Sleeping Options for New Moms
Try different options to find the one that brings you the maximum sleep:
Child between mom and dad. Maximum snuggles with child, and prevents him or her from rolling off the bed. But most likely to keep parents awake and separate from each other, and may increase chance of SIDS if risk factors are present.
On the other side of Mom. Allows parents to snuggle. Easier for Dad to sleep through nighttime feedings. But can make Mom feel she's solely responsible. If your bed is off the floor, child might roll off it.
On the other side of Dad. Also allows parents to touch easily. Draws fathers into nighttime-feeding parenting. If you are bottle-feeding at night. Dad can do so as readily as Mom, and she can get some sleep. Same caution as above about child falling out of bed.
In a crib near your bed. Creates more separation between parents and child, perhaps enabling each to sleep better. If a crib is placed next to your bed. one side can be lowered as long as the crib is firmly positioned with no chance whatsoever of the baby falling through the crack.
On a futon or small mattress on the floor near your bed. Works even better if parents place their own mattress on the floor. Nighttime nursing is a simple matter, and babies are usually not roused by movement in their parents' bed. But make sure a family pet won't get on top of the baby.
- Your child's signals will often tell you when he'll resettle without your doing anything. In general, see if he can settle on his own. But if he needs some food or comfort, try to get it to him quickly, before he, or you, rouses fully, and then each of you can drift easily back to sleep.
- Cosleeping need not interfere with the parents' sexual relationship. Many couples are comfortable making love quietly, under the covers, while an infant sleeps in a crib or futon nearby. Or they find another location in the home. If a mother and father want to make love, they'll find a way, regardless of where the baby sleeps.
- There are many ways to transition from cosleeping to down-the-hall. You can make the child's bedroom more inviting and yours less so. For example, Jan and Rick started out with their mattress on the floor next to comfy pads for each child (on either side); they ended up with getting nicer furniture for the kids' bedrooms, raising their own mattress off the floor, and the kids using thin pads. With a toddler, you can start putting her to sleep in her own room with the understanding that she can come down the hall in the middle of the night to crawl into a little bed next to your own. Bedtime routines can be elaborate and fun in the child's room, and boring in your own. You're the parent, you're the boss, and you can have it go the way you want.
Making Down-the-Hall Work for Mom
Get a baby-room sound monitor and place the speaker next to the person who is "on duty" each night - hopefully Dad some of the time.
Decide if you want to let yourself fall asleep in the child's bed (assuming it's not a crib), either when you put the child to sleep or if you get up at night to settle her back to sleep. It's cosleeping, albeit in the child's bedroom, with the pluses and minuses of that arrangement. Some men feel abandoned or miffed if their partner falls asleep with the child, and some mothers do so to avoid dealing with their intimate relationships (though Rick has seen couples in which this pattern is reversed).
If you are not getting in bed with the child, place a comfortable chair next to her bed. Try not to crouch or hold the child in an awkward position, since you risk throwing your back out - not uncommon among mothers whose backs have been weakened by overwork and depletion.
- Make the child's room pleasant and peaceful for you, since the two of you are going to share it some of the time. Lovely pictures and night-lights, sweet-smelling sachets, or soft pillows can help you feel nurtured at night.
- Have the time with your child be as soothing as possible for you, not just her. A rocker can feel deeply relaxing. Softly singing songs, even ones you make up on the spot, can de-jangle nerves and lift a mood. Or murmur your hopes and dreams for your child, yourself, and your family.
- Try the various methods that can help a child to sleep, from standard ones like musical mobiles to exotic techniques such as running a blow dryer on low (not pointed directly at a child).
- If you've decided to see if you can train your child to sleep through the night (e.g., with the Ferber method), try not to get too upset by the process. If it hasn't worked in a week or so, you should try a different method, for both your peace of mind and your baby's well-being. During that time, do what you can to treat yourself and your child really, really well.
More on: Children's General Health
From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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