This week I lied to my son’s pediatrician. Let me explain. Wednesday D2 had his two year-old check up appointment. For some reason during these appointments I always feel a little bit anxious – as if I need to prove I’m being a good mother. Look how many words he’s speaking! Isn’t it great he doesn’t drink juice? See how his eczema has cleared up since the last time we were here? We go through Dr. K.’s check list. How’s he eating? Great. Loves his vegetables. Any separation anxiety? Sure, but he’s growing out of it. Is he feeding himself? Of course! As a matter of fact, we’re teaching him to use chopsticks to develop his manual dexterity (just joking).
And then comes the dreaded question. How is he sleeping? He’s sleeping great! In a crib or in a bed? Umm….in….a….bed? The part that I leave out is that D2 is sleeping in our bed. Yes. We are secret co-sleepers. Why didn’t I just tell her the truth? The truth is that we didn’t start out to be co-sleepers. Like many parents we stumbled into co-sleeping. Up until D2 was eight months old he was sleeping great first in his own little basinette next to our bed and then in his crib in his own room. We swore up and down that we were not going to be one of those parents whose little ones refused to be dislodged from mommy and daddy’s bed. Until the day everything changed.
Last August we moved to a new home. I redecorated D2’s room exactly as it was in the old house down to putting the crib on the same wall as in his old room. No go. The first time I put D2 down to sleep in his crib in his new room, he looked at me like, “Where the hell are you going? You can’t leave me in here!” Dr. D. and I rationalized that a new house had new sounds and new smells so we couldn’t possibly expect him to sleep alone in a new room. One night turned into one week, which turned into a month, which turned into …well, he just turned two on Monday.
I felt so guilty about co-sleeping that for the longest that I didn’t tell anyone we did it. Of course, D2’s nanny Eva quickly figured out the scoop when she arrived in the morning to find him resting peacefully in the middle of our bed splayed out like a starfish. His crib has basically become a repository for stuffed animals and clean clothes that need to be folded and put away.
In an attempt to assuage my guilt, I read as many articles as I could on co-sleeping. If you think Democrats and Republicans disagree, that’s nothing compared to the debate between pro and anti-co-sleeping parents. I discovered this was a topic as hotly debated as last summer’s debt ceiling crisis. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages co-sleeping because of the dangers of SIDS and the potential to accidentally roll on top of a sleeping baby (though the prevalence of this danger has been widely disputed by co-sleeping proponents). Personally, I was too fearful of co-sleeping with D2 when he was an infant and found the bedside basinette to be very handy for breastfeeding as well as keeping him close to me during those early months.
What’s taken me totally by surprise is how much I love co-sleeping with D2 now that he’s a toddler. I love it when he flings his chubby little arm around my neck before he falls asleep. I am enthralled by his sleeping face when I wake up to check on him or hearing his contented sighs. Don’t get me wrong. There is a definite down side to co-sleepiing. I’ve had more than my share of mornings waking up to diapered butt in my face or a foot near my mouth. D2 doesn’t sleep in just one position and so on more than one occasion, Dr. D. and I have found one or both of us teetering on the edge of our bed or woke up to find him draped over one of our sides, fast asleep. More often, D2 likes to sleep nestled close to my side which means I have limited real estate in our bed to move around.
When I tell friends we co-sleep, without fail they’ll confess that their children still crawl into bed with them. A good friend of mine with three small children even shared that not only do all three children wind up in her and her husband’s bed but so do their two dogs. A colleague of mine who is a single mother shared that her twelve-year old daughter sleeps roughly half of any given week in her bed. The other day she told me, “Portia, I can’t get that child out of my bed to save my life. Don’t make the same mistake I did.”
I think most of us don’t want to admit how comforting it is to have our children next to us at night. A few weeks ago, we moved a twin bed into D2’s room opposite his crib. The plan is to start transitioning him to sleeping in the twin over the next couple of months. Right now he’s napping in the bed and I hope (okay actually, Dr. D. hopes) he’ll be on his own by the end of the year. And if he isn’t? Well, I know this time in his life won’t last for ever. Soon enough he’ll be sleeping alone and this special time together will be just a memory.
What do you think? Did you or do you co-sleep with your children? Did you find it hard to admit toyour pediatrician or friends and family?