We became bed-sharers by accident and necessity. My original plans were to co-sleep with my son in his comfy Arms Reach mini-crib at my bedside until he was about 2 – 3 months old and then transition him to his crib, in his own room, across the house from us. I had read the books after all, I was practically a parenting expert by the time I was 30 weeks pregnant. (insert sarcastic font here).
The reality was that I birthed a giant. He was 23.75″ at birth and that awesome mini-crib I scored second hand at Kid-to-Kid wasn’t going to hold him for long. Also, we had a colicky, reflux ridden baby boy who wanted to eat constantly, and slept best when snuggled right against his mama. Did I mention that we were exhausted new parents who desperately wanted sleep? So, into our bed he came (and stayed) for the next 21 months.
I’m not here to proselytize the virtues of bed-sharing (though if you are interested, I will leave this nugget of info for you to read at your leisure) nor am I here to defend our choice to safely bed-share with our son (so go ahead and stow your pitchforks, we’re good). If you sleep-trained/cried-it-out/had an angel who slept solo from day one, I offer you a giant high five and my kudos for doing what worked for your family. You do you, amiright?
What I would like to share with you is how we went from bed-sharing with our son to him sleeping in his own bed and room. In the beginning of our bed-sharing I stressed about how this would all shake out, maybe it was being a new mom, or just my innate nature to over-analyze and over-plan, but I often wondered/worried about the following:
- Are we preventing him from learning to self-soothe?
- Will this somehow irrevocably stunt his development?
- How will he learn to sleep if I’m not there to pat his back/feed him/ shush him, etc.?
- How long will this last? Will he be sleeping with us until he’s 5, 7, 14?!
So I began following forums, and reading about attachment parenting and realized that we weren’t the only “crazies” with our baby in our bed. I began to calm the you-know-what down and just went with it. My husband had been a proponent of bed-sharing from the get-go, so there was no marital strife incited by bringing our son into our bed. I enjoyed waking up to his warm hand on my cheek in the morning and even tolerated those kidney punches in the middle of the night. He was happy, healthy, growing, and we were sleeping so in my book we were winning big time.
We moved recently and in the process of getting settled in our new home, I thought it might be a good time to introduce a big boy bed in our son’s room. We decided that we weren’t going to force the issue. If he wasn’t ready, no big deal, our bed was still open. So I set up a fun new room for our boy complete with a twin size bed on the floor. I picked out some fun truck sheets because he is obsessed with trucks and figured we’d see where it went. He loved climbing on his bed to play/read/snuggle and so when it was his nap time, instead of heading to our bedroom, we went to his room and I laid with him in his new bed, rubbed his back and he drifted off to sleep. That night when it was time for bed, we did our same bedtime routine, but ended in his room instead of ours.
This is not to say it has been a super easy transition, I expected for it to take some time and for us to have some hiccups. For the first week, he slept in his bed for about 3 – 5 hours before coming into our room and looking for mama. The funny thing was, he didn’t want to get into bed and snuggle with us. He just wanted mama to come to his room. So, for that first week, I spent half my nights clinging to the edge of a twin-size bed with my giant toddler sleeping comfortably next to me.
The week that followed had mixed results. Some nights he would sleep through the night in his room, some nights he would come to our bed and climb in, and some nights he would demand in a gravely voice “c’mon mommy, come my room.” Throughout all of this, my husband and I decided that we would be there to reassure him, welcome him to our bed if he wanted us, and aid his transition.
Now we’re about a month into project big boy bed and the majority of the time he sleeps alone through the night. Some nights he wakes and asks for his sippy cup or just wants mommy or daddy to rub his back and we oblige while he drifts back to sleep (I’m fairly certain most toddler parents do this, not just those who co-sleep). All in all, it has gone much more smoothly than I would have ever anticipated. He’s 22 months old and suddenly he’s in his own room, in his own bed, and now has a big-boy haircut to boot. Please hold me while I cry into my pillow!
I guess the reason I’m sharing this is to reassure any other first time mamas out there who may be questioning themselves. As is the case with most things with little ones, it all passes so quickly. Whether you share a bed or not, I’m sure each of us has something we worry about or some transition we fear ahead of us. Trust your instincts, do what is right for your family (even if it isn’t what everyone else is doing), and follow the cues of your child. We’ll all get where we’re going and will be happier on the trip. In the meantime, you’ll find me snuggling with my husband and keeping the bedroom door open… just in case he needs us.