Flashback to 2008. The baby’s crib is perfect in the gender neutral hues of green and yellow. It had a bumper which of course was only for cute. The little one would never sleep in a crib with the bumper. Everyone knew that was not safe. My husband and I had moved to the downstairs bedroom from the much larger master upstairs. We were going to be close enough to the baby to hear any cries for help, yet separate enough to maintain our private space. That way we could all get the sleep we needed and the baby would be trained to sleep properly. Self-soothing was the way to go. I was even willing to let the little one “cry it out” like the books said. It was worth it. Soon we would all be harmonious in our slumber. Peaceful. In our seperate beds. As it should be.
In the Beginning
The first little guy arrives, all squeals and squalor. He is cute as a button and breast feeding like a champ. I’m exhausted. But I’m still the happy kind of exhausted where I will gladly drag myself out of bed to pick him up from the pack-n-play set up in our smaller version of a master bedroom. We had painted the “baby’s room” next door a cheerful yellow and the crib had the perfectly fitted sheets so he wouldn’t inadvertently tangle himself when he started sleeping there. Oh we were going to use it. We had even tried it for a couple of naptimes but right now the baby was just too little to sleep alone. Soon enough he would be sleeping longer and we could go to back to “plan A”. You know. Harmonious slumber. Peace. That was coming any day now.
But right now I was squeezing my heavy, leaking, bleeding body between the temporary crib and the bed…two, three, wait…what time is it??? Ok maybe seven times since we went to bed. No matter. It’s only been a few weeks. Soon I wouldn’t need to do this and he would be sleeping next door. In his crib. But for right now I would just lay down. Didn’t the lactation consultant say something about side lying? That sounded good. I would stay awake…I promise. He could just nurse and I would put him back to bed. Right after. I promise.
Enter: A ton of bricks. Directly on my head.
I awaken several hours later mortified. My husband and I had slept uninterrupted, and with my sweet, precious tiny baby right smack in between us. OMG. It was the horror of all horrors. I had allowed for my baby to co-sleep. IN MY BED. I was officially the worst mother in the world and I should be put to death. I didn’t deserve this child. I was destined to roll over him in my sleep, or my husband would, and it would all be over. The universe would take my precious baby away from me and I would be devastated and all alone.
Ok. So I needed to calm down. It would NEVER happen again. I mean, he was ok. No harm no foul. And I was more rested now. Obviously I was delerious when I fell asleep. Now I knew better. Everything was for his safety and I would never do THAT again.
Except that it did happen again.
So here’s the thing. I had heard all the horror stories. I was a nurse, and I sent my patients home with the very good and evidence-based education that they needed to keep the baby in the same room but in seperate beds. The theory behind this practice was to minimize the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) while also avoiding the increased risk of suffocation that placing a newborn in bed with you afforded. There was also the possibility that babies could roll off the bed (it happened to me) causing serious injury or death (fortunuately did NOT happen to me). There were co-sleeping cribs especially designed to allow direct access to the baby while remaining in your own bed. There was mountains of literature, expert opinions, studies and surveys that all pointed the same way. Do NOT sleep with your baby in your bed.
And yet…I did. And I continued to do so despite all this expert advice and opinion. And not only did I continue this practice with my first born, but it carried over to my second and third kids. In fact my now two-year old rarely climbs into his crib at night. He still sleeps between mom and dad and honestly that is okay with me. It is okay with us both. But it is not always okay with every parent. And it certainly…and I can’t stress this enough…NOT recommended.
So here’s why I did it anyway.
So I tried. I really did. I kept setting deadlines. At two months. Then three. Okay six. But it never felt like the right thing to do. Eventually I gave up the fight and my husband and I moved back upstairs. We brought the crib with us but really, it was kind of for show. He hardly ever slept in his crib.
Determined not to let my toddler win.
By the time he was two I was on a mission. He may be in our marital room but he was GOING to sleep in his crib… come hell or high-water. I read books that taught me how to lay him down and stay next to him but ignore his cries for comfort. You had to sit there and slowly work your way out of the room. First one foot. Then two. Then outside the door with it open. Finally you could close the door. This was supposed to transition my little guy to self-soothe, since I failed when he was a newborn to allow him the opportunity to learn. Now I was paying the price by spending ninety minutes a night slowly exiting his sleeping space (Wait…wasn’t it my sleeping space???). And that was if I was lucky. Most of the time I layed down in my own bed and without realizing it fell asleep with him next to me. Day number 53 a failure. Tomorrow was a new day.
Then I became pregnant with my second son. My husband started to get irritated with my exit the room strategy. He said I needed to take care of myself and just let him cry it out for goodness sake. A few rough nights was all it would take and we would finally have some peace. I thought I knew better, and I am stubborn by nature so I kept at it. Right up until the night I went into labor. Literally. I had held him and rocked him around the room for almost an hour, laid him down and then declared myself ready for bed. I laid my head on my fluffy cool pillow and…pop! My water broke.
Exactly 1 hour and 37 minutes later my second son was born. Thank you boy #1 for inducing my labor.
Accepting who we are…
As these things go, adding another child in the mix forced us all to change. I no longer had the time or patience to walk my now 28 month old around the room before bed. And you know what? He transitioned just fine. Now we had a bassinet for the baby, the crib on the other side of our bed and the two of us were alone at last (In the actual bed that is).
At least until the side-lying nursing method became a thing again. Sigh.
So again, I had to do what was best for myself and my kids. I found that I actually liked having my baby next to me. I felt safer that way and it worked for us. I knew that co-sleeping wasn’t the recomended way to habitat with your children, but so what? My husband grew up on a ranch in deep Mexico. They ALL shared a bed. All 12 of them.
It could always be worse.