Every morning, we are lucky enough to be able to wake to the rustle and bustle of Casey, who has slept in between us, all night long, since he was five months old. We kept him in bed with us for the first few weeks of his life because we liked having him between us, each of us lightly touching him with a hand just to feel him breathing. After a few weeks, we transitioned him to sleep, swaddled, in a co-sleeper right next to my side of the bed, allowing us to sleep a bit more comfortably but still making nighttime feedings easy. After we moved back to the Midwest, we continued to use the co-sleeper, eventually switching to a full size Pack’n’play, but still keeping him in our room, right next to my side of the bed.
We discovered early on that swaddling him helped him fall asleep and stay asleep longer but around 3-4 months he was strong enough to roll over and undo the swaddled and when I would wake up at 2 or 3 a.m. to feed him, I would often find him trying to get out of his swaddle, either tangled up or already fully free of it. Sometimes I would try to reswaddle him quickly so he wouldn’t start to wail, but I found it much easier to simply bring him into bed with us at that time, where we would all sleep better and longer. The swaddled became its own headache, which you can read about here, and we finally weaned him out of it while continuing to get him to fall asleep in the pack’n’play (even if he usually ended up in bed with us by morning).
At about 5 months, Casey came down with a bad bug and was sick with quite a high fever for about two days. He cried and cried and when he finally fell asleep and we had already tried to put him down in the pack’n’play to no avail, we brought him into bed with us for the full night and that’s where he has stayed ever since.
I love sleeping with him. It’s comforting to feel him next to me and be there when he reaches out to me. Mostly this arrangement has worked well for us and I have been happy to continue to keep him in our bed for naps and at night. But over the past few months, I have had conflicting feelings about how long I wanted to keep co sleeping. Sometimes, Casey wants to nurse all night which is exhausting and often, I find myself stuck in a position that does not quite allow for a good night’s sleep. Also, he is a hot sleeper and sometimes sleeping with him and Alex is like sleeping in a sweat bath.
I’ve always known it wasn’t reasonable to expect to keep him in bed with us eternally. Early on, I was interested in setting up a Montessori style bedroom. I was interested in the idea of a floor bed and a room that was geared towards his needs rather than my own, free from too many distractions, set up to give him the opportunity to choose his own toys and promote longer periods of calm play. (You can find a plethora of information on Montessori style bedrooms on Google.) Without discussing it too much, Alex and I have found ourselves with matching views on parenting styles, inherently gearing towards natural and attachment style parenting methods. We both think it’s healthy to promote his independence and allow him the freedom to fully explore and engage with his surroundings. Of course we have done a lot of baby proofing, constantly move things out of his reach and make sure on a daily basis that there is nothing left lying around that could pose a choking hazard.
Anyway, I didn’t really feel the need for a crib but I felt some pressure early on to get one. The idea of a floor bed for a baby and toddler isn’t familiar to a lot of people and I wavered in my decision, decidedly swayed by the argument that being able to climb out of his bed and be in his room alone could be dangerous. So I went against my gut and purchased a crib, which he has slept in about three times but has provided a great place for our cat to doze during the day.
Now Casey is a month away from being a year old, which I cannot believe, and I have gradually become ready to transition him into sleeping in his own room. My decision was twofold. One, I wanted him to at least nap in his own room during the day so that I could have access to my bedroom again. Two, I want to find out if he will sleep for longer periods of time if he isn’t laying right next to me, with the smell of ‘mom’ and ‘milk’ a constant temptation. I’ve gone back and forth with this for a while and, now that he is getting old enough to comprehend more about his surroundings and the day to day tasks of daily life, I finally felt ready. This time, I listened to my instinct. We took down his crib and set up a floor bed in the corner of his room. Yesterday, he took two naps there successfully so I decided to put him to sleep in his own room for the first time. He fell asleep fine… and woke up every two hours and at 6am, I brought him back into our bed because he wasn’t falling back to sleep. That’s fine. I know that it won’t be an easy transition. I know that it will take time and it may be two steps forward, one step back, like most other aspects of raising a child. But I feel good about my decision and I feel strong enough to stick with it, even if it means a few nights of lost sleep. And this doesn’t mean we are ready to wean him off breastfeeding at night; I’m pretty sure that won’t happen for a while. But I do hope that he gradually begins to sleep for longer periods of time (because I think it’s healthy for him) and I hope that this will help encourage more self-play as he gets older.
Wish us luck and lots of patience!