In the last year and a half, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with co-sleeping.
There were too many sleepless nights when Baby tossed and turned on top of me, tugging at my hair. Half asleep, I always worried Baby might fall out of bed, as he rolled in every direction. Exhausted and frustrated, I dreaded night time.
But how could I give up the sweet cuddles and the comfort of knowing my baby was beside me all night? Waking up as a family melted my heart every morning as Baby opened his sleepy eyes, snuggled in between my husband and I, and said, “Mama, Dada.”
The only problem was these wake ups were a handful of times each night.
Just before our son turned one, we found out we were expecting our second baby. I knew it was time to move Baby into his own bed. We never planned to co-sleep. It happened naturally, and to break the habit was stressful, and at times, heartbreaking.
But my husband took on the mission. Eight weeks into my pregnancy, I was too exhausted and nauseous to even think about sleep training our son. A few earlier attempts left me feeling defeated and deflated.
After a few days of reading and research, we decided there wasn’t one sleep training method right for us. We couldn’t let him cry it out, and didn’t want to leave him alone in the room. We picked and chose from different methods to make up something that would work for the three of us.
There wasn’t a miracle solution. It took time and patience.
Once Baby was fed, bathed and dressed for bed, I gave him a good night kiss, and Dad took over from there. Baby was so used to falling asleep on my chest, I found it nearly impossible to put him in his crib. The mere mention of his own bed sent him into a frenzy. Dad had more luck.
The first night Dad gave him his bottle, and placed him in his bed half asleep. Balancing halfway in the crib, he gently stroked his hair and rubbed his back. It took over an hour and some soft words, but Baby fell peacefully asleep. A week of back rubs and sleep came quicker and quicker each night. There were a few nights of crying and tantrums. But each time Dad would pick him up and comfort him, and lay him down again.
The next week my husband sat quietly beside the crib and talked softly to make sure Baby knew he was still there. To my surprise everything was working remarkably well, and I was thrilled to have a quiet hour to myself in the evening.
After a month, my husband could put our son into the crib and leave — Baby would put himself to sleep.
I felt like I had the best of both worlds. Baby was still in our bedroom, and most nights he would sleep until 4 a.m. and then join us for cuddles.
The only problem was I was still in charge of nap time, and struggled to get him to sleep as easily as Dad did.
I tried to place him into his bed. But right away he stood up and cried “mama mama.” After picking him up and putting him down. I finally gave in, and climbed into his bed with him. He gave me a sweet kiss and cuddled up close and fell asleep.
I told myself, “you do what you got to do.” But I felt ashamed that I couldn’t get my own baby to sleep. My husband worried my crib sharing would set all his hard work back. I tried again and again, but for the whole week I ended up clumsily climbing into the crib and hoped no unexpected visitors would drop by to see me, pregnant, and swished in to the tiny crib with a baby sleeping on top of me.
But the next week I was able to rub his back while I sat outside the crib. A small victory. Another week went by, and I could sit beside him while he fell asleep. To be honest I haven’t made it to the stage of leaving the room and letting him fall asleep on his own.
A sleeping baby meant we got our lives back. For a year, one of us had to go to bed at 7 p.m. to guard Baby in case he fell off the bed. Or we would be confined to our room and whisper about our days not to wake our son.
Now at night, my husband and I could have uninterrupted conversation over dinner or watch a TV show together. No longer were we just parents. I felt married and reconnected again.
Baby in his bed at nap time meant I was free to leave the room. It gave me one or two hours to cook a nice lunch, write, shower, or collect my thoughts without having one eye on Baby in our big bed. I felt like a person again no longer trapped in my room now that baby slept safely in his crib.
There are times I miss my son snuggled in bed with me. But it only takes one night with him in our bed to remind us we made the right decision to move him out. No one was getting a good night’s rest.
Of course we had some major hiccups along the way. A vacation set us back a month’s worth of sleep training. When he wouldn’t settle into his crib away from home, we brought him into bed with us. It made for an exhaustive holiday and a hard adjustment period back at home.
More recently, a house move was a big hurdle. Currently Baby is half the night in bed with me as he adapts to the change. But with time, we will get him in to his bed again.
Our next mission is to move Baby into his own room.