The best, arguably most fun part of being a parent is learning about this new person you've created. As you spend time with them throughout the day, you get to see how they handle a wide range of ordinary, every-day scenarios; revealing their personalities little by little and as they evolve. If you co-sleep or bed-share with your baby, you get an extra few hours of careful observation (even if you're half-asleep for some or most of it), which I personally find to be pretty cool. In other words, there are lots of things you learn about your baby when you co-sleep.
I'm one of those moms who read up on the various sleeping options before giving birth, but planned to co-sleep with a sidecar attachment for a little while before moving our baby to a crib in his own room. (Isn't it hilarious how many assumptions you make about your life as a parent, before your kid arrives? Like the child doesn't get to cast a vote?) Of course, when he got here, I quickly learned that he had other ideas and a very steadfast plan of his own. I also learned that I value sleep over winning a battle of wills with an infant, so that was that and my carefully crafted plan went out the proverbial window.
Luckily, we were able to make co-sleeping work for us, so we could all get at least some sleep. As my son continues to grow, we're attempting to shift him more towards his own space at night, because co-sleeping with a toddler is a much different experience than co-sleeping with a baby. While I do look forward to the day when he consistently sleeps in his own bed, I've also really appreciated lots of the little things about my son that I've learned and witnessed, because we sleep in the same space. Some of those things are sweet. Some of those things are funny. Some of those things are, well, not as endearing. Still, there's some stuff you just wouldn't know (or know as well) if you didn't see it with your own sleepy eyes, like:
What They’re Like When They First Wake Up
I never saw any co-sleeping families when I was growing up, so my only experience with babies waking up was when they woke up alone and needed to immediately alert someone to the fact, usually by crying. So, I always assumed all babies wake up mad, but it turns out that’s not necessarily true. I almost always wake up a few moments before my son does, and have discovered that he’s usually pretty happy and playful when he first wakes up. (This totally mystifies sleep-hungry night owls like me and my partner.)
Their Intricate Sleep Patterns
The first few weeks with my son, I was obsessed with making sure he was still breathing, so I technically didn’t co-sleep with him so much as he slept next to me while I stared at him. (Where my anxious moms at?) It was interesting to see how long his different sleep cycles last, and figure out what he looks like when he’s only just asleep versus when he’s so conked out and almost nothing can wake him, and how long it takes him to get from one of those states to the other. That’s proved to be helpful knowledge, as we start gradually trying to increase how much he sleeps in his own bed.
Their Wacky Sleep Positions
They’re so cute. In his bed, my son only has a couple of positions he can shift into without waking himself all the way up and losing it. In bed with us, he sleeps all sorts of ways and it’s hilarious. My favorite is what I call “champion pose,” where he lays on his back with his arms bent at the elbow, hands reaching over his little head.
Their Sleep Habits
Do they mutter cute little baby babbles in their sleep? Prefer to cuddle a boob, even if they’re not actually nursing? Appear to fight a T-Rex? (For my son, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding "yes.")
How Much They Can Eat In Their Sleep
So first, can we just pause and appreciate how impressive it is that babies can eat while sleeping? Eating and sleeping are two of my favorite activities, and the fact that babies can do both simultaneously just blows my mind. Babies are living their best life and they have no freakin' clue.
Anyway, this one only applies to mothers who breastfeed and let their little ones dreamfeed at night, but wow. It's pretty amazing how much a little person can eat without even waking up. Teach me your ways, Small One.
How Strong They Are
Especially as they get older, babies and toddlers are quite effective at maximizing the amount of bed space they get. Babies are just nudging whole adults around in bed while they sleep and it’s kind of incredible.
How Hard Their Little Heads Actually Are
Best alarm clock? Morning baby giggles. Worst alarm clock? A head-butt to the face from a still-sleeping, heavy-headed child.
I used to spend so much time worrying about my baby hitting his little head when he first started rolling, crawling, and walking; freaked out that even minor bumps would just demolish his precious, delicate skull. Then he bonked me in the face so hard I saw stars, and he stayed asleep the entire time. That instantly brought me back to a more reasonable level of concern regarding head injuries.
How Warm They Can Be
Not just "warm" in the, "Aww, you're so sweet and cozy" sense, although that, too. I mean temperature-warm. At first, when I saw all the safe bedsharing guidelines that warn against heavy bedding, I was like, “Oh, well this will never work. How am I supposed to have a January baby and only use a light blanket for myself?” Then I gave birth to said January baby and he refused to sleep anywhere but my chest. Turns out, he’s a little furnace. Temperature was not an issue, at all.
How Much They Can Actually Sleep
The open secret about baby sleep is that babies actually do want to sleep, they just don’t want to sleep alone. (Young children are still super primal. They don't know that we have door locks and alarm systems to prevent wild animals from eating them if they're not next to us.) Especially when he was really new, my son would run on pure adrenaline and screams if we were trying to get him to sleep anywhere but on one of us. It still takes us a while for us to get him down when we want to put him in his crib, and he has yet to spend the entire night there, even at 19 months. But if we sleep next to him? He’s out in moments, and can sleep uninterrupted until mid-to-late morning.