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Who's in charge of your sleep?

When I found out I was pregnant, the crib shopping and nursery decorating were in full force, it's just so much fun!  My baby had to have a cute room if we were going to get her sleeping through the night like a pro, right? 

Then she arrived and the massive anxiety over sleeping began. There are enough baby/parent sleeping terms out there, it's hard to keep it all straight and understand the pros and cons of each scenario. You also have to take into account the "survival mode" that you go into that first couple of months, where following the "rules" becomes a desperate attempt to figure out what is going to work best for you and your baby and meet the recommendations of the "experts."

Founded in 1990, the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation was established to "promote public understanding of sleep and sleep disorders. It seeks to improve public health and safety by supporting sleep-related education, research, and advocacy."  So what do they say about the safe sleep options for a young baby and their parents and how does it change as your child turns into a toddler?

Keeping a schedule: It's not easy to establish a sleep schedule in the first few weeks. In reality, you have to just go along with whatever the baby decides is their sleep schedule and unfortunately, they usually have their days and nights confused. Something that is commonly recommended is to "sleep when your baby sleeps" but adjusting your nights into days is just as difficult as adjusting their days into, it's kind of nice to be up in the day, you know, like a real human.  

Sleeping Styles:

Co-sleeping is the practice of sleeping in the same bed with one's infant or young child. This term has been widely used as new products and baby beds are created to help blend the safety of sleeping separately with the convenience and emotional necessity of true co-sleeping which is generally considered risky. The debate regarding co-sleeping can take twists and turns since throughout history co-sleeping has been widely accepted as safe and also important for bonding. The biggest factor that has changed our ability to co-sleep safely is our lovely cushy beds and fluffy pillows that we have become so used to.  This has caused an unsafe environment for an infant.  Babies may not be able to kick himself over, from his tummy to his back, until 5 or 6 months because they need a stronger neck and arm muscles for that maneuver. This makes babies under 6 months unable to fend for themselves among the bedding, crevices between the mattress and bed frame and even against your own body as you toss and turn yourself. 

Room Sharing is taking co-sleeping to a lesser degree. Room sharing is just that, having your baby in your room but not IN your bed with you. Experts recommend room-sharing without bed-sharing to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths in infants.  This can be an excellent option for new parents since you have the easy access to your child but you remove the dangers that sleeping with your baby can come with.  The downside to having your baby in your room but just close enough that it requires more effort from you to retrieve them is that you can hear every single movement, squeak, and grunt they make.  A newborn sleeping baby can make very subtle noises CONSTANTLY, it's cute for a moment and then becomes the one thing that is preventing you from getting any quality shut-eye. 

Having your baby in a separate room.  Major pro's to having your baby sleep in their own room, if you push aside your neurotic, paranoid, controlling freaked out parent vibes.  I tried a separate room but found myself going in to check on her every minute, thinking I heard a noise, or she was TOO quiet. But, having their own room can be the space you need to get real sleep, only waking you up when your child actually NEEDS you. The only downside to this option is the "bonding" factor that is widely debated when talking about different sleeping options.

It is SO MUCH to consider.  The best option is to choose what works best for you and your growing family and allow yourself room to adjust as things change and your baby adapts.