Greenwich, London, Great Britain
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 25, No. 3, 2008, p. 26
The first time my newborn daughter, Kiah (pronounced so that "Ki" rhymes with "hi"), fed from my breast, I remember feeling such excitement and overwhelming love for her. I was amazed that my body was still nourishing her even though she was out of the womb and the cord connecting us had finished its role. It was a feeling of such incredible closeness and I could not stop gazing down at her.
Kiah was born at home in a birthing pool. It was a relatively smooth labor and a peaceful birth but, nonetheless, she cried for the first 20 minutes and was not interested in my breast immediately. It was only when we got out of the pool and sat on the sofa wrapped in warm towels together that she started to suckle. I was really pleased as I had wanted to breastfeed and it seemed like a great start.
Our midwife had encouraged us to try cosleeping, and I had also been inspired by reading Deborah Jackson's book, Three in a Bed: The Benefits of Sleeping with Your Baby. The whole first day and night after Kiah was born, the three of us shared a bed. It just seemed so easy and natural having her close to us that we continued to cosleep as the weeks and months rolled on. When she cried I would sit up and feed her. Later, when we sorted out how to feed lying down, I could feed whilst still half asleep. I loved having Kiah so close that I could reach out and feel her breathe in the night. The strange little noises she made in her sleep would make me smile in the darkness.
As time went on, we just didn't feel right about moving Kiah out of our bed. Our little girl cried desperately when put into a crib or basket: she only wanted to be in a sling or in bed with us. Sam had not been at all convinced about cosleeping initially, but I think he appreciated the extra sleep we all got -- no hours spent pacing or rocking a baby seemed like such a bonus. Kiah didn't cry for more than a few moments at night because I was always there and the breast was always available when she wanted milk or comfort.
There have been some downsides to cosleeping for us. Kiah prefers to feed at night, especially now that she is a toddler and even busier in the day. Our evenings are often disrupted with feedings and I can find this tiring and frustrating; although I suspect this may be unrelated to the cosleeping and just a fact of life with some breastfed babies. There are times when I would like to be in bed alone with Sam instead of needing to be imaginative about times and places for lovemaking. I also find the judgments other people make about our cosleeping difficult, so I choose carefully whom to share this information with. I find it reassuring to keep in mind that we are doing what is right for our daughter and our family, and sometimes I am surprised by how positive people can be about the idea.
On the whole though, cosleeping has been a wonderful experience for us all. The upsides include the ease of continuing to breastfeed Kiah into toddlerhood (she is now 15 months old). I don't think I would have had the energy to get up repeatedly in the night to feed and settle her into a cot. She seems so happy in bed with us and I get such joy from the sleepy nighttime feeds when she lets me stroke her hair and cuddle her closely. Kiah is an extremely confident child who is happy to explore new things during the day. I think this is in part due to the security, comfort, and warmth she is surrounded by at night.
I love waking in the morning to Kiah giving me a gentle kiss and stroking my face, or the sounds of her giggling, or feeling her clamber over me to get to her dad. These indeed are happy times, and I know they won't last too much longer before she will be an independent girl sleeping on her own. I just hold on to the precious moments for now.
Adapted from an article in LLLGB's Breastfeeding Matters.