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?
We co-slept with one but not the other – the second seemed to be such a good sleeper from early on, and the second time around, it was easier to recognize that he wasn’t going to be taken by wild dogs in the night (or whatever it is that instincts are primed against). But the debate… it’s not worth wading into, because it’s all pretty much irrelevant to you. There’s no serious difference. If everybody’s happy, then co-sleep!
Devon, you pinpointed something that was a huge issue for us in that we all slept much better when we started co-sleeping. That said, when and if we have number two, as much as I love it, I won’t be disappointed if he or she decides to stay in his or her own bed! Great to see a Dad comment here. Please stop by more often!
I am happy with my choice of co-sleeping because my husband was not home most of the time when Camille was a baby and I cannot for the life of me have her in a separate room. My daughter is independent, sleeps well and is more relaxed when she wakes up. Now that she is older, we let her sleep in her room, and she voluntarily picks up a book for us to read. She dozes off couple minutes later. I say, folks should let mothers do what they want. Obviously, there are some unfortunate accidents from co-sleeping and even crib-sleeping. The debate should be about making co-sleeping/crib-sleeping safer not the scare tactics that the media have shown this past years.
Blessing, I couldn’t have said it better myself. It is all about choice but so many child rearing books and literature scare the crap out of parents. Yes, the debate SHOULD be about making co-sleeping safer. Couldn’t agree more!
I’m guilty of co-sleeping but not by choice. Although I am able to initally put them down in their own bed, at some point during the night, I can expect (habitually) to find three extra bodies in my bed. I have tried bribery, coercion, intimidation, but so far nothing works. I can honestly say that my children have won the war. I realize that it is a security issue and that they need to know that I am nearby. Rather than fight this particular battle, I have accepted that I will take baby steps with them. One by one as they mature, I will convince each one to stay in their bed through the night. I am already having some success with this approach. As one of twins is sleeping through the night in her own bed with the hope that this will lead to me buying her a puppy who can then sleep with her every night. To those that may disagree with my “misleading” tactics (she will eventually get a dog but when she is closer to 7 years old, not 3), I would respond, “Use whatever works for you….”.
I had to laugh when I read this picturing three little bodies piled in the bed with you. I too have accepted the that I’m not going to fight it but rather transition slowly. Also, I have to confess that I’m not one for the whole cry it out method. I hate the thought of my little guy wailing in a dark room. I’m like you, Buffy, I think eventually D2 will move to his own bed when he and we are really ready.
I am late in posting a response, forgive me, but I’ve been in bed with my 6 year old 😉 Seriously, co-sleeping started without thought…we had the bassinette by the bed, but she wanted to nurse all through the night. So I set up the co-sleeper, didn’t work. So I propped pillows up behind me and around me, and slept upright while nursing, terrified of rolling over on her (never happened, I’m a mom after all). She slept great. Then came the night terrors. There was no trauma, don’t know why they started, but I had them as a child and was a sleep walker which the docter said can be hereditary. As a new scared mom, I took her to a neurologist who said…she’s perfectly healthy, nothing is wrong, some kids have night terrors. Well try having that as your norm. A child who looks like she is awake while fast asleep, and talking, sometimes crying, sometimes screaming, for no reason. What would you do? Sleep with her held tight. When My ex-husband couldn’t stand it anymore, I moved into the guest room, across from her room where I would attempt to put her to sleep at night, but would always end up with her in my bed. I learned to love the feel of her relaxing against my body, curling up, and going to sleep.
My daughter just turned 6, and I must say I still love the cuddle in bed. It has transitioned however,over time, from a need on her part, to a need on my part, to a comfort for both of us, and now a transition to her own independence. It is a rare morning that she wakes up in her own bed, but she goes to sleep in her own bed every night, and climbs into mine @ some point (@ 4 a.m. a couple of nights ago). 4 a.m. That’s almost a whole night! I know it is good for her, butI selfishly miss her body curled up next to mine.
I get the fibbing to the Doctor, but remember, they have seen it all, and if it is a good doctor, he/she will see the good you are doing with your son. He’s healthy and 2!!! Good luck Portia!
Kajsa, I have missed your wise comments and insights. My heart stopped when I read about Arden’s sleep challenges. I think ANY mother would have done what you have done. You say something wise in that it’s a natural progression for children to sleep on their own as they become more independent. I know D2 won’t be in the bed with us forever (though my husband thinks so) and he IS doing well. You are making me rethink though my lie (thank you for calling it a fib but let’s call it what it is – a lie 🙂 ) to our pediatrician. I think I just need to come clean.