Thursday, April 16, 2009

Our Dirty Secret

Before I had Pk, I had no idea just how strong other people's ideas about childrearing really are.  I will be honest - I hadn't given all that much thought about how we were going to do things.  I had several books on parenting and I thought that we would make things up as we go along.

Then, along came Pk.  She was anything but an easy baby.  She never slept for a long period of time, she cried for about four hours every evening and we had no idea what to do.  Everyone had advice and none of it worked.  Underneath it all, often, there was the unspoken but audible, "If you were only doing things right, she would be fine."  It was awful.  I was exhausted, overwhelmed and felt like a failure.

A mother at one of our mums and tots group really pushed a book on me.  I read it, not at all sure that it was the way to go but at that point, I was desperate.  It was  hard-core "sleep training" guide that was strongly advocating "cry it out" methods.  It didn't sit well but since it was written by the "expert", I felt like we needed to try it.  Fortunately, I mentioned it to Kittenpie, who, in her incredibly compassionate and nonjudgemental way, gently advised me to seriously give it some thought before we jumped in.  In the meantime, I started doing internet searches on infant sleep.  I kept stumbling across Dr. Sears and as I read his advice, it more and more felt right to me.  While he didn't advocate easy solutions, he did advocate compassionate and infant-friendly solutions.  I bought a couple of his books and liked what I read.

The one area of his ideas (he generally puts forward the "big ideas" of attachment parenting) that I really struggled with was what he calls "co-sleeping", which  to me, just seemed dangerous and weird.  Didn't kids who didn't learn to sleep in their own beds develop major sleep issues?  Didn't they become manipulators?  There was no way I was going to do that - if nothing else, my mother-in-law would have a stroke and I would feel like a complete failure.

Fast forward a couple of months.  Pk was about 6 1/2 months old and night feeding like crazy and then impossible to get back to sleep.  I was losing my mind since she didn't take long naps in the day, either.  Finally, one night, when dh heard me crying as I rocked her in her bedroom after trying to get her down for over two hours, he told me to bring her into bed with us.  I hesitated and then decided that I had nothing to lose.  We haven't looked back.

She doesn't sleep with us all the time but she probably spends at least part of the night with us 3 nights out of 7 (and for a while, she was with us most of every night).  Now, if she comes in, it's towards morning and/or when she is sick.  I can't believe I am saying this but I love it.  I am away from her during the day when I am at work and I miss her.  Sometimes, the best part of my day is having her roll over on me, wake up mumbling "mummy" and then doze off again.  With the three of us in bed together, the world feels safe and complete.  I know she agrees.  Sadly, we only have a queen-sized bed and so the dogs and cat have to sleep on dog beds on the floor (which they view as a real hardship).  I still feel a bit like it is a dirty secret but I have discovered that it is one that is shared by many, many other mothers, many of who I totally respect and admire.  It was so great to find Dr. James McKenna's work at Notre Dame that actually shows that in safe conditions (no heavy blankets or pillows, a bed tightly fitted to the wall, parents who do not drink or use narcotics, mothers who breastfeed) it is an optimal sleeping arrangement that promotes infant well--being and secure development.  

So, there's my confession.  I am a bad mother who does what I think is best for my baby.  And guess what?  I sleep so much better at night for it and so does she!


  1. I don't think there are "right" ways and "wrong" ways....I really think you have to do what is best for your child and your family. Everyone is different and every situation is different. Sydney never slept in bed with us...she does now, on occasion, when she is afraid. Kayleigh slept with us quite a bit her first 5-6 months...just so I could get some sleep. Now she only sleeps in our bed if she is really sick (again, not very often).

    If you are sleeping better, then go for it! I, personally have a hard time sleeping if anyone is near me (including my poor husband). We had to get a king size bed so I have my own space : )

    Neither of my girls were good sleepers for their first 1 1/2 years of life. But now they are.

    I'm pretty sure that Pk won't still be sleeping with you when she's ready to go off to college - and that's all that really matters, isn't it? : )

    You aren't a bad mother. I think you should take the word "bad" out of your ending statement. You are a mother who does what you think is best for your baby. Happy (co)sleeping!

  2. I totally agree with you - every child has a different temperament and how you need to parent him or her may be quite different, too. I was just totally surprised (I don't know why) at how agressive people could be about pushing their interpretations of what is "right". I try not to judge other people and if I am feeling the judgement, not to convey it - I don't imagine that I always succeed but I really try. For a people pleaser like me, at first, it was really hard!
    My comment that I am "bad" is tongue-in-cheek; I actually don't have any regrets (about how we have handled sleep) - while she can be hard to get down, we don't have horrible bedtime struggles like some do and I credit that to trying not to push it too much.
    Cross your fingers for me tonight, though, we are staying with my in-laws and Pk was really hard to get down - I doubt that she will stay down!
    Thanks for the encouragement and support!

  3. Aleeyah sleeps with us just as much, but she comes in somewhere in the middle of the night. She started it when she first started sleeping in bed with panties instead of a diaper. She wakes up in the middle of the night knowing she needs to get up, but is too tired to figure out that she needs to go potty. We have to tell her to go potty and then she climbs in bed with us.

    Even when she was an infant she would sleep with us. I slept very lightly and it all too began when I was breastfeeding. It was always hard to keep her awake while she was nursing, so we would both fall asleep. She slept with us until she was 3 months old (starting off in her bassinet next to the bed) and then we transitioned her in her crib. She was sleeping through the night for about 2 months at that point.

    So we go back and forth. We just kinda go with the flow on what we feel she needs and we need. I do know we don't need her sleeping with us from the get go, but somewhere in the middle of the night, we don't mind.

  4. Guess what? ALL three of my children slept with us when I was breast feeding, slept with us when they were ill..GUESS WHAT? They aren't now! lol.... I didn't have much problems with them sleeping in their own beds as they got older...I DO miss that time though...sigh