Yes, you read that right and no, I didn’t make a typing error. I’m not transitioning my 2 1/2 week or 2 1/2 month old to a crib, nor am I transitioning my 2 1/2 year old to a “big boy bed.”
When my little guy was born, he slept beside me in his Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper. All was fine and it was the perfect arrangement to transition to sleeping by himself when he was ready. When he was 6 months old, we took a trip that involved several flights (it ended up being 5 after we missed our first flight – it was supposed to be 4), overnights in a hotel and at my in-laws. We already had to haul 3 car seats along with all our luggage and decided against paying to check a pack & play. We considered buying one when we got to my in-laws (cheaper than paying to check one), but our trip included a flight & 2 nights in Tennessee to visit my Grandparents as well, so it wouldn’t help with that. So why am I telling you this? Well, because my son and I bedshared during that trip, and he decided co-sleeping was for the birds. Bedsharing is where it’s at.
Shortly after that trip (2 years ago) I started sleeping in his room with him. His room was previously the “guest room” and still contains our old queen size bed. I am not knocking bedsharing. Some people bedshare with a pile of kids well into their elementary years and I think that’s totally fine as long as everyone is happy with the arrangement. Me? I was not so much anymore.
In a nutshell, my son wouldn’t sleep without me, so trying to nurse him down & sneak out was out of the question (I considered just getting a bed rail for the bed.) This meant he ended up staying up. LATE. Like 11 o’clock, then napping in the late afternoon to make up for it, then starting the cycle again. That means I got a grand total of zero hours without my children. I love ’em, I do, but an hour to yourself before bed does wonders.
Secondly, neither he nor I seemed to be sleeping well. He went from sometimes falling asleep on my lap nursing on the couch, then snoozing with me in bed, to spending an hour thrashing around (laughing, kicking the wall, flailing etc.) before falling asleep. When he did sleep, it was literally pressed up against my back. (I’d turn over after our initial snuggle & he’d fall asleep.) I always had some sort of bruise on my back or shoulder from his head (you can guess why I slept with my back to him – that was after a busted lip and a few near black eyes from when I would snuggle him!) I was achy & sore from sleeping frozen in the same position, teetering on the edge of the bed. He also would wake up & want to nurse at various hours, and even when I tried to tiptoe out of bed to get dressed in the morning, he’d wake up, exhausted, crying & chasing after me to “pick-a me UP MOMMY!” That made it hard to get myself dressed, make my daughter’s lunch & get everyone ready for the day.
So that’s why I was ready for him to sleep on his own. Why didn’t I transition him to his own bed sooner? Because it was simply easier this way. A total cop out. I was worried about how it would go, and I wasn’t OK with letting him cry. I was afraid I’d end up all night long with him, or that he’d be traumatized.
Saturday, my husband moved the glider rocker into his room. It had been in our room because his bedroom is the smallest we have, and with a queen bed, crib, dresser etc. it was pretty tight in there. All day, I avoided letting him nurse, which at this point is often just his transition into napping on my lap. By 7:30 he was pretty tired. So, I took him upstairs and followed the same method of operation I used with my other 2 children. Rocked, nursed until he was snoozy, unlatched him, rocked until I was pretty sure he was asleep, gingerly stood up and rock/walked my way to his crib and set him down. He kind of snorted & rolled over, as he does when we bring him in from falling asleep in the car seat etc. He slept for two hours! Thankfully, my husband helped me that first night, talking to him & rubbing his back (I came in too, but my husband’s help was huge.) That was another hurdle for me – having to try to do this transition by myself. I’m a little bit ashamed to admit it, but it got to the point that I was feeling rather angry & resentful when my husband got to go to bed when he was tired & sleep all night, but I always knew the night that was ahead of me. It felt much like having a newborn baby.
The second night, he woke up when I laid him down and was upset & wanted up. I was pretty surprised by how it went. I thought he’d scream and cry and I’d give in. Instead, I told him that if he laid down, I’d rub his back. He stood up a few more times and gave a few little whimpers, but then I just stroked his hair until he fell asleep. It was a good half hour and my arms were tingling, my shoulders and legs burning, but I kept at it. I could tell he was struggling to keep his eyes open but he eventually drifted off and slept about 10 hours!
Night #3 went like the first night. Nurse, rock, in bed he goes. When we first went upstairs he screwed his little face up and cried when he pointed to the bed and asked to nurse there. I gave him hugs and told him we would nurse & rock and he was OK with that. He woke up after about an hour when the other kids were getting ready for bed – loudly (a big reason why putting the little one to bed early didn’t work for us initially.) I didn’t rush in immediately but within a few seconds it was clear he was not going to settle down on his own. I went in and tried to rub his back but he asked to nurse. I repeated nurse, rock, bed and he cried one cry before closing his eyes and holding my hand while I stroked his hair with the other hand. Within a few minutes, he was asleep! He was up again at 11 but a quick rock got him ready for me to put him back in bed. He ended up sleeping around 12 hours total! Both times he woke up, he called for Daddy but was not happy when Daddy came through the door. As soon as he saw him he said “want MOMMY!”
Day 4 – he was not acting sleepy at all & he ended up staying up until after 9:00 with his brother & sister. I was trying to get him to sleep while they were still up, and since my other son was waiting for me to come read to him, he kept popping his head in, causing my son to perk right up & be wide awake again. (My daughter did the same thing when he was a baby and I was trying to get him in bed!) Finally I told my 2.5 year old it was time for bed and asked if he’d like me to rub his back while he was in bed. We did that for a while, and though he was yawning, there were no signs of sleep. I eventually told him it was time to sleep, said goodnight & left. He talked to himself (I was listening on the baby monitor) for a while, but no crying or screaming. He was asleep around 10:00! He slept until almost 7 A.M., but he was very tired & crabby when he got up. Lesson learned that I definitely need to stick to putting him to bed earlier!
So, at 2 1/2 years old, when other people are moving their kids to toddler beds, my toddler spent his first nights in a crib. If you’re wondering why a crib, that physical barrier is very much needed for him. There’s no way he’d understand staying in bed if we’d tried to go with a toddler bed! (The crib mattress is low enough that there’s no danger of him tumbling out, and of course if he attempts to climb out we’ll stop using it – same as we did for our other kids.) As I’m writing this, I know it probably sounds ridiculous to be so nervous & excited about how this is going. It sounds like other people’s stories of putting their babies to bed! But it’s a big deal to me.
I joked that he’d better book a honeymoon suite with a king size bed when he gets married, so I can come nurse him to sleep, but I knew he’d sleep on his own when he was ready. Could I have done this 6 months, or a year, or 2 years ago? Sure. But it would have been a whole lot more traumatic. He is my 3rd baby, but the first to co-sleep, so this is new territory for me. I actually tried to co-sleep with my older son, but he wasn’t interested. Crazy, right?
So far, it’s going smoothly, but I’m not sleeping well. At all. Like toss & turn for 2 hours and then awake at least every hour after that. I think it might just be a bit of not being comfortable without him beside me, unconsciously listening to every creak and sound, plus a little bit of “hotel syndrome.” You know how it’s hard to sleep in a bed that’s not yours? Well, even though this is “my bed,” I haven’t slept in the room or the bed in 2 years, so it’s a little weird. It’s getting a little better each night, but I’m still sleeping very lightly.
Now the issue is not backsliding. When someone came to visit, we’d be kicked out of my son’s room and bunk up in “my” room. Then my husband would end up sleeping in our (unfinished) basement because he’s bothered & crowded by our son. We really have nowhere else to put our guest bed and I’m not cool with shaking up this new routine just yet. Sooo…I guess if you want to visit me, you better make it a day visit.
Even on baby #3, I have things to learn. I’m not sad that we bed shared for so long. It was right for us. I’m not really sure that I “miss it,” but I do treasure the snuggles even more now.