I think co-sleeping saved my baby.

Since I’ve been in a nostalgic mood for my babies, I figured I’d post one more personal story from the not-so-distant past. This is in part because I read this blog post from another mom blogger, Jess, about co-sleeping and infant deaths. I wanted to let her know there are good stories about co-sleeping that never make the news.

I didn’t co-sleep with my oldest. My husband and I took turns pacing the floor with her all night because for the first 2 months of her life, she wouldn’t sleep in her crib – the only place we assumed she was supposed to sleep. Being first time parents, fear of SIDS kept us from ever even dreaming of putting her into bed with us. Because we got such little sleep, my husband, and particularly myself, was having a HARD adjustment to parenthood. With my breastfeeding difficulties, the lack of sleep made me a lunatic at times. I think had I been checked by a professional, a diagnosis of PPD would have come back (as it was, I was too scared to admit I had problems so I never told my doctor at the 6 week followup visit).

I learned to love co-sleeping by the time my second child was born (anything to get better sleep for her and me was worth it). After researching safe co-sleeping arrangements, I was much more comfortable with the idea of co-sleeping for getting optimal sleep. Though I did try to use a co-sleeper basinette, often she’d wake up and I’d have to move her into back into bed with me and nurse her back to sleep (I slept in a separate room from my husband, not quite trusting that he wouldn’t roll over on her). I did wake up on more than one occasion with my cat, Dot, asleep on her head. It was a good thing I was there to get her off her head (I started keeping the door shut after the second time it happened). But even that story isn’t the story I’m talking about.

A little more than 3 years ago, I learned to really appreciate co-sleeping with my youngest daughter. She’s the blond girl whose nursing picture is in the post below. When she was about 11 months old (past typical age for great concern about SIDS, though the risk is still there) it was March in the midwest and my youngest was sleeping beside me (I never even broke out the bassinette with that baby) and I woke to the sounds of strange breathing.  When I realized it was her, I sat up and watched her in the dark. I saw that she would stop breathing momentarily (about 11-15 seconds), then intake a shuddering breath.  I waited to see what would happen next, and then I realized she did it again, about 2 more times.  I tried to rouse her a little, trying to wake her up a bit, and she didn’t respond much (she was in a deep sleep – at least I hoped that’s what it was, though instinctively I felt it was more than that).  I started growing alarmed and my husband was working the midnight shift at the time so I was on my own with my panic.  I turned on the lights, I spoke loudly and moved her (jostled her a little firmly was more like it) until she finally fluttered her eyes a bit, but she wanted to go back to sleep.  Then I moved to the family room and with her in my arms, still breathing strangely and I checked on the internet to see what sleep apnea in infants was like.  She was just a few seconds away from it being considered apnea (the criteria is 20 seconds). Her breathing still hadn’t returned to normal and I decided I was going to try to nurse her. Nursing has a magical way of calming babies, so I thought I’d try to see if it would help. As she nursed in her sleep, I realize it actually did work. Her breathing calmed down and became regulated. I didn’t calm down, though, I was still scared because I didn’t know if she’d stop breathing again. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night, terrified she might die.

When morning came, I took her to the doctor, but there was nothing out of the ordinary, and I was simply told to come back if it happened again. It never did.

I’ll really never know for sure if she was going to die that night, but to this day I still believe that there was a good chance that she would have had I not been there right beside her to hear her when she started breathing strangely.

I can’t say that co-sleeping is right for everyone, but I’m so glad I made the decision to co-sleep my babies. I do believe it saved my baby that night.

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10 Responses to I think co-sleeping saved my baby.

  1. Jessica says:

    Wow! I was holding my breath reading this, I am so glad she’s OK and you were there to intervene immediately! What a wonderful example of how cosleeping often leads to positive outcomes – this is the kind of story that we need to see more often.

  2. raisingsmartgirls says:

    I’m grateful to have been there to “rescue” her. I can’t say what would have happened had I not been able to intervene, but I do credit co-sleeping for being able to give me the opportunity to do something about it. I also credit the breastfeeding to help her regulate her breathing again.

    I’m glad I wrote down this story, because I almost have forgotten to. It’s one of the ones I want to keep for my journal (I print all my entries out and put them in a pretty binder). It’s a story I don’t want to forget.

  3. Ashley says:

    good story. I always co-sleep with my daughter when she doesn’t feel well (and most nights when she does). I am so afraid not to be there if something happens!

  4. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thanks Ashley. I always found I slept better when they were with me, even if the above never happened.

  5. Lia Mack says:

    amen! Your story is very touching and I wish more people knew about the wonderful and usefulness of the family bed! We co-sleep with our two (5yo and 3yo) and it’s not always comfy, but it’s so sweet and secure… thanks for a great post 😉

  6. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thank you Lia.

    I almost always wake up every morning with my 5 year old in my bed.

    We start out the night with the 3 year old and the 5 year old in our bed, and I lay down with them until they fall asleep. Then we move them into their own bed.

    Then, come 3-5 am, the 5 year old will inevitably climb into bed with us to finish off the night. It’s probably not the best thing for her (interrupted sleep possibly contributes to her meltdowns). She is a kicker though, and usually kicks my husband and he ends up having to sleep on the couch if she’s in bed all night.

    She always comes in to snuggle against me in my arms. Half the time I don’t even know she’s in my arms until I wake up.

  7. isabella says:

    wow!! what a story! thanks for sharing it.
    my girl just turned 11 months and i hve the habit to take her to our bed around 2 am (its usually the time she starts to make noises!!!). the truth is that i feel great to have her with us but on the other hand sometimes i feel i do something wrong as she might get the bad habit to come to our bed when she will be older…

  8. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Isabella – well, even if she gets into a habit for a while, it’s not one that can’t be modified as she gets older. When she is older, you can start having really nice comforting bedtime routines warm bath, milk, stories, songs and prayers – and then in her own bed. This is what worked well for my oldest daughter.

    Now, the way it works is that my youngest two lay down with me in my bed to fall asleep, and then I move them to their own beds. Sometimes, we put on a book on tape, and they listen to it in their own beds.

  9. cowgirlmama says:

    This story sounds very similar to mine. My baby is on a monitor next to me as I’m typing because he stopped breathing on Christmas Eve. It could have been a very tragic Christmas if he hadn’t been in my bed. I’m glad your daughter was ok, too! 🙂

  10. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Isn’t it scary when it happens? I’m so glad your son was okay. I’m so happy to say my ‘baby’ is now a big 5.5 year old. And I’m glad the days of SIDS concern are way past over.

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