My babies nurse a lot.
Both Austen and River (when he was a baby) nurse to sleep, and nurse through the night. When River was a baby, the opinions of others got to me, and I felt like I should have trained him to sleep through the night. I was told I would regret it when he's older, that I was instilling poor sleep habits, that it was disrespectful of the "marriage bed" (really?), and that it was dangerous. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I thought maybe I would have her sleep in her own bed. But then she arrived and her presence and tiny body next to me those first few nights confirmed that she would be sleeping in our bed after all, and she certainly would be nursing through the night. It feels perfectly natural and needed. I'm not sure why. I love their tiny bodies next to me through the night. I like waking up and hearing their steady breath. I love smelling their milky heads.
Bed-sharing certainly isn't for everyone. Not all parents, and not even all babies, are meant to bed-share. Honestly, I hope I get a baby someday who puts himself to sleep and sleeps in his own bed next to ours. But I guess I just get babies who need to sleep next to me.
Sharing sleep with River was exhausting. He nursed just about every hour and was a wild sleeper. But I knew it was best for us. His personality called for me to nurse him when and where he needed, even if that was in bed, for the fifth time that night, at four o'clock in the morning. I know I wouldn't have been able to do it any other way without a lot of emotional damage and heartache to both of us. The boy loved mama milk.
I got a little luckier with Austen. She is a mama's girl, more so than River (which is saying a lot). I can't leave her for more than two hours at a time, because she wants me, and only me. But she is very routine in the way she feeds and often, won't want to nurse if she's not hungry. After River, this was a wonderful, much-needed break. Often, Austen will be quite happy to fall asleep in her bouncer while listening to the sleepy-music playlist I have created for her, and then when she wakes up in the middle of the night, I will move her to our bed and nurse her back to sleep.
Sometimes I stop nursing her after a while because she gets restless, and she'll cry a bit while I sing her to sleep, until she finally gives in to the lullaby and closes her eyes and rests her head in dreams. But last night, when her belly was full of milk, she stopped nursing and sat up, her wild curls going every which way, and smiled, and then put her head on my stomach. She stayed there for a few minutes, and then scooted up into a snuggle in my arms. With her eyes closed and a distressed little look on her face, she told me how tired she was with soft, high-pitched babbles. "Aaahhh ya ya ya.... aahhhya ya ya..." And that's how she fell asleep.
Austen allows me restful nights. There are nights when she nurses every hour, but there are more nights when she will only wake up twice, and nurse for two or three minutes before falling back to sleep. Nursing through the night is important to us, because I believe a baby knows when they need to breastfeed, even if that's just for comfort. Or perhaps they are going through a growth-spurt, or are getting sick, and needs the extra breast milk. Bed-sharing makes breastfeeding so much easier for us.
As a mother, you have to disregard how other people feel about your decisions, and make the choices that are best for you. If that means your baby sleeps in a crib, then your baby should sleep in a crib. If that means your baby sleeps by your side and nurses twelve times in the night, then do it. Co-sleeping and nursing through the night is not all that bad. I'm surprised when I receive the raised eyebrows and comments, but I don't care anymore. Yes, sometimes it's tiring and sometimes I need a break, and sometimes I don't get one. But I do love it.