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On Baby Sleep, Sanity, and Selfishness

Dear New Mama,

You just read the 2016 AAP safe sleep guidelines that encourage parents to roomshare with baby for “ideally” one year. Understandably, this causes conflicted thoughts and emotions—because you want your room back.

On Baby Sleep, Sanity, and Selfishness

Hear this—even if you are a “by the book” rule follower like me. Please hear this . . .

You are not selfish if you decide to have your baby sleep in his own room before his first birthday.

I promise.

At the beginning, sharing a room with your baby is sweet and natural. They are so new, so little, so squishy, and so cute that you just can’t bear to be away from them—even when if you are both sleeping. Plus? They eat a lot through the night, so it’s just easier. Amiright? But as they get a little older, that roomsharing thing may get a little harder.

When it comes to roomsharing and baby sleep, some of the challenges may be practical.

Babies often wake up at the slightest thing. Inexplicably, they also seem to sleep through anything. You just never know. So we go to great lengths to prioritize baby sleep.

Maybe you’re back to work (go mama!) . . . and tiptoeing around your bedroom each morning to get ready is getting old. Or maybe your husband is tired of matching his shirt and tie by the glow of his iPhone—because baby, of course, can’t stay asleep with the bright overhead light on.

Or maybe it’s the noise, the sounds of everyday life, bothering baby. The hum of the bathroom fan or the shower. That creaky closet door. The click of kittycat claws on your hardwood floors. Or the sound of your breathing every night waking baby up just as you have fallen asleep. (The worst!!)

If your baby is like mine, when he turned about four to five months old, all these things started waking him up constantly. We were up all night it seemed! He’d previously been a pretty good sleeper so this came as a shock—a return to the newborn days.

For you, the roomsharing problems might be more about your sleep rather than baby’s. You might hear him all night long and never wake up feeling rested. (That is — as rested as a new parent can be.)

And some of these #roomsharingprobs may be—let’s say—less than practical . . .

You might also want the physical space of your room back—to be able to walk without bumping into a cradle. Is that so terrible? During a rational adult conversation? No. But in the dark of night when you’re cuddling your tiny baby? Absolutely! You’re the worst mom ever in that moment of wanting your room back. After all, you shared your body with this baby! And now you want your bedroom back? Heck, no! 

It might be more than that, though.

You might want to relax a little in bed, with a good book and a hot cup of tea, before going to sleep (because anyone who says “sleep when the baby sleeps” probably doesn’t value alone time as much as I do). Or you might want to snuggle and chat with your husband, paint your nails, take a bath, organize your closet, watch TV. Whatever YOU do to feel like you, to unwind and feel like a person, a woman—and not just a mom. Things you can’t do when your baby is two feet away trying to sleep, no matter how quiet you are.

But you ARE a mom, and 99.9999% of us feel some degree of guilt when we step back and take a break and take some space and time for us—even if it’s just twenty minutes before bed. I’m not saying this guilt is right or healthy. But it’s there. So let’s acknowledge it. And move on. As new mamas, I think this is often the hardest part.

Accept that, as a new mama especially, you may need this time at night—short as it may be—for your sanity. And it may not happen or work out if baby is sleeping in your room. Because you know what? You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. I’m not saying to check out completely at night, to move your baby to his own room and forget about him. But rather, move baby to his own room to create some space for you.

Yes, it may take some work and effort to acclimate baby to his room or to his crib. But when isn’t baby sleep work? 🙂 

You are worth it. I promise. You are worth the time and energy it takes to transition your baby to a new sleeping environment. And guess what? Sleeping skills are a great gift to your baby too!

You may be nodding your head in agreement, but just waiting to say: But what about those pediatricians? They say “roomshare for a year! It’s safer!”

Know I’m not offering medical advice. (I am most certainly not a medical professional!) But can I suggest something?

Just because you move your baby doesn’t mean something awful is going to happen. There are no guarantees in life. No guarantees that just because you follow all the guidelines that your baby will be safe. All we can do is (I believe) trust God and do our best.

So, new mama? If you wrestle with whether to move your baby or keep him near you . . . don’t just think about what works best for baby. Also consider what works best for you—and the rest of your family. It’s not selfish to put yourself into the equation. You and your well-being are important too! Hugs!

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