Perspectives in Parenting: Sleeping Independently



Motherhood comes with a host of choices to make about what is best for you, your family, and your child. We at BurlingtonVT Moms Blog have a variety of moms who want to embrace these choices instead of feeling guilty or judged for them! In light of this, we have decided to begin a series called “Perspectives in Parenting” where moms from our team share differing opinions about a particular parenting topic. While you may not agree with every parenting style presented, we hope that some may resonate with you, and that we can all learn to respect each other’s decisions and support one another through this journey of motherhood! We are beginning our series, Perspectives in Parenting, with a look at co-sleeping.

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Sleeping is a very personal thing. It’s a time when we are our most vulnerable.

When you become a parent sleep can become an elusive thing for both you and your children, and you get to a point that you will do almost anything to get a few minutes of shut eye.

While I was still pregnant with Caroline Jason and I decided that she would sleep independently in her own sleep space. We were aware of the CDC recommendations  to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Our attitude about most decisions we have made about Caroline is, if we know something is safer (even if by just a little bit), why risk it?

If we chose something different, and something happened to her we would be plagued with guilt and remorse.

We set up a crib with a fitted sheet. There were no bumpers or blankets in sight. We also set up a co-sleeper in our bedroom, planning to have Caroline sleep in our room for the first 6 months close enough that I could grab her to nurse and return her to her own sleep space. And (as if it wasn’t obvious) she would sleep flat on her back.

What do they say? The best laid plans…

While in the hospital we quickly learned that Caroline only liked being swaddled with her arms out and that she would not sleep flat on her back. Once home she only would sleep in our arms or in her swing. We also realized that I am an extremely light sleeper, who needs at least a couple of quality hours of sleep to function and that our dog, our first born, was having a hard time with the transition of not being the sole receiver of our attention.

After several nights of me staying up bouncing Caroline while she slept in my arms or getting 45 minutes of fitful anxious sleep while she was in her swing, we decided to try having Caroline sleep in our bed. Neither Jason nor I was really comfortable with the idea, but something had to give. I looked up these helpful guidelines for safe bed sharing on Kelly Mom, which was suggested to me by our lactation consultant. We set up our bed to be the safest it could be.

For 2 or 3 nights, Caroline was in bed with us.

Although she is sleeping soundly in my arms, I didn’t sleep a wink.

Was it the answer to my prayers? No. Not even close.

God, it was awful. Every time she moved, made a peep, anything my eyes anxiously opened terrified something was wrong. Also, our dog Copper sleeps with us and we were nervous that he would walk on her in the night. It wasn’t an option to remove Copper from our bed, we didn’t want him to resent Caroline. I’m sure it’s not hard to imagine, that I was waking Caroline up and Jason was too nervous to move all night. We all ended up getting less sleep.

Exhaustion began clouding my brain and I had this irrational belief that if Caroline wouldn’t sleep flat on her back that she HAD to sleep in my arms. After getting support at a playgroup with other moms I realized that although co-sleeping is the answer for many, it wasn’t our answer. It was suggested that we try a rock-n-play.

Now THAT was life changing advice.

Caroline sleeping soundly in her rock-n-play during a nap.
Caroline sleeping soundly in her rock-n-play during a nap.

That night at home, I tried wrapping Caroline in a thick blanket (of course swaddling her in it so that it couldn’t become loose) and put her in her rock-n-play once she was asleep in our room. It worked! Caroline was up at a 45 degree angle snuggled in the blanket, very much like she was in our arms. We all slept a few hours. As time went on and Caroline’s sleep cycles got longer most nights we got 6 hours in a row.

Caroline stayed in her rock-n-play until she was 4 months old. Around 3 months we slowly started naps flat on her back in her crib and from 4 to 6 months she slept in the co-sleeper FLAT almost through the night. Around 6 months we transitioned her to her crib in her room. I struggled with this for a while, having her so far away (a few feet down the hall!) from me. But we got to a point that if we turned over in our bed or if Copper moved around Caroline woke up.

One of the first few times Caroline slept flat on her back during naptime.
One of the first few times Caroline slept flat on her back during naptime.

Quickly we got into a rhythm that worked for us. I bounced her to sleep most nights before laying her down. Around 16 months (so 2ish months ago) we got to a point that she can be put to bed awake.

Caroline may sleep in her own sleep space independently but that doesn’t mean she never sleeps with us. I used to fantasize that when she got bigger, could roll over that maybe she would sleep with us, because I do love cuddles. But alas, it was never meant to be. When she is sick or we are staying away from home she often ends up in bed with us. However, it doesn’t last long. She likes her own space as much as we do. She is a mover and often wakes up crying when she hits into one of us or our headboard. After a couple of hours we transition her back to her own space.

I snuck into Caroline's room last night to take this picture. When she first went to sleep her head was in the opposite direction!
I snuck into Caroline’s room last night to take this picture. When she first went to sleep her head was in the opposite direction!

After 18 months of being a parent most nights I get a full 8 hours of sleep. The reason being? Caroline sleeps well in her own bed in her own room. Although it was tough going those first 10 days, we found what worked for us that we could feel comfortable and confident with. The best part, Caroline is thriving!

Where do your children sleep?


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