When our first baby was born almost 13 years ago, we began the practice of co-sleeping (sleeping with baby right next to me so he could nurse through the night easily). He was a very high-maintenance baby, so this seemed to be the best way to meet his needs and to ‘survive.’ With our next four children, I continued co-sleeping, and became committed to it as a great way to nurture babies. But, I hit numerous challenges in the process. For example, my babies nursed around the clock – at least every two hours – for the entire first year. Yes, I could fall asleep as soon as I latched baby on, but interrupted sleep meant shallow sleep, so sleep deprivation was a way of life. Then, at around 9 months – 1 year, each child would start to pick up the nursing schedule even more, until I finally would hit the end of my rope around 15 months, and we would move baby to a crib and stop nursing during the night. This was especially hard the first time around, because I was so committed to co-sleeping, so I felt guilty.
Baby #6 was born in early October 2012 for us, and he has been a peaceful, wonderful guy. Two of our babies have been high maintenance, but this baby certainly isn’t. Still, when he was around two or three weeks old, I found myself watching the clock through the night and was overwhelmed that he was nursing every 45 minutes. Yikes! Struggling with sleep deprivation yet again, I cried out to the Lord the next morning, asking Him, “Please show me if there’s something we need to do differently.” But how many times had I prayed that over the years?
Within the next three hours after praying, I ended up having three different conversations. The first was with my friend who suggested that our baby was just enjoying frequent nursing because it was a habit we’d set up. Why not nurse all the time, when it was available? He slept near me and could smell the milk. OK. I didn’t really want to hear that – didn’t want it to be the answer, due to my strong opinions – but I was letting it in. Next, I had a conversation with another friend. She started like I did, with a high maintenance baby. Co-sleeping helped her to meet her baby girl’s needs and also get some sleep. But when her son was born, her toddler girl (still in their bed) had a throwing up virus. Yikes! So, my friend placed their new baby boy in a crib in a nearby room so he wouldn’t catch the virus. It ended up that he was different than his sister, and slept soundly in the crib. On top of that, my friend found that she was actually more rested, because though she had to get up in the night and nurse her son, the stretches between nursing were longer, so she was able to get deeper sleep. Hmm, very interesting.
Next, I spoke with my husband on the phone. This was actually the first time I brought anything up to him about the sleep situation with our new son. For all he knew, things were going fine – he didn’t know that our son had picked up the nursing schedule and that I’d hit a wall. During our conversation, I shared with him how things had gotten tough, how I’d prayed just a few hours prior, and the two conversations I’d had with friends. He was blown away. That morning, he heard from the Lord that we needed to change the way we did nighttime with our son. He heard that we had ‘set up a habit.’ Woah! That was all I needed to hear. The Lord had given me a confirmation – even before I had prayed! Over all these years, the Lord confirmed the same message – on the very same day – that was spoken through friends, and confirmed through my husband. I felt so cared for and loved.
We set the crib up in our master bedroom that night, in a reading area to the side. Without any crying whatsoever, our easy little guy allowed me to nurse him and lay him down. The first night, the longest stretch was a few hours. Over the following nights, it gradually lengthened, and now his long stretch is usually five or six hours! What a blessing to sleep deeply, and have more energy during the day for the tasks before me.
I’ve thought a lot about how I’ve prayed in the past concerning this issue, but did not seem to hear an answer. I believe that the Lord’s words were available, but my ears weren’t open. I’ve been one to be passionate on many topics, particularly when it comes to nurturing babies. My strong opinions meant that I automatically shut out anything that didn’t line up with ‘my way.’ This recent answer to prayer has been another humbling – teaching me what a dumb sheep I am (ha!). What do I know?? My wisdom doesn’t get me very far.
Perhaps the Lord’s hand was on my co-sleeping with my first son – because that’s what that baby & I needed for that season – but that didn’t mean I needed to shove a stake in the ground and decide it was always the right way. In the Lord’s gentle way, He is teaching me (once again) to always rely on Him. Always surrender. Always turn. Moment by moment. Hold on loosely to my stakes and be willing to let them come free.