I thought I would always be a co-sleeping parent, but when having babies in our bed started causing problems in our marriage, my husband and I tried "Cry It Out" sleep training and we haven't looked back.
When my twins were born, a combination of feeling bad when I heard them crying and being too lazy to trek to their room and rock a baby back to sleep led my family to a modified co-sleeping arrangement. For both naps and nighttime sleeping the boys would come into our bed, where my husband and I would lay with them in the dark until they fell asleep. Once the babies seemed to be out for the count, we would carry them down the hall and cross our fingers that they would stay asleep when placed in their cribs. If not, back to the big bed and we would start all over. The ordeal took about an hour on a good night, longer if the transition to crib didn't work on the first try.
When the boys were infants we enjoyed this time to snuggle as a family, but as they got older and more mobile, we seemed spend the first twenty minutes trying to convince them to stay in the bed, the next ten positioning them so they won't kick each other and then the rest of the time waiting for them to actually fall asleep. It was tiring and frustrating and my husband and I found ourselves with less and less time together as a couple. Once the boys went down we would either trade off using the treadmill, watch an episode of Boardwalk Empire or turn to our respective iPads and go to bed without talking. It sucked. We both felt frustrated at our boys for taking up the bulk of our evenings. We missed talking with each other and our interactions became more and more businesslike and impersonal. I grew resentful of my husband's impatience with the kids each night. Since I was doing the co-sleeping song and dance not only at bedtime, but by myself during the day as well, I felt if anyone was entitled to complain, it was me, not him. The bedtime issues were spilling over into every aspect of our marriage, and we were getting more hurtful towards each other by the day.
With the boys getting close to transitioning out of cribs and into toddler beds, and my marriage flailing, I decided something had to change. I have a wild imagination and I started to envision being a divorcée and having my children be first graders who couldn't fall asleep on their own at either their father's house or mine.
I've always admired Bethany Ramos for her nonchalant attitude about parenting. Like me, she admits to coping with anxiety when it comes to her boys, but she is also a huge proponent of CIO sleep training. Her kids seem happy and well adjusted, so I figured it couldn't hurt to try it out. The next time I found myself chasing the kids around my room at nap time, I took a deep breathe, put them in their cribs and walked away from the screams. I told myself I would give them ten minutes before I went back into their room, then I posted up with the video baby monitor and Bethany on Skype for moral support. After six minutes, the crying stopped, the boys settled down and quickly fell asleep. I did a touchdown dance (in my head, so I wouldn't wake the kids) and called my husband to tell him what happened. He was on board and we started the new sleep routine that same night. It took about a week, but the boys now go right into their cribs for sleeping with only a few minutes of tears, if any. I have so much more time during naps to get things done around the house and it is glorious. I can write, work out or even sit on my rear and watch back episodes of Extreme Guide To Parenting on my laptop without feeling like I never get a break.
Having more time to get things done during the day has given me tons more patience and having the extra hour or two at night has done wonders for my marriage. My husband and I used to dread bedtime, but now we look forward to it. On days when the kids are being difficult, it's nice to know we will still have time together.
I'm not trying to suggest that CIO sleep training is for everyone and if you're not doing it, then you are parenting wrong. CIO was the right solution at the right time for us, I don't think I would have been comfortable using CIO at a younger age. But I'm really happy that we tried it. If I had subscribed blindly to one particular parenting method, I wouldn't have been able to recognize that co-sleeping wasn't working for our family anymore. Changing how our family approaches bedtime was a great reminder for me that parenting is always a work in progress.