Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bedsharing Lessons from Twizzler

Everyone, meet Twizzler.
Twizzler, 6 weeks - goopy eyes and all.


 Twizzler's mother died in an alleyway soon after he was born.  Luckily, a kind soul found him and his siblings and brought them to the local shelter.  He was bottle-fed, and managed to survive, even thought 2 of his brothers didn't.  I got a call from a friend at the shelter when they died; she suspected that little Twiz wasn't getting all the love he needed to thrive and asked me if I could bring him home.

Twizzler was super-tiny, his eyes didn't open all the way, and he was weak.  I had to feed him with milk from a dropper.  He was helpless and fragile. When night-time approached, I made up a nice bed for him in the bathroom, right near his litter box.  I set him down in it, and he started to cry - tiny little sounds, calling for my help.  Calling to not be left alone in the dark, like he'd spent so many nights, alone in his cage.

I brought my tiny kitty to bed.  He snuggled up under my chin, purring away.  He actually tried to nurse on my blanket and even on my freckle (I've since learned that this is called "woolsucking" and often happens to kittens who are weaned too early).  I held him close and settled down to sleep.

I woke up the next morning to an energetic kitten who seemed to have blossomed overnight. Over the next few days and weeks, Twizzler slowly became stronger.  He was soon able to eat on his own, and could hop on and off my bed.  He moved from my neck to the foot of my bed, and in time, learned to sleep in the living room.

He's now a big, happy, healthy cat - and he doesn't suck on the blankets anymore.  He's independent, kind-hearted, and very friendly.
Mommy, Twizzler, and 1 week old David, napping

 When David #9 made his entrance, I couldn't help but be reminded of my helpless kitty.  Just like his feline companion, my little boy was fragile and depended on me for everything.  And, just like my kitty, we had made a beautiful nursery for him....that he wanted nothing to do with!  The first night he was home, I gently laid him on his back in his crib, and he immediately started to cry. 

But...babies are supposed to sleep in cribs, right?

So, I brought him into our room, and laid him in the pack-and-play next to our bed.  No dice.  My baby didn't just want to sleep *near* me, he wanted to sleep *on* me.  In my arms.  For the first 5 weeks of my son's life, my husband and I slept in shifts.  One of us would stay up holding the baby, and the other would sleep in the bed.  I missed my husband, and he missed me.  We were both sleep-deprived and I was getting sick.

As my regular readers have heard a few times, I landed in the hospital when my son was about 5 weeks old, for a little over a week.  So, here Dave was, with a newborn (breastfed) baby that he not only had to immediately transition to formula, but who refused to sleep on his own!  After one night of trying to stay up in the recliner, they fell asleep the next night, together, in our king-sized, firm mattress, with the blankets down by Dave's waist.

My son slept for 6 hours, the longest he'd ever slept.

When Dave told me about it, I was upset.  I'd read all of the warnings about SIDS and how horrific it was to sleep with your baby.  He was ready for me!  He presented me with research, printed (love that man) about the benefits of co-sleeping and how to bedshare safely.  I was still skeptical.  Babies are supposed to sleep in cribs!

When I got home, David started to sleep in his crib for the first part of the night, and would bedshare with us if he woke up.  Unless his Daddy put him to bed... in our bed.  I was still unsure.  

A couple of weeks later, when he hit teething for the first time, Dave looked at me and said:

"Honey... You'll let the cat sleep with us, but not the baby?"

DING!

Well, duh.   How silly of me.  Just like my helpless little kitty, of course my baby wanted to be close to us.  And, just like my kitty, I was happy to have him in bed with us.  I love waking up to his sunny smiles in the morning; I loved not having to schlep out of bed to get him.  

Nowadays, David sleeps with us most of the time.  He starts the night in his crib sometimes, when (ahem) Mommy and Daddy feel like having the bed to ourselves (if the couch won't do).  We practice safe bedsharing, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  

He belongs with us.  It just feels right.  We got him a tee-shirt for Christmas that says this:

And now, I really feel that way.  I don't "let" David sleep with us.  We are privileged to have him to snuggle with.  Twizzler thinks so too; he's usually curled up by my feet.  I know that's not on the safe bedsharing list, but I think he's earned it.


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