BurlingtonVT Moms Blog is partnering with Phoenix Physical Therapy to bring you our latest series titled “50 Shades of Sleep”, about…you guessed it….sleep. Like an elusive treasure, we find ourselves obsessing about sleep not only for ourselves but for our children as well. Although we may not consciously recognize it we are constantly making decisions surrounding the subject of sleep. Is it OK to co-sleep? Can babies really be trained to sleep? What are night terrors? When do you move your child from your bed to the bassinet or to his own crib or into his own bed? Does the thought of SIDS scare everyone? Is it normal for kids to wet the bed and up to what age? And does it all change when they get older? Our goal through this series is to invite you into an open conversation about all things sleep, and to acknowledge that no matter your struggles or choices, you are never alone.
A solid night of sleep is elusive for many families with little ones. We have tried it all sleep-wise, yet still have kids in our bed every night.
My son co-slept a little bit as a newborn. Usually if he was in bed with us he was safe in his snuggle nest, a little bed just for baby that fits in your own bed. Then he graduated to his crib. When we moved to our new house he co-slept until he felt more settled in the new space. Often he would start thrashing in the middle of the night so I’d transfer him to his crib and he slept beautifully until morning. Even after successfully moving him to his bed full-time he would wake up twice a night to breastfeed. He was like clockwork and the only way to end the cycle was with sleep training. So yup, we did sleep training as awful as it was, it was necessary for us. Then for six beautiful months he slept in his bed, by himself, all night, through the night. All he needed to fall asleep was a story or two, a lullaby and a goodnight hug and kiss.
My daughter co-slept more from the beginning. After her first couple weeks in bed with us she slept in a bassinet next to our bed through the whole night. Sadly, around 6 months of age all her good sleeping habits flew out the window and she was suddenly in bed with us all night. She did a brief stint in her crib after some cry-it-out sleep training, but eventually she refused even to do that. Back in the bed she came.
Having two kids complicated things even more. Not long after his sister was born, Big Bro–never wanting to be left out of anything–started coming into our bed during the middle of the night. I had to persuade him to sleep towards the foot of the bed (like the dog) so he wouldn’t get kicked by his sister. I had a couple nights where I was half asleep and breaking up fights between my slumbering children kicking each other, while perched on the 8 inches of mattress my sprawling children afforded me. My husband retreated to a protective sleeping position with his head under the pillow to avoid kicks to the head by my daughter who took to sleeping perpendicular in the bed up where my pillow would normally go. As for my son, what happened to that toddler who would go to bed with a story and a song and sleep through the night?
Fed up with the co-sleeping realities of a cramped bed and kicks in the face and back, next we transitioned Lil Sis to a toddler bed into Big Bro’s room (her crib was seen as torture, but the toddler bed was tolerable). Big Bro had recently developed a fear of sleeping alone so we thought having the kids share a room would kill two birds with one stone. It took a while, including some less than restful nights, but it seemed to be working. We had to lay with them until they fell asleep (and still do).
However, Big Bro’s nighttime fears have only intensified despite our best efforts, which means he sneaks into our bed at least once a night and more often if we take the trouble of moving him back to his own bed. Lil Sis still ends up in our bed on occasion too. Therefore, we have unwillingly fallen back into co-sleeping. With two growing kids (now almost 4 and 2 years of age) and a 60 pound dog in a queen sized bed, it’s just not practical, so many nights we resort to musical beds. Sometimes one of us spends part of the night with Big Bro in his bed, other nights both kids are in the big bed with one parent, and the other parent slinks off to Big Bro’s twin sized bed in the middle of the night. Sometimes if Lil Sis wakes up I take her with me to Big Bro’s empty bed while my husband, Big Bro and the dog sleep in my bed.
Rather than stress it, we have accepted it for what it is for the time being. Plus we’re too tired to fight it at present. It’s only a phase, it’s only a phase! Right? Simply temporary, they won’t do this forever. Sometimes as I lay next to them listening to their breathing get slow and heavy with sleep I remind myself that there will come a day when I will miss these nighttime snuggles.