Yep, we co-sleep.
Yep, we co-sleep.
Lack of sleep is probably one of the hardest adjustments that new parents (and particularly moms) have to make in the early months of parenthood. In fact, if you’re the parent of a young child and honestly tell me that you haven’t thought about sleep training yet, I will cook you dinner every night for the next three months. Sleep is so critical to our overall mental and physical health that according to Psychology Today, sleep deprivation is actually a form of torture.
So it’s perfectly understandable why many of us have conversations with our partner, friends and just about anyone else who will listen, about the umpteen sleep training “methods” under the sun. There is no shortage of choices out there, even one which suggests waking a sleeping baby. Seriously, why would anyone wake a sleeping baby?!
I know my husband and I had these conversations. In fact, sleep training, or rather how to get sleep in general, was the piece we struggled with the most as new parents.
If he could, my husband would clock 8 hours of sleep every night and I’m at my best when I get at least 6–7 hours. So 2.5 years ago when we had a newborn, we were lucky that from about 4–7 months of age, he slept like a champ. We were able to put him down for his bedtime, and with the exception of a dream feed, he slept in his room, in his crib, unaffected by noises or the commotion, and all night.
So not only were we spoiled — and I’ll admit, a little lazy — we also missed the desirable window of sleep training around 5 months.
Then we started traveling a ton and as a result of being in hotels or friends’ houses, we ended up sleeping together in the same room, in the same bed all night. Over the course of that six months, he got used to us sleeping next to or at least near him and every time we were back to our home in San Francisco, he would wake up multiple times at night looking for us.
Once we stopped traveling, we tried our best to keep him in his room and kept going in to pacify him. But it didn’t work and we both went weeks without a full night’s rest. I felt like the sleep deprivation was back again and I started to experience postpartum anxiety as I had in the early months. And I was fairly confident that it was because of sleep or lack thereof.
So, out of desperation, we decided to sleep train him. We used what our sleep consultant called a ‘gentle method for toddlers’ (there’s something that’s actually called the chair shuffle method!) but every time we made a tiny bit of progress, we would think, “Oh it’s fine if we pick him up just this once,” or it’d be the weekend and we were too tired to sit around and listen to him cry so we regressed back to our old ways. It was probably also a subconscious belief that caring for infants should not be so hard.
In the end, we gave up and decided on a compromise where one parent slept in our child’s room so the other would get some rest. But the parent sleeping in the kid’s room ended up desperate to sleep in his/her own bed, so said parent would bring the kid into our room and let him sleep with us. Which solved the problem of us getting up in the middle of the night, but didn’t improve our quality of sleep.
You see, I’m a very light sleeper and I’ve struggled to even share the bed with my husband. So add an active toddler who moves around in circles, kicks me like a soccer ball and talks in his sleep and you’ve created my sleep nightmare.
We would talk about which was worse, waking up in the middle of the night once or twice or having mildly disturbed sleep all night? Tough one, right? We chose the latter so at least one parent (read: my husband) could get a good nights’ sleep and we would all be together in the same room.
But that’s not to say I didn’t constantly second guess my choice. I was annoyed about just having a quarter of MY bed, I was jealous of friends whose kids put themselves to sleep and never woke at night, and I felt foolish for not implementing a strict sleep training policy in our house. And I read a ton of articles to justify our decision. I’d speak to my mom who reassured me it was fine given how prevalent co-sleeping is in India. And I sought out any friend who would tell me they also co-slept (I found one).
It took me a year, but I finally made peace with this decision.
Co-sleeping isn’t for everyone, but we’ve made it work for our family. And I’m at a place where I can say, it’s wonderful (at least most of the time). It’s special for me to fall asleep next to my quiet and peaceful toddler and when my son is well rested and wakes up to see both of his parents next to him, it’s our best time together as a family.
This was the best choice for our family. And all of us should be able to raise our children in a way that’s (responsibly) best for our health and wellness. The problem is often owning it and resisting the need to apologize. So whatever you’ve decided to do, be it sleep training or co-sleeping, or some other method, be confident in that decision. You’ve earned every bit of that sleep, regardless of how you get it.