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Anne-Marie Lindsey

Anne-Marie Lindsey

Guide to Baby Sleep Positions: Co-Sleeping or No Sleeping

A book review and plea for understanding.

Before you freak out about all of the babies sleeping in beds with adults and start screaming “Danger! Danger!” please put yourselves in our shoes: for us, it is either co-sleeping, or no sleeping. A baby who has not slept is much, much worse than the combined horribleness of parents and a baby who have not slept. Like so much of parenting, this falls under the category Laugh or You Will Weep. Our family suffers from Insistently Cuddly Infant syndrome, and unless you, too, have experienced this, you have no right to judge us. If you cannot weep for us, just read The Guide's witty text, examine the hilarious illustrations and laugh along.

Baby Sleep Positions makes me laugh until I cry (in a good way, mostly) even after a night spent playing games on my iPhone because my infant is alternating between nursing and kicking me in his sleep. Yes, he eats without waking up, merely by indicating with squirms and sounds that he is hungry. I hop to immediately, no matter how sleepy I feel, because I prefer a nursing baby to a crying baby. At least this way, Dad is getting sleep and can take over while I nap, tomorrow. Speaking of Dad, my husband and I even manage to laugh about the impact bed-sharing has had on our sex life, all thanks to “Baby Sleep Position No. 22: The Deflector Shield,” and its Star Wars-themed euphemisms.

I had seen some of the Baby Sleep Positions on when I first learned about the blog, last year, and I chuckled. That was back when I thought co-sleeping would be a choice, not a dire necessity.

Those were the days when I thought that I would choose where my baby would sleep. When I was pregnant, I gave this a lot of thought; I didn't just pick out a crib to put on our registry. We have a small one-bedroom apartment, so our growing baby boy would definitely be sleeping in our room when he arrived. But should we buy a crib? I was liking the idea of Attachment Parenting, and it touts the benefits of co-sleeping. Could we afford this cool thing called a CoSleeper, like a side-car crib that would securely attach to our bed? Should we start with a “Moses Basket” on a stand next to the bed? In the bed? Should we just put the baby in our bed?

We had a “bed-sharing” friendly setup; knowing that I had slept in my parents' bed from day one, I had asked that we upgrade our own sleeping arrangement when we moved across the hall into this larger, if not spacious, apartment during the fourth month of my pregnancy. The basics of bed-sharing sleep safety include: a firm mattress, sheets pulled tightly and tucked in well, blankets, pillows and soft things kept away from Baby, something to keep Baby from rolling off the side of the bed, and putting Baby to sleep on his back. I also wanted to include an eco-friendly mattress, but since organic, 100% toxin-free mattress cost approximately half our yearly income, we went with a king-sized natural latex mattress from Ikea.* (In case you're mattress shopping at the moment, it is the best bed I have ever slept on. I love it.) By the time I was full-term, my mom had scored us a moses basket and a CoSleeper. We had options!

Or so I thought...

My child needs to be touching another human being at all times. Exceptions include: his carseat, sometimes, while the car is moving (or while an adule is moving the seat), or a moving stroller, To be fair, he will do baby things like tummy time or practicing sitting up, but only provided that he can reach out and grab another human. And that is a recent development. He is six months old. He can flip himself on to his tummy and sit all by himself for a few seconds. He sometimes likes to do these things without maintaining a death grip on the skin or, if we're lucky, the clothing, of the nearest adult. Personal space happens only when the baby, or, as his Dad likes to call him, our Tiny Overlord, changes hands. All the same, I rarely get any personal space at night.

Cuddling a baby is awesome. Cuddling my own baby inspires happy feelings that go beyond anything I ever dreamed possible. Being in physical contact with a tiny, dependent, and fragile human for many long hours is exhausting, however. I had no idea, before I became a mother, that I would one day feel a desperate need for no human contact. For the record, I definitely resent Dad for getting to sleep in the night time, but there's no getting around the fact that the Tiny Overlord has to make a lot of noise to wake up his father. Since it takes very little noise from the baby to wake me up, the result is that everyone is awake, even if there is a bottle prepped and ready. I do get sleep during the day, because my graduate-student husband is happy to hang out with and bottle-feed our little guy while I nap.

I love The Guide to Baby Sleep Positions because I spend almost every night with “No. 6: The Drive-Thru Window” and/or a new addition to our household, “No. 12: The Opera Singer.” {Dad sleeps next to Mom sleeps next to Baby, and Baby Makes Lots of Sounds For a Long Time, for those of you without your reference guides handy.} We are moving past a major “Exorcist” phase. {Less spitting up massive amounts of milk.} Reading this book feels like a good friend saying “Me too!” when you admit to a problem that you thought was totally bizarre. It is also a preview of things to come, including what could happen when our baby can sit up easily, becomes mobile or even finally sleeps in a room of his own. It is also a short book with pictures for grown-ups, which is really great when you haven't slept much in awhile and have been reading Good Night Moon twice every night in the vague hope that it will calm your child into sleeping in his CoSleeper. I'll let you know if that ever works out.

In sum, thanks for the laughs, Charlie and Andy**, and thank you for raising awareness about our shared plight.

*Latex allergies don't run in our family. I decided at the time that if the baby had a latex allergy, he would just have to sleep in a crib. I'm glad he isn't allergic, because that would mean a whole lot of crying, which I, personally, cannot handle. Prolonged bouts of crying trigger panic attacks. I'm not a good mom while I'm having a panic attack. Also: cribs are expensive.

**I highly recommend that you find this hilarious duo of dads in the Twitterverse, @howtobeadad, and read their Twitter feed and blog, especially if it is late at night and you have only your iPhone to entertain you. Just be careful not to wake the baby with your stifled laughter.

Snow Angels