Thursday, April 7, 2011

Co-sleeping sucks

We co-sleep (or bed-share, whichever term you prefer to use) with my 16-month-old, M., and it sucks.

Allow me to elaborate. I adore M. and her older sister more than life itself. I would do anything for them. The fact that I'm still co-sleeping with M. now that she's a 28 lb, 32-inch tall 16-month-old speaks to this. I am a stay-at-home mom, so I am with my daughters all day, every day, which is how I wanted it and I love it so much, I will do whatever I have to in order to remain a stay-at-home mom until they graduate from high school. That said, being a stay-at-home mom is an intense, hard job. It requires an unbelievable amount of patience, calm, stamina and a really good sense of humor. It's hard work to maintain all that 24/7 without cracking a bit. All moms need breaks, even stay-at-home ones, in order to be on top of our game. For some moms, this means spa days or even weekends away. For me, all I need, all I really want is to sleep in my bed comfortably, to be able to read a book with my book light when my long day is finally over, to snuggle with my husband, and most importantly, to not be kicked in the spine and/or face all night. It's a reasonable request.

My 3-year-old, T., never slept in our bed. She spent her first 5 months in an Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper, a wonderful, amazing product that worked incredibly well for us. It was great. If she cried, she was right next to me, and I could pick her right up and feed her without having to stand up or go anywhere. Once she got to be 4 months old, she started to get kind of big for it, so we spent the next month transitioning her to her crib, which was at the foot of our bed. She transitioned into her crib with no problem and slept there, in our room, until a few months after her 2nd birthday. It was great. I loved having her in our room for that long.

M., at 3 months, was too big for the Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper already. We moved her into her crib, which again, was at the foot of our bed. This change occurred effortlessly and she slept there happily until she was 5 months old, at which point she suddenly refused to sleep there at all and seemed to think it was a torture chamber. After a few sleepless nights, I got desperate and brought her into our bed, where she slept considerably better.

I didn't want to keep her in our bed for too long, because it meant that whenever she needed to sleep, I had to be in our bed with her to make sure she didn't roll out (even if we were to put our mattress on the floor, that's more of a tumble than I would want my baby to take). So periodically, I would nurse her down to sleep, wait till she was totally out, and then ever so gently sneak her into her crib. The second she touched the crib mattress, she would snap awake and scream bloody murder. I have no idea how she could sense that she was in the crib that she hated so much when she was completely asleep, but she did.

I gave up on getting her to sleep in her crib for months. Then at one of her checkups, I asked our pediatrician how to get her to sleep in her crib. I told her I can't stand to let my baby cry, so I didn't want to use the Ferber method or anything like that. She said she didn't like the Ferber method, either, and suggested that we use a somewhat modified method, where we put her in her crib, let her cry for 5 minutes, stick our head in the room and tell her that we hear her and that we love her, and then leave and let her cry, not entering the room anymore. This sounded just as cruel as the Ferber method, but as M. got bigger and insisted on sleeping either sideways or upside down, her feet either pressed into my spine or right next to my face, I got desperate and we gave it a try.

It was horrible. M. has a persistent personality and does NOT give up. Our pediatrician said it could take a couple hours and you just have to stick to your guns, do it a couple nights, and then magically your child will sleep in their crib. Well, M. cried for hours. I could hardly take it. It was torture hearing my child be so miserable. My husband and I slept (or tried to sleep) on the couch and at 4:00 AM, when I finally didn't hear her cry anymore, I went in to check on her. There she was, half asleep, sitting up, bobbling around as she resisted falling asleep with all her might.

I couldn't do it anymore. I went over to her and saw that her eyes were red and puffy, as if she'd been crying the entire time. I laid down with her in my bed and cried, holding her and telling her how sorry I was. We never tried that method again.

That was about 6 months ago. She has stayed in our bed this whole time, and I've slept (if you can call it that) with my 32 inch long toddler next to me, kicking me in the back, face, boobs, neck, nearly breaking my nose with her head as she rolls over, pimp-slapping me as she flails around and tries to get comfortable during a bout of teething. It has been, in a word, awful.

I love my daughter. I adore her. She, like her older sister, is the sweetest, funniest, snuggliest, huggiest little angel ever. But during these middle of the night ass-kickings, I feel angry at her. I feel terrible for feeling angry at my child for something she can't control. I feel selfish for resenting her need to sleep close to me. And then reality kicks in and I remember something important.

I'm a human being. I have needs, too. If I'm drained and depleted, I can't be the best mother I can be. I can't be the pillar of patience that I need to be when I've had no me-time in weeks, when I haven't had even 15 minutes without someone kicking, screaming at or even so much as touching me.

Therefore, we are trying once again to get her to sleep in her crib. This time, now that she's 16 months old, it is slowly but surely working. We converted it to a toddler bed and put it right next to my side of the bed, so I can reach out and touch her when I'm lying in bed. Initially, she complains and looks at me like "How could you??" when I put her in her bed, but she only cries for a few minutes. For three nights now, she has spent the first half of the night sleeping in her own bed, and it has been awesome. I feel rested, I feel replenished, by just having my own space for those few hours, by being able to stretch out, by not being kicked, by being able to read a book with my book light without having to contort myself into strange positions to keep the light on my book but off of her.

Co-sleeping is kind of all the rage right now, but it isn't for everyone. It's not for me. While co-sleeping, I've felt like I've been working 24 hours a day with no break, because sleeping with a baby in your bed is really hard work. It has been rough and I'm glad it's nearly over. My daughter will learn that when she sleeps in her own bed, I'm still only a foot away from her at night and she'll have a much more patient, much more rested, and therefore better mommy in the morning.


  1. my husband called me the sleep nazi- they slept in and out of our/my bed because lets be honest, really they were sleeping with me, but when bed became bed I needed me time too.

  2. Oh that sleep thing! I want you to know that I am Bad Mommy, I co-sleep w. my frigging NINE and SIX year old. Terrible, terrible. But they're moving out...soon, hopefully before they go to college...
    They had gotten out of the bed then somehow over Christmas they got back in and I love sleeping in a pile like cats so I kept them. (-:
    All the parenting books are tsk-tsking me right now.
    Anyway just didn't want you to feel so bad. (-: Great post btw.

  3. Sleep nazi, that is hilarious! And you know, I could see having older kids in one's bed. I imagine they, toss, turn and flail around less. I'm sure I'll find out! Thanks for the kind and helpful comments!

  4. Oh, Sara. You are a much better mother than I am. I am pretty sure none of us would be alive if I had gone through what you have. I love my children with every ounce of my being, but if I don't get sleep - or a break from their beautiful faces at night - I will go insane. I think it's great that the toddler bed beside yours is working well for a half-way point. As they say, Baby Steps! :-)

  5. You are too kind, Stacey! I keep thinking I'm a crappy mom because I can't get her to sleep well and sleep in her own bed. Slowly but surely, it's happening. She spent half the night in her bed again last night. We'll get there, and I'll be that much more sane for it!

  6. Oh I love this I can totally relate my 16 month old hates his cot and insists on sleeping in our bed and Hea such a bed hog and needs to be on me all night it gets so incredibly tiring sometime's and you realise you don't get any moments to yourself. Good luck with the transitioning!


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