I Always Judged Co-Sleeping Families Until We Became One
It’s so easy to say “I will never” as a parent when you have not dealt with certain situations. It is easy to say you would handle things one way when you truly do not know any better. For my part, I was quite the smug douche rocket when my daughter was a baby because she was basically, the World’s Easiest Baby and there were so many things she never did that most new parents grapple with. I was quite thrilled with myself that we were getting 12-hour stretches of sleep from her by two months old and I attributed it all to my stellar parenting- surely, I had this mommying thing licked.
It was our second child that made me eat all of the “I will never’s” and the biggest one of all was co-sleeping. I always thought it was ridiculous to let a baby or child sleep in the parent’s bed- damaging to everyone’s sleep, to the parent’s sex life and to the child’s ability to be independent and stay in their own bed. Sadly, because of our initial easy experience, I always judged co-sleeping families until we became one.
Our daughter slept in her own bed so easily and predictably that we joked about her thinking her bed was surrounded by hot lava- she never left it and wandered out. Our son, from infancy on, was very different. We had an Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper for the first five months and that worked out well. I was nursing and he was “an arm’s reach” (see what I did there?) away from me. Once he started acting like he might crawl, we obviously moved him over to the crib. Ok, we TRIED to move him to the crib. We would set him down on the mattress and walk away and you would think we had just left him laying on a bed of hot coals from the way he would scream. I began to panic.
We tried crib soothers, mobiles, white noise machines, patting him on his bottom for 45 minutes, nursing to sleep, drowsy-but-awake, cry-it-out, you get the picture. We tried every trick I could possibly Google or crowd-source from my mom friends and nothing worked. This child wanted nothing more than to be next to me- preferably, nursing all night like I was his human pacifier. By this point, we had figured out that he was a different kind of kid and I did not want to be the wrong kind of mother for him so I decided to adjust. That is how we became a co-sleeping family from the time he was 5-6 months old until he was over three.
We were consistent in one thing- we never actually put him to sleep for the night in our bed. We did plug away at getting him to at least sleep for the first few hours in his crib so that we didn’t have to worry about him falling out of our bed before we went to sleep for the night. His “crib tolerance” was maybe 2-3 hours and then, he wanted out. Over time, his tolerance went up and by the time he was two, he didn’t end up in our bed until after 3am. After what we had been through, I was happy with that. We were not thrilled about co-sleeping because we both worried too much about rolling over on him (despite having taken all the safe co-sleeping precautions) so we were ready to have our bed back for the entire night so we could stop sleeping with one eye open.
Now, our little dude puts in full nights in his own bed (although he remains a very early riser….ugh) and I have to admit- there are times where I miss him being between us. His warm little body, his adorable breaths and being able to reach over and stroke his soft hair was nice. I have it tucked away now in my memories, the edges blurred like so many memories of the shittier parts of parenting. And the greatest gift of all is that I will never, ever judge a families decision to co-sleep again. I get it now.