Thursday, January 20, 2011

Confessions of an Accidental Cosleeper

It started innocently enough.

It was the first night that we brought Bug home from the hospital. My husband had gone to sleep in the study, and Bug was comfortably nestled in his cosleeper which stood next to our bed. I, exhausted from the whole labor, delivery, and having an infant, was trying to get a few moments of sleep.

And then he started crying.

"Are you hungry?" I asked this days old baby, trying to nurse him. But he didn't want to nurse. In fact, the moment I held him, he snuggled up to me and fell back asleep. So I attempted to put him back in his cosleeper, but the moment I did, he started crying. Frustrated, I picked him up, laid him down on the bed next to me, and we both slept soundly for about two hours--until he woke up again, hungry.

And thus began my cosleeping adventure.

I had always intended to keep Bug in our bedroom until he was at least six months of age. This is the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics. For that reason, we bought a cosleeper. You can see a picture of it here. This particular cosleeper is made by Arm's Reach and unfortunately is no longer being made, which makes me very sad, because I thought that the blue polka dot pattern was adorable. Plus, it holds babies up to 23 pounds. I thought it would be perfect.

And it was. It was just he didn't want to sleep in there. Not at first, anyway.

I mean, I couldn't blame him. After being all snuggled up in my womb for nine months, why would he want to be in that thing, and not cuddled up with Mommy? So, for about the first month of his life, he spent the bulk of the night in bed with me. And truthfully, both of us slept better.

But I was determined that he was going to sleep in the cosleeper (I had paid money for it, after all), so I started using some of the Baby Whisperer's techniques to get him to sleep in it. And he did. Most of the time. Some nights I would still bring him in bed with me, and he would nestle against me and I would marvel at his baby breathing and how sweet and wonderful he was.

Then, when he was almost seven months old, my husband and I agreed it was probably time to move him to the crib. I was nervous about this. I was convinced that he was going to die of SIDS. I was convinced the crib would somehow implode on him. Moreover, I was quite certain that he couldn't do it.

As it turned out, I was wrong. For about a month, he slept peacefully in his crib every night. He would wake up every morning, cooing and giggling. And I thought, hey, this is cool. This was easy. What is wrong with all these other parents who make their kids cry themselves to sleep every night?

But then, he started teething. And everything sort of went down the toilet after that.

He would wake up, frantic. So we would go into his room, rock him, calm him, cuddle him, tell him it was all okay, and then we would put him back in his bed. This would work for about an hour, and then he would wake up again, screaming. Finally, one of us would reach our breaking point and the baby would wind up in bed with us. Quite possibly trying to shove a pacifier in one of our mouths.

But sleeping in our bed wasn't really working so well this time around. Now used to a certain degree of space and autonomy in his crib, Bug would flail around. He would turn, he would kick, he would backhand me. So we tried to get him to sleep in the crib again, and that was met with even more resistance.

So Jon and I had a serious talk.

We had to do something. None of us was sleeping well. Our marriage was starting to feel the strain of the both of us enduring restless nights and ZERO alone time. Plus, I was starting to look like my husband was beating me. So we came to the following conclusions:

1. We really needed the baby to spend at least part of the night in his crib.
2. We were totally against letting him cry it out.
3. Somehow, the two of these would mesh.

So we did the only logical thing possible. We turned to books.

I revisited Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, but found that nothing in it was really helpful. After consulting with friends, I took a look into Elizabeth Pantley's The No-Cry Sleep Solution. Pantley seemed to have done the same exact thing that we did: gotten her baby so used to sleeping in her bed that he didn't want to sleep in his own.

Pantley believes that to get lasting results, slow and steady is the way to do it. So we decided to refocus our efforts and start with a primary problem: bedtime. Bug had been fighting going to bed for about a month, and we made that our first priority. The goal was to make it so he would fall asleep in his crib and stay there, for at least a period of time. We followed the instructions to the letter: we kept his bedtime routine exactly the same. And after about a week, he was going down with relatively little protest and staying in his bed for at least a few hours.

Now we're working on extending that. But hey, it's a process. All I know is, things are better now because Jon and I are getting time for ourselves--and we all seem to be sleeping better. Hopefully we'll get him sleeping the whole night on his own--but baby steps, right?

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