Co-sleeper’s Confession

Greetings from Co-Sleeping Land!  I am up this morning before my offspring.  It probably helps that daddy is still in bed, but I have to say something about it because that is a truly rare occurrence these days.  At 2.5, my son still sleeps with me and his father.  We started this whole thing because of my child’s health problems, specifically his acid reflux.  In the beginning it was a way for me to get both more cuddles and more sleep.  The little guy was way too little to prop himself up to sleep at night, so I would lay next to him and he would lean on me and then he’d be sleeping flat by morning only about half the time.  It was also good because it helped me to see that he still had problems with dairy and soy (when he was around one year old).  Now, what the doctors tell you (and really everyone else who knows anything about it) when your kid is diagnosed with acid reflux, is that it will probably go away around a year old.  Same with the food intolerances.  So I kept telling myself and Mike (who wasn’t really thrilled about co-sleeping) that it was only temporary, only until he feels better, and that’s right around the corner.  Fast forward another year and a half.  Liam still has the reflux and is still intolerant to dairy.  I assume that I’m still getting more sleep, since I don’t have to go upstairs to see about him when he feels bad, though it does occur to me that he might be able to sleep through his tummy troubles (with food, not acid) and that it’s a problem mainly for us, since he tends to writhe around a lot in his sleep when he’s eaten something he shouldn’t.  But now of course, he’s old enough to have an opinion about how he should sleep.  He will nap in daycare by himself, or for his daddy, but if I’m around, I HAVE TO lay down with him.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love getting lots of extra loving from my little boy, and with all that we’ve been going through this year, I can’t claim to have gotten so much sleep that I no longer need the afternoon nap with him (when I’m able), but I’m starting to think this is getting old.

I read Dr. Sears’s book on baby sleep a while back.  He makes a lot of breezy assertions about the beauty and practicality of co-sleeping, but is kind of short on real advice for making it work.  For instance, my child definitely needs to sleep more than I do, but now I can’t get him to sleep without me.  How are you supposed to get them to go down on their own when you need or want to do your own thing at naptime?   I read with interest what Dr. Sears said about transitioning your child into his own bed if you (for some reason) wanted to get them out of your bed before they wanted to go on their own.  I don’t know how it’s going to work in my home though.  In my experience, Liam will cry and cry and cry (and never go to sleep well) if I so much as move him to his own sleeping space in the same room with me.  I can’t cry it out with him.  I’ve tried it before, and what happens is that it upsets him so much that he just continually wakes up through the rest of the night after he fell asleep.  Also, since he has health problems and is a little kid, I can never really be sure that he isn’t crying because he feels bad.  I’ve got to get him to make that transition, because I need some me-time (much as I hate to admit that) and well, I need some Mike-time as well.

And it’s not even only about convincing Liam to go to sleep in his own bed, in his own room.  He basically never slept in the nursery, so while it’s set up OK for a baby to sleep there, it really isn’t set up well enough for a little kid (and his mommy who realizes she will be sleeping in that room herself for a while).  I need to get darker curtains, a nightstand and lamp and white noise machine.  Well, that’s what I tell myself anyway.  And all of that costs money.  Perhaps I should try that whole “radio-tuned-to-static” thing first.  I guess my real point here is that what started out as a practicality quickly becomes a self-reinforcing reality that we’re having a hard time breaking out of.

I’d really intended this to be a post about the good and the bad of c0-sleeping, and I’ve really just been talking about the bad.  But it’s still sweet to have your child throw his arms around you and press his face against yours to go to sleep.  The sight of your child sleeping is precious, even if you get to see that sleeping face every single day.  Some nights, he wants to imitate Daddy, so he takes his board book into bed and “reads” it to himself while we wait for Daddy to turn out the light.  Other nights, he takes a story book and flips back and forth to the pages, occasionally telling us what’s on that page.  And then there’s the fact that I know pretty much for sure if he is feeling bad.  Some mornings, he wakes up and wants to play games in bed.  This morning, he said something I was having trouble understanding, and then I realized he was saying something about “hug.”  I asked if he wanted a hug and he just threw his little arms open and we had a great big first-thing-in-the-morning hug.

Oh, and I did get one piece of really good advice from Dr. Sears (too bad it was too late by the time I read it).  He says to take the money you were going to spend on a crib, mattress and crib bedding and instead use it to buy yourself a king-size bed.  Best advice I never took.  If you co-sleep, I’d love to hear about your experiences with it, good and bad.  I am especially interested to hear how you transitioned your child to his or her own room. Also, I have to add that we recently received a new diagnosis for the little guy, and it is likely that some of the unusual problems we’ve been having getting him to sleep without being directly attached to his mother have to do with continued untreated health problems.

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