To the Concerned Family and Friends Who Said Co-Sleeping Was a Bad Idea…
I don’t like to brag, gloat, or say “I told you so”, and I’m in no way a “perfect parent”. I’m aware that every child is different, every parent is different, and every family is different. I am in no way judging you for YOUR choices that YOU feel were right FOR YOU. But for just one moment, I need to say this…
I TOLD YOU SO!
Remember when I first brought my son home and let him sleep on my chest? How I rarely put him down in the crib or bassinet? How I nursed him whenever he wanted it? I do. And I also remember this:
“He’ll never sleep on his own if you don’t put him down in his crib. He’ll come to associate nursing with sleep, and he’ll NEVER break the habit. You’ll still have to rock him to sleep every night. You need to sleep train that baby.”
So I tried to put him down in his crib, but neither of us liked that arrangement. So I went back to doing what worked for me. Then he hit six months old, when everyone else I seemed to know had “trained” their babies. Three days of inconsolable crying, they said. That’s all I had to get through, and then he’d fall asleep on his own without a fuss. Well, I couldn’t do it. So when my son was getting too heavy for me to be holding in my arms during naptime, I moved nap time to the bedroom. I laid down with that little boy, let him nurse and snuggle against my chest, and I spent those two hours on my tablet playing games and reading whatever I wanted to. Or I napped WITH him. And for this I heard…
“He’s too old to still need to nurse off you to fall asleep. He should be sleeping in his own room. You will NEVER break him of that habit of needing you to be next to him while he’s sleeping. You’ll NEVER get anything done!”
And I ignored this ‘advice’ because I liked napping in the middle of the day and it was really no big deal. I had my tablet and my Nintendo DS to play with. And eventually I got to the point where I COULD slip away for an hour or two while he napped, or when he went to bed at night. Sure, he would wake up and cry for me, and I’d come back and nurse him down to sleep. Sometimes I stayed, other times I left to watch the rest of my movie with my husband. But the older he got, the more time I found I could spend away from him. Then he hit 18 months and I started hearing it again…
“He doesn’t need you. He needs to be a big boy and sleep in his own room. You will NEVER get that child out of your bed now!”
So I moved him into his own room and I set up a floor bed for us, because my husband getting up in the morning for work (or snoring) was disturbing our sleep and there wasn’t room for all three of us in bed anymore. He was 20 months old when I did this; almost a year ago. And I still nursed him to sleep, still held him and let him snuggle against me. And I would slip out of his room and go spend time with my husband or get things done during the day, and he would wake maybe once or not at all. And I heard…
“You should just be sleeping in your OWN bed and when he cries, go to him, put him back to sleep and then leave again. You shouldn’t be staying in there all night. You will NEVER get that child to sleep without nursing or sleeping without you. He’s too old for this!”
And I ignored them, because once again, I didn’t think that I was doing anything wrong. As far as I was concerned, progress HAD been made. Was it as quickly as other people might think I needed it to be? No, but it WAS progress, and in all the progress I’d made not ONCE did I have to resort to weaning my son or leaving him to cry.
So he hit 2 years old, and some days he nursed in the middle of the night and in the mornings and some days he chose to nurse only once or twice to help him fall asleep at naptime and bedtime. There were nights when he’d roll away from me after he had nursed, and he’d be asleep for hours without me having to wake him. Good thing, too, because it was around this time that my fertility returned and I was trying actively to get pregnant again. But still, people were telling me…
“He’s too old to still be nursing AT ALL! You should just cut him off. And stop sleeping in his room. Are you going to still be doing that when you’re six months pregnant???”
Well, let’s just say that I continued to cover my ears, because this mama knows what works for her. And so yes, I stopped nursing my son when at 8 weeks pregnant I realized that continuing was aggravating my nausea too much. For the record, I would have happily nursed him longer had my daughter not made that so uncomfortable for me, but after a few months of slowly weaning him off his last nursings I was done with that part of our relationship. He took instead to wanting to cuddle, hold my hand, or weirdly enough, stroke and hold my hair. He still woke up in the middle of the night if I wasn’t beside him, but it happened a lot less frequently. By the time Christmas rolled around, I was sleeping in bed with my husband some nights (though I still mostly slept in my son’s room) and Christmas Eve he slept in his room by himself ALL NIGHT.
Now it’s January. He still wakes sometimes (particularly more often when his molars are bugging him, because molars are EVIL) but here’s where we are at right now:
- He’s no longer sleeping ON me for naps and bedtime
- He no longer needs me to nurse him to sleep
- He’s in his own room in his bed on the floor
- He is no longer needing to sleep with me beside him the entire time to STAY asleep
- He sometimes wakes and falls back asleep before I get to his room
- He is sleeping ALL NIGHT without waking unless his teeth are bugging him
- He is also now sleeping ALL NIGHT in his own room WITHOUT me having to be there
- The older he gets the more progress he makes toward independent sleep WITHOUT any effort on my part
So yes, I DID get him out of my bed. I DID get him to sleep without nursing. I DID manage to sleep in my own bed apart from him at least part of the time. And I did it ALL without any sleep training.
Did it take longer than if I had forced my son to sleep on his own before he was actually ready to? Yes. It took 2 years and 9 months. But it DID happen, and now that I’m past all of that I can look back on that time and see just how short it really was. It wasn’t “forever”, even though in the beginning it seemed like he would remain in a certain stage for eternity. But all kids grow up, and I’m glad that I went with my instincts and just did what felt natural and right for me and my boy. He’s napping right now, as I type this; has been for just over an hour, and likely to sleep a little longer. He’s in his own bed in his room, and it took less than 15 minutes for me to settle him down and then slip away. Just six months ago it used to take far longer to get him to calm down enough for sleep. A year ago I couldn’t get him down unless he was nursing. A year before that he had to sleep in my arms and if I moved away he’d wake up crying after 30 minutes.
But now he’s independent, and he will CONTINUE to make progress until the day he announces he wants his own big boy bed in his own room apart from me and his sister. And that day will come sooner than it may feel like it will, just as the day will come when my daughter no longer will need to sleep in my arms either. Will it be in the same time frame as her big brother? I don’t know; all babies are different. This one might break away sooner, or she might snuggle a little longer; but eventually she too will move on. And then the big bed will be mine and hubby’s again, and the kids will be “too old” to want anything to do with cuddling mommy and daddy. They will want their own space, and that’s the way things are supposed to be. But while they’re still little and still want me around, I’m not going to push them to grow up. I will enjoy the baby and toddler cuddles while I can, and know for a fact that no matter how many times someone tries to convince me that I will “NEVER GET THE KIDS OUT OF MY BED”, I now have the experience to know that’s simply not true. You just don’t appreciate how short the time really IS until you’re past it.