Adventures in Night Parenting

So, a few weeks ago, I was in bad shape. Before I had kids, I was a 9-to-10-hour-a-night kind of sleeper. Nowadays, I can certainly function on less, but I still have a bare minimum requirement. And it was NOT being met. Not by a long shot.

The solution was pretty simple, once we hit on it, but if not for the guidance of a few friends (who, let’s face it, aren’t currently sleep-deprived) I might not have stumbled across this. So I wanted to share. (And I have a few pictures and links to add to this post – just can’t do it from this computer, sorry!)

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A few months ago, we had started putting Susannah to sleep in the crib in her room for her first stretch of sleep, then bringing her to our room after her first wake, and then returning her to her room when Chris woke us all up around 4:00 a.m. That was working for a while…. but Susannah was getting restless during that stretch in our bed. She had passed the milestone for using her bassinet (though she hadn’t exceeded the weight limit, she was pushing up on hands & knees), so we were bedsharing. She seemed to want to stretch out and have more room; I don’t like sleeping with my babies on the edge of the bed without a rail (or the side of the bassinet/cosleeper) so I was keeping her between myself and Chris, which made nursing from both sides a leeeeetle more challenging. 😉 Basically: it wasn’t working very well.

My biggest belief about sleep & nighttime parenting is this: you’ve got to do what works so that your whole family gets the greatest quantity and quality of sleep possible. That’s a different arrangement for different families, and as far as the Nebel household goes, that’s a different arrangement just for us, at different stages!

So, since that wasn’t working, it was time for a change. I started trying to keep Susannah in her room for most of the night – I would go in, nurse her in the rocking chair, and return her to sleep. She usually wakes about 3 times each night, so that meant a lot of up & down for me. And when I get up, cross the hall, and sit upright for 10-15 minutes, I get FULLY awake. Then it takes me longer to wind down and fall back asleep. The result was that Susannah was sleeping a little better, but I was sleeping less (and lesser quality!). And then, slowly but surely, she started waking up more often, and taking more than just a quick nursing to get back to sleep. Bobbing and weaving in the dark of her room, I would rock and shush and plead with her to just sleep, please!?, sleep!

And that brings me to where I started this post. After a few weeks of THAT option, I was a wreck. I counted it up one morning: I’d had about 4 hours of sleep total the night before, broken up into 1-hour stretches. Not a recipe for a happy mama, at least not for THIS mama. Something had to change again. My gut told me that she had bumped up her nightwakings because she needed more cosleeping time – if not bedsharing, then at least roomsharing. I sent out a venting, “help me!” email to a few of my AP friends, and was reminded of the idea of sidecarring a crib. (Funny how I already knew about this concept; I’ve even suggested it to parents who are sleep-deprived and looking for solutions at API meetings! But in my own sleepless state, my brain just wasn’t functioning to pull this tool out of the box. Thank goodness for good friends!)

I did a little poking around and found a great website with photos and tips for setting up a safe sidecar arrangment. When Chris got home from work that night, we had a new look to our bedroom! 🙂 The two of us switched sides (which was a strange feeling, after being accustomed to one side of the bed for going-on-8-years of marriage) so that I could be beside the crib, which needed to be up against the wall.

So here’s what’s working for us now: I nurse Susannah to sleep (or to drowsy, at least) in the rocking chair and put her down in our Pack’n’Play in her bedroom around 7:00 pm. She usually wakes up between 9:30-10:00 (which is usually when we are ready to go to bed, so that’s nice timing) and I bring her to our room. She is sleepy, and her diaper is dry – she nurses briefly and falls back into a deeper sleep, and I nudge her over onto the crib mattress. It’s perfect – I sleep great because she’s nearby (and those nursing hormones really do help mamas sleep!) and because I don’t have to get up to attend to her; she sleeps great because I’m nearby and she’s got a full tummy & a dry bum; and Chris sleeps great because I hover near the crib mattress and he gets two-thirds of our Queen to himself! Aaaah!

She wakes around midnight with a different sound in her voice – she needs to pee. I unsnap her jammies, sit up on the bed, and grab our Baby Bjorn Little Potty (which is stationed in the far corner of the crib mattress). Susannah pees, and then I refasten her STILL-DRY diaper, resnap her pajamas, and we settle down to nurse and go back to sleep. Chris usually doesn’t wake up at all, because I can respond to Susannah before she gets really loud or disruptive. Again, we all sleep great.

This repeats once more — for a while it was around 3:00 a.m., but in the last few nights her sleep is stretching a little longer, so it might be 4:00 or 4:30. She wakes up suddenly, with a fuss or cry noise that means “I gotta go!” Her diaper is still dry when I unsnap it; I offer the potty, she pees, and then we lay back down and nurse to sleep.

At that point, she is usually sleeping deep enough that she doesn’t even wake up when Chris leaves for work. (A big difference from before I started night pottying! I think it’s because before, she would go back to sleep in the wee hours of the morning but couldn’t get deeply asleep due to being uncomfortable in a wet diaper.) She seems to be sleeping in longer in the morning – until 6:00 at least, sometimes as late as 7:00 (and in a house where big brother wakes up at 5:30, that’s a big deal!).

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I’m a big fan of cosleeping. It worked for us for about 5 months with Jonas, and then we returned to it on & off for short stretches sort of circumstantially (when traveling, when he was sick, stuff like that). I am just thrilled that putting the crib as a sidecar is making cosleeping work for us again – and that EC is helping us get better stretches of sleep, who would have guessed that?! – and that we’re back in a “happy place” at night.

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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1 thought on “Adventures in Night Parenting”

  1. Co-sleeping was one of the things I was most terrified about and said I could never do. BEFORE I had babies! ha ha! I am happy you found a great solution and you are getting more rest!

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