Today is one of those days. I was woken up many times by a body the size of a 4 or 5 year old that’s actually not even 3, squished up so tight against my own that if you didn’t know better, you’d swear they were one. He is our second child and in all honesty, we’d planned not to cosleep this time around. It took us until our daughter was 3 to get her into her own bed and we didn’t want to face that again, yet here we are.
Sometimes I feel like I have to defend cosleeping because some are so against it. It kind of just happened, though. With our daughter, who’s now nearly 7, it was that I didn’t know I have a problem with milk production, so she would nurse for hours just trying to get enough to be satisfied and I’d be sitting in bed just waiting for her to stop. That turned into sleeping with her in my arms, laying down with her in my arms, etc. Then, once you start it, it becomes a habit and you can’t stop. That’s not to say there weren’t points along the way where we didn’t try, but we’re not really fans of crying it out or sleep training, so we continued to cosleep. Then, when she was three, literally within a week of her 3rd birthday, we made a big deal about getting her a new big girl bed, etc., and she’s mostly been sleeping in her bed ever since.
With our son, it was for convenience as well, but only for the first 7 weeks of his life. Then, I started laying him down groggy and he’d go to sleep on his own in his cradle. He was a pro. I was so impressed. I was like we’ve beat it! Everything went along smoothly until he was about 7 months old and he started waking up during the night again. First, it was 3 AM. He wouldn’t go back to sleep until he was in bed with us, so he’d come into bed with us. Then it slowly worked its way back to about 11 PM. So, basically, the whole night. He’d sleep about 4 hours in his bed on his own, then he’d only go back to sleep with us.
Proof that he really did sleep in his cradle!
About a year later, we made the mistake of trying to change his bedroom from ours to create new surroundings and, therefore, create new expectations.
That was DISASTROUS. He simply would not go to sleep. He’d cry and cry and cry, wake up several times, it was awful. We moved him back into our bedroom after a couple of weeks or a month, but it persisted. He wouldn’t go to sleep unless he was laying in our bed with one of us. Things had literally gone from bad to worse. Add to this the fact that my husband can’t sit still in the evening for more than 5 minutes without falling asleep and you’ve got me hanging out by myself after 8 PM 7 nights a week. C-man usually wanted daddy to put him to bed, so after my daughter went down, I was a lone ranger. Helpful since I was in school and needed to do homework, but no so great for just spending time with my husband in the evening. We’d go days without having a meaningful conversation. I was resentful because he was going to bed so early and he was resentful when I wanted to sleep in on the weekends.
Finally, we got to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore and we had to resort to sleep training. We consulted our pediatrician for their suggestions and took a slightly lighter approach where we explained to him what was going on, that we’d be back in 5 minutes, etc. Instead of increasing that time, though, as recommended, we made some of our own rules. We stuck to 5 minutes and then would also go in depending on his complaint. If he was just crying, we would wait the 5 minutes. If he sounded really distressed or was saying he was scared, or that he had to go to the bathroom, we’d go in before the 5 minutes. We didn’t want anyone, us or him, to come out of this traumatized. A few times, he said things like, “why don’t you want me???” or “but I’m a good boy!!!” If you think you can wait 5 minutes when those words are uttered, think again.
After a few weeks, he was successful at going to sleep on his own without crying and we were successful at not giving up on those really hard nights.
The idea was that if he could go to sleep on his own, he would learn to self-soothe and then would sleep through the night. I’d like to say that’s been the case, but no. We started this process when he was 2.5 and now, at nearly 3, after a brief setback when we went on vacation for Christmas, he’s still going to sleep on his own just fine most nights, but is still waking up between 11 PM and 3 AM to come into our bed.
An early morning wake up that involved cuddles from our barely 4-year-old and our 2-week-old. A very sweet moment.
That brings me to last night…and many nights. We wake up and one of us is literally one with our toddler. There are so many annoyances and sleepless nights associated with cosleeping, but there are also moments of such sweet love that literally cannot happen at any other point. Those 2 AM whispers of, “I love you mama” make you realize that through all the difficulty, you’re so glad you did it.