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My first big lesson in parenting: never say never

August 18th, 2008

Before having Maddie, I was critical of the family bed. I didn’t think it was a good idea for the child’s safety or for their independence. I thought that toddlers and older children in the bed was crazy. I thought that once you started putting the baby in the bed, they were going to continue to want to sleep there indefinitely. I thought that babies would not be safe. I thought that the baby needed to learn how to sleep on their own and to self soothe, and I felt that co-sleeping would not foster these needs. I felt that co-sleeping would adversely affect the marriage. Personally, I was worried about my night terrors and how that could compromise the baby’s safety.

I said that we were NOT going to be cosleepers. Even three months after Maddie was born, I can still remember uttering the following phrase, “I know for a FACT that we will NOT cosleep.” Oops!

What I did not expect was a baby who would not sleep in her crib. What I did not expect was a baby who could often only be soothed by Mommy. I asked friends in the early days, “how did you get your baby to sleep in their crib?” They would respond with things like, “we just put him in the crib, and he slept there” or “once we put her in her crib, she slept even better and even slept through the night.” It’s been almost 6 months, and believe me, we’ve tried. We have tried putting her in the crib wide awake. We’ve tried the drowsy-but-not-asleep thing. We’ve tried putting her in the crib completely zonked. Getting her to fall asleep hasn’t been the biggest issue, but getting her to stay asleep has been a major issue. Currently, she will sleep in her crib for less than 2 hours at a time on average. No, she’s not waking up because she’s hungry (sometimes she is, but I don’t think that’s the problem). Yes, she wakes up and cries. No, letting her cry is not going to work for us (that’s another post for another day). We have tried for hours to try to get her back to sleep in her crib. We’ll rock her to sleep, put her in the crib, and then less than a minute later she’s wide awake and mad. Sometimes just getting her near the perimeter of her crib is enough to set off her alarm system.

Our original plan was to use the bassinet portion of the pack-n-play in our bedroom until she was waking less frequently for feedings and such. We figured that she would be in our room two or three months, and then we’d move her to her fancy crib in her beautifully decorated nursery. We only recently stopped using the bassinet since she was learning to crawl and sit on her own. About a month or so before she moved to her crib, we started letting her sleep in the bed through part of the night. It was just too much for us to get her back to sleep in the bassinet.

Now, she goes to bed in the crib for the first part of the night. She sleeps for an hour or two. Rarely, she sleeps for 3 hours. About the time that we are getting ready to go to bed, she wakes up and joins us. This isn’t how we planned it, but this is working for us. Everyone is getting better sleep this way. And you know what? We like it. That’s right, we like sleeping with our baby in our bed. We’re working on making the bed as safe as possible. We removed the padded mattress cover, we put a twin bed mattress on the floor next to our bed, and we ordered a Snug Tuck Pillow. We’ve read advice from Dr. Sears. We’re not overweight, on drugs, or under the influence of alcohol. Maddie is a strong baby and has been advanced with her gross motor milestones. I’m still unsure about how I would feel about sleeping with a newborn, but I feel comfortable with a baby Maddie’s age. I still have concerns about whether we’re doing the right thing at times, but we’re doing the best we can. We feel like it is safe, and we feel like it is the right solution to our sleep issues.

Snuggling up with Maddie is just about the sweetest experience that I can imagine. Breastfeeding through the night is effortless. Gabe has witnessed firsthand me not even waking up to feed Maddie. I no longer wake up in the middle of the night in a panic, wondering whether the baby is alright. I know Maddie is happier. She loves being close to her Mommy. If she isn’t right next to me when we go to sleep, she quickly finds a way to get herself as close to me as possible! No matter how fast asleep she is, she senses if I leave the bed for a few minutes. It’s very sweet. Some mornings I wake up and she has a hand on my chest and a leg over my belly. We have even been able to sleep in a few times together – this weekend we slept until 9:30am! Too bad we have to get up early for work during the week… We are all getting more sleep (especially Gabe!).

So, there you have it. I was wrong about co-sleeping. I admit it. We have a family bed, and we like it. For the time being, we are happy with our solution. If Maddie starts sleeping longer in her crib, then great! If not, then we’re happy with that, too. I’m not worried about future transitions. We’ll cross that bridge when we’re all ready for it.

One Response to “My first big lesson in parenting: never say never”

  1. shannon Says:

    Cosleeping is magical! I remember the days when we swore we’d never do it. America is in the minority when it comes to cosleeping (and a few other parental practices). Cosleeping is safe and normal. The myth that it is anything but comes from crib manufacturers. I love snuggling up to little Paolo every night and for naps. I love having him sleep on my arm, his little squishy face right there for me to watch.