I got a great question the other day about cosleeping. I wish I had saved it, but somehow I lost track of the text — but basically, Lindsay wanted to know more about cosleeping with our babies and how we got them to stop! Because isn’t that always the big worry about cosleeping… when and if they’ll ever stop?
First of all, seriously, I don’t think you’ll regret cosleeping. If you haven’t already, I *highly* recommend reading Dr. William Sears’ The Baby Book, and The Attachment Parenting Book. They are GREAT resources to turn to when what your “mommy gut” tells you to do clashes with a lot of mainstream thinking. It’s wonderful to be able to point to his research as “proof” for what you know & believe to be the best way to care for your little one!!! I won’t bore you, but he has a lot to say about the importance of cosleeping for a breastfeeding relationship, as well as the importance of “nighttime parenting” for building a sense of autonomy and independence in children by first assuring them that their needs will be met.
But anyway, that’s not what you asked! 🙂 Our habit in the early days was to start Jonas out in a bassinet that had a fold-down “co-sleeper” panel, so it was sort of sidecar’d to our bed on my side. On his first waking, I’d bring him into bed to nurse and he’d stay there the rest of the night.
When he was about 5 months old, Chris started residency and we found that he was SUCH a heavy sleeper especially when post-call that it was a bit of a safety concern. So we set up his crib in his room, and put the bassinet panel up and moved the bassinet to the side wall of our room. I started putting him down for naps in the crib, fully anticipating that it would be hard for him to sleep — but he seemed to love the space! 😛 They really keep you guessing! After a few days of naps in the crib, and nights in the bassinet a little further from me than before, I tried laying him down in the crib at night, and then bringing him to our bed at first waking.
That only lasted about a week, and I had a LOT of trouble sleeping those nights. I kept thinking I heard Jonas crying, and at one point I even went out to sleep in the hallway because I was sure I was hearing him cry. At the end of that week, I was rocking him just before bed one night when the smoke alarms went off in our building. Our downstairs-across-the-hall neighbor’s apartment was on fire. (You can read the rest of that story here.) We lived in a hotel for about ten days, during which time Jonas really wouldn’t accept sleeping in a borrowed pack & play — he wanted to be in bed with us, and I couldn’t blame him.
When we got settled in our new apartment, Jonas was six months old. I was feeling extremely exhausted – Jonas was waking up several times a night, and trying to keep him settled down and in his crib in his room was getting very tiring. I’ll admit – we did go the “fuss it out / cry it out” route for a few nights. It was absolutely, completely, total torture for me (and probably for Chris – and certainly for Jonas, as well). If I could go back, I would shake my then-self HARD by the shoulders and tell her to put that baby back in her bed, darnit! Even though Chris did definitely need solid sleep when he was post-call, we could have come up with a different solution – like Chris bedding down on the couch or our air mattress on those nights, or me bunking on the floor in Jonas’ room on those nights. So my advice to you, and to my future self when we ever have another newborn in the house, is to not resort to crying it out.
I firmly believe that babies don’t cry to manipulate. Even at 6, 7, 8 months – when some people will tell you that babies are “learning” how to get what they want and crying at night in order to get you to come back to them – I don’t believe that it’s a malicious manipulation. And quite frankly? If my baby is learning that “crying results in my mommy coming to comfort me”…. well, that’s a lesson I want him to learn. One of the things I have learned -and continue to learn!- over the past two years is that babies/toddlers are going to reach each developmental stage on their own time. Whether you’re talking about walking, talking, or sleeping through the night – you can’t make your child do it on your timeline. And if you have a kid who sleeps through at an early age, well, great! Lucky you. Enjoy it while it lasts, because kids are notorious for starting a great sleep pattern that their parents love, only to change it a few weeks or months down the road. And if you have a kid who doesn’t sleep through – or at least, doesn’t do it consistently – then you gotta do whatever it takes to maximize the amount of sleep that everyone is getting. And as far as I can tell, cosleeping is a great tool for reaching that goal.
But that’s getting off on a tangent again, isn’t it?
Anyway, when Jonas was 6-9 months old we had our toughest sleep stage with him. I continued to lay him down in his own crib, and would go nurse & rock in the glider in his room several times a night. When he was 10-11 months old, I found out I was pregnant and due to major first-trimester sensitivity, I chose to nightwean him. I miscarried in January, but by then we had already made the adjustment – and he was sleeping better. I don’t know if he started sleeping longer stretches at night just because of his age/developmental stage, or because of the nightweaning, but for whatever reason he started doing a 6-7 hour stretch overnight at that point. I was still nursing him to sleep in the glider rocker, then laying him in his crib. When he woke up (around 3 or 4 a.m.), it depended on my mood – sometimes I’d rock & nurse him and put him back down, sometimes (especially if Chris was already at work for rounds) I’d bring him to my bed to cuddle and nurse and we’d both fall asleep for a few more hours.
Jonas finally self-weaned at eighteen months old. Even after he didn’t need to nurse when he woke up, he still sometimes wants to come and cuddle with us (or just me, most days) in our bed in the mornings. So our path – from cosleeping to part-time-cosleeping to not-cosleeping – with Jonas was a pretty straightforward one.