I wrote this blog a couple weeks ago without posting it, and then fell into a pit of sleep-deprivation-induced lunacy. There will be a part 2 coming soon, but in the meantime…

I recently read a blog by Ava Neyer about her take on all the contradicting parenting advice out there, specifically when it comes to sleep training your children. It’s hilarious, and worth a read. But given our current situation with a certain adorable baby in our house, I really honed in on the following paragraph:

Put the baby in a nursery, bed in your room, in your bed. Co-sleeping is the best way to get sleep, except that it can kill your baby, so never, ever do it. If your baby doesn’t die, you will need to bedshare until college.

This issue, to co-sleep, or not to co-sleep, has been like the angel and devil on my shoulders for months.

I didn’t start out as a hippie, home-birthing attachment parenter. I started out hard core. Rules, boundaries, and discipline governed my parenting. Of course, there was plenty of snuggling, rocking, and nursing, but there were also bedtimes and routines and even the dreaded cry it out method. To be fair to myself, all this rigor earned me a baby who slept through the night at 7 weeks old and never looked back.

With the next two, my tried-and-true Babywise method eased up a bit and allowed for a bit of co-sleeping, mostly for my own sanity and survival. After all, I was trying to make it through multiple feedings during the night, while still getting up early each morning to get everyone (including myself) off to school.

Now that my Granola transformation is really taking effect, combined with my fourth kid “whatever” attitude, I’ve let up on the Babywise reigns big time. I’ve enjoyed snuggling with this sweet girl every night for the last four months, nursing on demand, and throwing any hint of a routine or schedule out the window. I haven’t slept more than three hours at once in months, and 90-minuteor less increments are more the norm, but this is how I have chosen to sleep, more out of laziness than principle.

There is one downside to the all-night snugglefest, however. Dally can’t sleep any other way. We’ve tried, believe me. No, I haven’t thrown her into the crib in her room, all the way ten yards away from me. But I’ve got a Rock and Play and a magical, expensive swing with many impressive functions within arm’s reach of my bedside that she wants absolutely nothing to do with. I can nurse her to sleep, snuggle her up with her favorite blanket and pacifier in one of the two nearby baby receptacles, and she won’t make it two minutes before unleashing her dissatisfaction via awful cries. She’s addicted to armpits, what can I say?

But what about what all the doctors say? There is proven research to show that the risk of SIDS increases with co-sleeping. (Interesting, since nobody really knows what SIDS is or what causes it.) But there is certainly a risk of suffocation, especially in a bed full of pillows and blankets in the dead of winter. That’s all very scary stuff, and threats I don’t take lightly. Not to mention, co-sleeping creates bad habits for baby, and creates a co-dependent child who can’t soothe herself and will forever rely on her mommy.

But what about the other research that shows that co-sleeping is best? There is research that shows that having the baby up against her mother’s heart is not only soothing and allows for longer sleep at night, but also helps to regulate the baby’s circadian rhythm. Co-sleeping is said to create a more independent child because the baby always has her needs met and isn’t left alone to cry. For nursing mothers, co-sleeping is said to increase milk supply due to the baby’s close proximity to mother. It certainly makes nighttime feedings easy, since I just have to roll over and flop out a boob. (Sexy, huh?) And I’m keeping her warm in this drafty, cold house.

So which research is right? Am I keeping my baby safe, warm, well-fed, and loved? Or am I creating a co-dependent, needy person, assuming, of course, she survives it? (Like any good mom, I wake up multiple times each night and check to make sure she’s warm and breathing. But without the fears instilled in me by anti-co-sleepers, that frequency would probably decrease.)

I know I’m not the first mom to question myself or worry that I’m doing it wrong, and I certainly won’t be the last. Not only is every parent different, but so is every baby. Parenting one child is different than parenting four, and adjustments are necessary. I just hope I’m making the right ones. And I hope that someday, this baby will learn to sleep outside of my armpit, or even (gasp!) in the crib in her room before she outgrows it!