Ah, sleep – it’s such a wonderful, wonderful thing. I remember the days – back when it was just R and I – when we’d go to bed whenever we felt like it and sleep the whole night through without a care in the world. Those were the days!
These days, sleep is more elusive. It’s not as simple as putting on my PJs and crawling under the covers with a good book until the Sandman whisks me away into dreamland. These days, we have a 10.5 month old!
Going into motherhood, I had preconceived notions of what I thought I would do when it came to putting my baby to sleep. When we were preparing her nursery, we bought a lovely white crib and I outfitted it with green, white and pink linens and a flower mobile. And when I was still pregnant with her, one of my favorite things to do was spend time in her room, picturing what she would look like sleeping peacefully in that crib.
But as it turned out, we’ve been a co-sleeping family since night one with AJ. She was (and still is) a very sensitive person and she was content and calm when in my arms or snuggled up right next to me. I remember those first few days when I couldn’t figure out why she wouldn’t just lay in her crib like every baby I’ve ever seen on t.v. or in the movies (I didn’t have much hands-on baby experience going into this!). I read SO MANY BOOKS about “sleep training” but at the end of the day, I couldn’t bear to let her “cry it out.” I did try several times but I found that I wasn’t cut out for it . . . and neither was AJ. Instead, I learned to wear her in a sling when she needed to nap and I nursed laying down in bed, drifting off to sleep next to her at night – this was the only way that all of us could get some rest.
10.5 months in, co-sleeping has become a wonderful, bonding experience for us. When I went back to work after 12 weeks (too early in my opinion – I wish the U.S. had better maternity-leave standards but that’s another post for another day!), having her in my bed at night gave me the skin-to-skin snuggle time that I missed so much during the day. I LOVE smelling her baby soft scalp and nuzzling her head as I drift off. In addition, I’ve been able to nurse her through the night as she never truly taken to the bottle – she’ll drink a little throughout the day but she gets the bulk of her milk between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.
So, for a plethora of reasons, my little one does not “sleep through the night.” Gah! I can’t tell you how much I hate being asked about her sleep habits! So many well-meaning women of experience have advice for me when I tell them that my little one still wakes on average five times a night (sometimes more, sometimes less depending on growth spurts, teething, illness, etc.). A lot of people think that co-sleeping puts a damper on a husband and wife’s “personal” time and that it’s unhealthy . . . I’ve heard opinions that co-sleeping doesn’t provide babies with independence nor does it provide healthy boundaries.
There are nights – the rough ones when she is up a multitude of times, cries and wants constant rocking – when I wonder though my sleepy haze if we are doing the right thing. But in my heart I know that this has been a Godsend for us and I’m so glad that I’ve followed my heart and not the baby training books or the multitude of people (including family) whose advice just wasn’t right for us.
The number one thing I would tell a new, inexperienced mom about parenting in general is that it’s not a straight line from point A to point B. Sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back. Flexibility and fluidity is key – there’s no room (in my short experience) for rigid routines and power plays. I know that when I try to force AJ into sleep because, according to the clock on the wall that says 7:30 p.m., it’s nighttime, she will fight me on it and it is MORE stressful than if I had just waited another 30 minutes until she showed me in her own way that she was ready for bed. I have to remember to trust MY instincts and allow AJ to follow her own as well with positive guidance and love. To me, this is the foundation of parenting.
Over the last few weeks, AJ has gone down for naps in her crib on the weekends (she also sleeps in a crib at daycare) and at night I’ve begun to put her down to sleep at night in her crib. I feel that we are both ready for this new transition. The last few evenings she has been up at 9:30 p.m. and I nurse her and put her down again. After her second wake up (about midnight) I bring her to bed with me. I think we’ll continue to do this half crib, half bed sleeping for a while until we are both ready for her to sleep independently in her room.
And I must say, that my husband has been amazingly wonderful and supportive of co-sleeping throughout these last 10+ months. I couldn’t ask for a more understanding and loving man to be my partner in raising little AJ. He loves her being in our bed as much as I do as it also give him the time – as a working father – to being next to her . . . to listen to her sleep . . . to have her know that his comforting and protective presence is there in the night.
I’ll end this post with something I hear R say to a good friend a few weeks ago. We were at a Memorial Day BBQ at a friend’s house. Our friend, E (who happens to be recently married but is currently childless) said that we must now know so much about babies that we could write a book about it! R replied, “Well, we could write a book about how to raise AJ!” His point was (and he still often reminds me of this when I temporarily go off track) that AJ – like ALL babies – are unique. You can’t always expect that what worked for someone else will automatically work for you and your baby too. Just like how all families are different, so are all babies. While co-sleeping works beautifully for us, I don’t expect it to be the right thing for every family. I encourage all new moms and dads to tune out the “noise” and just focus on what their heart and their gut are telling them – because it’s usually right!!
Peace and love,