I first read about attachment parenting during my pregnancy, in Mayim Bialik’s book Beyond the Sling. When I read about natural birth, sensitive responsive parenting, co sleeping, (extended) breastfeeding and baby wearing something clicked with my natural instincts as a person and mom. It just felt right. I read tons of baby-, birth-, and parenting books when I was pregnant with Isaya and lucky for me my wife was fine with 99% of the ideas these books helped me form. Co sleeping was one of them. It just seemed logical and felt natural to us to keep our baby close day and night in the first months of her life. And studies seemed to corroborate our intuition with the promise of secure attachment and lower numbers of SIDS.
I read up on safe co sleeping in one of Dr. Sears’ books. Elisabeth Pantley was also a great help. I didn’t feel confident about letting her sleep in our bed when she was a newborn, because I was afraid she would suffocate or fall off the bed. Also, I am a Messy Sleeper. I toss and turn, my limbs are stretched out across the bed and I have to hold at least one pillow. So for everybody’s sake we bought a co sleeper. It was a little wooden crib, with one open side, that we attached to our bed. Isaya slept in that crib, on my side of the bed, for the first five and a half months of her life.
Co Sleeping through the Night
We have been blessed with a baby that has slept through the night exactly once, in her whole life. So having her close to me helps me get through those short nights. Especially when she was a newborn. Every time she woke up all I had to do was stretch my arm out and lay my hand on her belly or put her pacifier back into her mouth. If she was hungry I just pulled her closer and breastfed her in our bed. Not having to get up five, six, seven times a night made it possible for me to deal with the lack of sleep.
When our daughter was five months old two things happened: Aya got too big for the co sleeper and my wife wanted our bedroom back to ourselves. She felt it was time our daughter moved into her own room. I felt thorn. I wanted to respond to my wife’s wishes. But Isaya’s room felt so far away, plus that meant getting up a lot. So we decided on a transitional period where she would sleep in a separate baby bed, in our bedroom. A couple of weeks later, when Isaya was a little over six months, we made ‘the move’.
Co Sleeping and being a Working Mom
January sixth was the first night she slept in her own room. Until 2 am that is. The first few weeks we let her sleep in her bed until I was too tired to get up anymore, to comfort or feed her. Then I would take her to our bed. We had bought a special bed railing, so she could not fall out of our bed. At one point, during this first month of solo sleeping, she slept in her own room until 5 am. And then it was February. Isaya was seven months old and I had to go back to work…
This was a big step in many ways, because I had not spent more than just a few hours away from my daughter up until this point. The end of my maternity leave brought on a lot of changes. One of them being the fact that I just didn’t have the energy to get up multiple times each night and play out our night rituals. I was just too tired to be consequent. Too tired to follow all the ‘get your baby to sleep through the night’ rules. And I absolutely did not want to let her cry it out. So gradually she made it back into our bed.
Co Sleeping with a Toddler
But co-sleeping with a toddler is completely different than co-sleeping with a baby. Basically when your toddler sleeps in the bed with you, she will climb on top of your head, kick you in the stomach and pull out all your hair. So we needed to change something.
Our daughter is seventeen months old now. We have found sleeping arrangements that are not ideal, because Isaya still wakes up multiple times a night, but we make it work. After dinner we play out her sleeping ritual and then Isaya falls asleep in her own bed, in her own room. When she wakes up in the middle of the night, I stumble over there and take her with me into our room. After hugs and water I put her in a little babybed next to our bed. If she keeps waking up, I let her sleep on my side of the bed. This way all three of us sleep like a baby. A baby that does not sleep through the night, but still.