There are very few things that can prepare you for motherhood and the many challenges it presents. I had no idea that being an unapologetic feminist was going to help me with pregnancy, labor, delivery, breastfeeding and, it turns out, my ability to get some freakin' sleep. I read books and I researched and I asked questions but, to my surprise, being a feminist prepared me for co-sleeping the way very few things could. I was able to get the sleep I needed (OK, some of the sleep I needed) and my son was able to sleep soundly and safely and through the night far sooner than expected, because I was able to co-sleep effectively while using my feminist ideals to make sure our sleeping situation worked best for myself, my partner and our son.
My son had difficulty regulating his body temperature just hours after he was born. The nurses and doctors encouraged me to co-sleep with my son the first night he was in the hospital, and my son spent his first night on earth skin-to-skin with me, as my body helped his body temperature stabilize. I was thrown into the co-sleeping world quickly, and while I knew the many benefits (and at least one first hand) of co-sleeping, I was still left somewhat clueless and hungry for information. Being a feminist, and believing and fighting for concepts like body autonomy and sex-positivity helped me survive almost two years of co-sleeping. I was able to balance what I wanted and needed with what my son wanted and needed, and created the best sleep situation for my family.
Co-sleeping can be difficult (hell, sleeping when you're a parent can be difficult), but when you identify as a feminist and know that the responsibilities of parenthood (and everything that goes along with it) aren't yours and yours alone, it will be easier. So, with that in mind, here are a few ways being a feminist will help you co-sleep.
You'll Do Your Research...
As a feminist you're probably (and sadly) used to people arbitrarily questioning you to absolutely no end. I mean, I can't tell you how many times I have had (or more like, chosen) to spit facts at anti-feminist individuals in order to prove that yes, as a woman, I do have the ability to be well-versed in politics or reproductive rights or, you know, stuff and things. That constant research and conscious decision to be "on your game," so-to-speak, will help when you're starting your co-sleeping experience. You'll read all the books and search through all the internet sights and ask all the questions, because being knowledgable matters to you (and makes a huge difference).
...And Debunk The Myths
There are so many myths about co-sleeping that, sadly, are difficult to navigate around and/or through. When my partner and I decided to co-sleep, so many of those myths were regurgitated to us, by concerned people (our parents) who were being sweet and kind and, honestly, just trying to help. We were told we were going to crush our baby or kill our baby or somehow stunt our baby's development and, well, that just wasn't accurate. Yes, there are some precautions you should take to make co-sleeping safe, but for the most part, co-sleeping is perfectly safe.
As a feminist, you're used to hearing myths about feminism and debunking preconceived notions of what it means to be an outright and unapologetic feminist. If you can do that, you can combat the myths you'll inevitably hear when you tell someone that you plan on co-sleeping.
You Won't Apologize For Doing What's Best For You And Your Baby
As a feminist, I have tried to stop saying sorry so damn frequently, and for things I shouldn't be apologizing for. I shouldn't apologize for having an opinion. I shouldn't apologize for voicing that opinion. I shouldn't apologize for making my own decisions. I shouldn't apologize for why those decisions are best for me.
That has helped me defend my decision to co-sleep, when and if I feel like defending it. I don't apologize for doing worked best for my kid. I don't apologize for finding a sleeping arrangement that helped my kid sleep and, in turn, helped me sleep. I mean, #SorryNotSorry, folks.
You Won't Think It's "Weird"
Sadly, we've sexualized women to the point that the idea of a mother sharing her bed with her child, is somehow "weird." Yeah, a feminist won't be about that ridiculous notion, and she definitely won't let the patriarchy keep her from getting a good night's sleep.
You'll Value Your Body Autonomy...
When you co-sleep, it can be difficult to feel like you have full body autonomy. While I loved co-sleeping with my son for as long as we did (around one year), I was just as happy to end our co-sleeping experience so I could have some freakin' space to myself. I valued the time I wasn't being kicked or punched or by tiny ineffectual fists, and I liked being able to spend a few (albeit unconscious) hours, sans human touch or constant interaction. You wouldn't think that valuing body autonomy would help with co-sleeping, but co-sleeping will eventually end and, well, it will definitely matter then.
...And You'll Make Sure To Take Care Of Yourself, Too
Co-sleeping isn't just about your kid. I mean, yes, there are numerous benefits to co-sleeping that your kid will get to reap, but what you want and need and what benefits you, matters too. Keeping that in mind is going to help you when you start (and continue) to co-sleep. Motherhood is a balance, and there's nothing wrong with balancing what you need with what your kid needs, and finding something that works for you both so that your kid is thriving, and you aren't completely depleted.
You'll Make Time For Sex (With A Partner, Or Yourself)
If you want to "survive" co-sleeping, you need time for yourself and your needs and, yes, that includes sex. Whether you're getting busy with yourself or you're getting busy with a partner, you deserve that time (and need that time) and should facilitate that time for yourself. As a feminist, you'll be (or I hope you'll be) body-positive and sex-positive and you'll realize that continuing to have an active and healthy sex live (whatever that looks like, and even if that means no sex life at all) is vital.
You'll Pay Attention To What Your Kid Needs...
Co-sleeping will eventually end, and now long you co-sleep is just as much about your timeline as it is your kid's. If you're a feminist, you believe in your kid gaining more and more body autonomy and making their own decisions and facilitating their independence and choices. That will help when it comes time to end your co-sleeping experience. You'll know the signs for when it's time to stop co-sleeping and the signs that your kid isn't ready to stop co-sleeping, and you'll adjust accordingly. Trust me, this will save you so many tears and sleepless nights.
...And That Will Help When It Comes Time To Transition
Co-sleeping doesn't last forever, and how you handle that transition can be the difference between a seamless experience and, well, the freakin' worst one ever. If you're a feminist, you'll know that you don't control everything, and definitely not the needs of someone else. I'm still transitioning my son completely (he's about to turn two) and while I definitely wish that he would stop coming into my bedroom at 3 in the morning, I am more than willing to facilitate his needs because, well, that is what he needs. I can't make every decision for him, even as a toddler, and sometimes there are moments when you need to listen to your toddler, and silence yourself.