyond. But one thing I didn't even question, one thing that never came up for debate in my house, was whether or not we would co-sleep. Neither my husband, nor I, was raised in co-sleeping homes and it just didn't seem to fit our lifestyle. I was never against it; I just knew it wasn't for us. My daughter slept in our room in a bassinet for the first few weeks, but after that, sleeping was reserved for our separate rooms. And it worked.
Until it didn't.
The first time my daughter got really sick she was about 18-months-old. She had double ear infections and strep at the same time and was absolutely miserable. The only place she would sleep was on me or in bed with me. This was the first time that we had allowed her to sleep in our bed, but we were determined to do whatever it took to keep her comfortable. At the time, it just seemed natural. The baby needed rest, therefore we did whatever she needed to give her that.
The second time in her life that she was really sick was about three weeks ago. She had hand-foot-and-mouth disease and again, was absolutely miserable. She ran a high fever for almost five days and would grab her mouth in pain saying, "Owww." For the second time in her life, she slept in the bed with me, as my husband was out of town. This time around I had anticipated that she would be sleeping with me, and instinctively put her in my bed when bedtime rolled around. For the week she was sick, she napped with me and slept there at night while she was on the mend. As soon as she was feeling better, we returned to our respective rooms and life went on.
But, as I have learned all too well in the last two years, nothing in a baby's life is always or never. Sleep is no exception to this rule.
As of last week, it seems her wonderful sleep habits have regressed. She has developed a strong aversion to sleeping in her crib, and we have given in several times and allowed her to sleep with us in our bed. I have resigned to the fact that it must be a phase, and my husband and I have pulled out all the tricks that we know to get her to nap and sleep peacefully in her crib. It's taken a series of trial and error attempts and seems to be an uphill battle.
But I can't shake the feeling that we are fighting something that seems so natural. There is a reason she sleeps so much better when she is in our bed. There is a reason she falls into a deep sleep, sans tears, when she is laying next to her mom and dad. And there is a reason that when she is sick, the only place where she will sleep is with her mom. Co-sleeping makes babies feel comfortable, protected, and safe, and I have experienced that first-hand. There are no black and white answers and certainly not a one-size-fits-all answer when children are having sleep (or any other, for that matter) issues. In our home, co-sleeping or not, we will do whatever we need to do to ensure our baby has a good night's rest.
So while we remain a non co-sleeping family, I completely understand the other side of the debate. I completely understand why some families think that NOT co-sleeping is unnatural. And I completely understand why for some families, the decision to co-sleep is an obvious and natural choice.