I shared a bed with my son from the time he was 2 weeks old until he was about 16 months. For the first 2 weeks I kept him in a little old bassinet by my bed, with me sleeping on the edge, keeping a hand on him at all times. I didn’t fully trust my sleep deprivation, so that felt like a safer option for me.
I adored sleeping with my new babe; it was so easy to roll over & nurse him instead of having to drag myself out of bed & stumble down a hall to retrieve him from a seperate room, & there is nothing sweeter than waking up to the sounds of your little one breathing & smelling so lovely. We spent a lot of time in bed those first few months, since I didn’t have to return to work & I almost always slept when he slept.
I try now to pinpoint the reasons he started being a poor sleeper & wonder if what I determine is accurate. I think the fact that we moved when he was 5 months old may have disrupted his sufficient sleep pattern, since he is sensitive to his environment. I also wonder if it was my adherence to cloth diapers, since he is sensitive to the dampness & I struggled to find a good overnight option. He is not the type of dude that can sleep with the sun shining in on him, nor is he the kind that ever slept in his carseat out in public after he was a more-aware few months old. I would like to have had the insight to find other overnight-diaper options sooner; let it be a lesson that peaceful parenting is to be tailored to what our children truly need, not just applied like a blanket.
My son also developed a wild case of thrush that kept returning over & over. I was told the gentian violet treatment was insanely messy, so I chose some sticky, sweet, yellow prescription method that was apparently not strong enough since every time I saw the white dots disappear, more would take their place. It must have bothered him because he started waking frequently. Like sometimes 12 times a night. It felt like some cruel game that was being played & I wanted nothing to do with it. I had expected to be sleepless through the first few months, but my child didn’t ”sleep through the night,” or anything remotely close to that sentiment, until he was 16 months old. He woke & woke & woke, we nursed & nursed & nursed. I shed some tears at times, unsure why he needed to wake so often; I took him to the doctor wondering if he had an ear infection or anything, but our pediatrician simply said that some children aren’t sleepers, which actually helped me. I resigned myself to the idea of sleeplessness & that’s the only time I was able to face our bed with joy instead of sadness.
I did try to move him to a crib that I had gotten as a gift; I had stationed it across the room & after he was asleep, I tried to gently lay him in there but he would always wake up. Of course sleep-training or any type of cry-it-out method was not a possibility for me, since those methods have been shown to be harmful & felt totally unnatural to me. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/8636950.stm
He was bound to wake several times anyway, so it made sense to keep him near. I just couldn’t believe that so many months into our life together, he was still avoiding sleep so often during the night.
I finally tried the gentian violet treatment for his mouth & I found that I should have listened to my gut & used it long ago instead of hearing everyone who said it was so messy. It wasn’t so messy. I put a bib on him & we hung out in uncarpeted areas for the day; it was fine & his thrush never came back, after months of battling it. It helped him sleep a little, but I was still using cloth diapers that needed to be changed often so we were still a restless pair.
I started school when he was 15 months old & I arranged my schedule so I was only away from him for a couple hours a day. I also arranged my schedule around his afternoon naps so we could go home, because I felt certain that since I always nursed him to sleep & he had so many issues, none of his caregivers would be able to get him to sleep. I would go to class in the morning, go pick my son up across campus, walk home, get him to sleep, wait for him to wake, walk back to school, go to class again, pick my son up & take him home for another nap. I had talked to his teachers about it & explained my doubt but they finally convinced me that just trying to see if they could comfort him to sleep wouldn’t be harmful, so I agreed to try it. & It worked! His teacher reported that he went to sleep with no issue; he only needed some back rubbing for a while.
The night of the first day that he napped on campus was the first time he ever slept all night long, not waking once, at 16 months old. I woke amazed but afraid that something was wrong, since I was accustom to checking in with him so many times. He woke in the morning happy & well rested! I was able to slowly transition him into his own space, a bed next to my bed, & he has slept solid ever since, barring a few night wakings due to teeth or a cold coming on.
I had read in some Attachment Parenting books that it is often helpful for a mother to allow someone else to parent their child to sleep & that it can teach the child that others are able to get him to sleep & they will learn it is fine. But I didn’t have anyone else to call into the picture to soothe him to sleep, or if I did I wasn’t comfortable with the idea; in the end it was what we needed all along.
I had a strong urge to keep my son in my bed last night; I can’t identify the reason but it was a serious feeling. I asked him, now over 2 years old, if he wanted to sleep in my bed & he said yes. He fell asleep easily & was sleeping peacefully until I joined him. Then he started shifting, twisting, kicking, & sweating outta control. I tried to put blankets between us but he sleep-jumped over those to elbow me in the head & kick the wall. I waited through this experiment until about 2am when I finally decided I’d like to sleep & I moved him back to his own bed, where he slept solidly until 8am. I might try to welcome him into my bed in the future, because I love being near him & I also like the data that shows how cosleeping is beneficial. http://www.breastfeeding.com/reading_room/co_slepping.html
For now I am satisfied knowing that he received those benefits for the first 16 months of his life & these days we both get solid rest, which has its own benefits.
About Kristen Tea
I am a 27-year-old single, attached, informed, lactivist, intactivist, peaceful Minnesotan mother of almost 4-year-old Sun Ronin a.k.a Sunny Boy. I am an artist & lover of expression. I’m also a student with many things to learn, including nutritional therapy, lactation consulting, doulahood, yoga instructing, & more. I believe that unplanned pregnancies do not have to equal uninformed motherhood, & women have the power to restore humanity to everything we touch.