Friday, February 17, 2012

Sleep choices - please help me decide

I know this is likely to start a bun fight - but please help me make this choice...


Do I want to train BB to sleep in a cot, or should I carry on with our current co-sleeping arrangement?


The story so far
From birth to about 4 months, BB slept in a hammock. It was a fabulous little thing that moved around the house with me, hanging over my bed during the night, and in the lounge during the day. He slept soundly, didn't develop plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) as so many babies do these days, and the gentle bouncing motion helped him to sleep as when he stirred a little, he moved himself. That hammock was definitely one of my best baby purchases to date.


From about 3 months, once BB had grown enough and I had gotten over all the negative talk about co sleeping, he started to sleep in my bed. It's a Queen, with just me, and a safety rail (bought on ebay for £1.99) on his side he is perfectly safe once I am in bed. I love co-sleeping. I was asked about my favourite things about being a mum the other day and laying in bed sleeping with BB is so up there. I am so glad I finally found the courage to co-sleep, despite the 'warnings'. BB has never had a problem sleeping at night, waking only for a feed and then straight back to sleep. I have never had to get up to him, or get out of bed to feed him, so I too have slept well. I really do feel like I know him so much better through sleeping with him, and that I am so much closer to him as a result. Without a doubt, I regard co-sleeping (up to this point) as one of my best parenting decision for both BB and I.


The trouble was, at about 4 months, he grew too big for the hammock. I had a small crisis regarding day time sleeps for a while (night was of course fine). I tried putting him down in his cot but he screamed and screamed. After several attempts I gave in. Then we were given a fabulous bouncer in which he was able nap - that has solved our problem up to now as he could happily sleep in that until I went to bed - but now that he is getting bigger he's not comfortable in it for so long...


Now
For the last few nights, after a bath and a story, I feed BB and put him to sleep at 7pm in my bed. I am slightly nervous as he is now mobile and could technically fall out or get tangled in the covers, but he goes to sleep happily. I have started reducing the night feeds too. Despite being told by the health workers that it would be impossible to night wean him whilst he was in my bed, (yes, there was challenge I had I take on!) I thought I would give it a try. So, in the last 10 days he has gone from feeding every 2 hours, to feeding only twice. I put him to bed a 7pm, and feed him at midnight and 7 am, and he sleeps until about 8.30 or 9am. In a few more days I will try and cut out the midnight feed too. 


For people interested in trying the same, I did it by just not feeding him. He woke up wanting a feed, I told him he couldn't have it - he cried a bit, but nothing like the screaming you get when you try to put him in a cot. The first night I did cuddle him a bit and then put him down again, but since then I have just left him. He does have a grizzle and wriggle, but he soon falls back to sleep again. I have been consistent and never given in to crying with a feed, though I have occasionally soothed him by talking gently, or singing quietly, holding his had and rubbing his back. 


So, in summary:
  • We both get a good night's sleep
  • I am single, so don't have to worry about a partner feeling left out
  • I am proving that you can co-sleep and night wean
  • I don't have to get up to him
  • It makes him really portable, we can sleep at other folks' houses, no need for a travel cot
  • I love co-sleeping
  • Really, for my own sake, I'd  like to carry on as we are

The future???
However, despite all this, I am currently considering putting us both through a considerable amount of trauma, and using controlled comforting (yes that's right, another name for controlled crying, but it sounds so much better doesn't it? This is one of the least harsh variants) to get BB sleeping in a cot. 

Why would I be considering such a thing when we are both so happy as we are? Well, I am wondering if it would be better for him in the long run. 

Firstly, I am afraid he may fall out of my bed in the time between 7 pm and when I go to bed, and the time between when I wake up and when he wakes up. He moves around a lot. He does have a safety rail on his side, and I do stuff pillows on my side, but, well, it's not ideal is it. Alternatives would be for him to stay with me downstairs or for me to go to bed at 7. Neither is practical. I want to establish a healthy bedtime routine, and I want him to get enough sleep. He is totally ready for bed at 7. I'm not. 

Also, he is not good at putting himself to sleep. I'd really like him to develop that skill, for his own sake, but also for mine. At the moment he gets sleepy when breastfeeding - and that wont happen forever. I guess he is getting some practice at that now, when he wakes in the night and doesn't get fed, and so he might learn. I read that is good to read him his story after his feed to help him to develop this skill - I tried that for the first time tonight - he slept through it!  I don't want to be having to lie with him while he falls asleep for the next 6 years! And, if I am lucky enough to have baby 2, as a single mum that just wouldn't be practical.

I have heard of many cases where the parents just wait for the child to decide themselves when they are ready for their own bed. That sounds great, I'd love to do that, but there is no guarantee that my child would be one to decide early... what if I do have baby 2 and he hasn't made that choice by then - then that's yet another thing to have a huge impact on him when the baby comes as he would be displaced from my bed at that point - poor honey - I'd like to prevent that from happening.

I also want him to have somewhere to sleep safely during the day, for naps. As he is getting bigger, the bouncer isn't comfortable for so long, and he will eventually out grow it.

I have read that the sooner you do this 'sleep training' thing, the better. It would be very hard if he was able to stand up/walk/get out of bed etc. It may also be harder for him, having had longer at my side.

I'd miss him so much if he went to a cot.  I feel I'd miss out on half of his life! But am I being selfish? Is it better for him to go? 


It's such a hard choice!

So, should I do it? Or should we stay as we are?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences to help me make this choice


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18 comments:

  1. From a friend who emailed as for some reason comments not working

    [Wife] will remember what we did better than me. And that is curious in itself. [Son] stayed with us until he was ready to go. By then we had a single bed pressed against our queen making this tennis court of a bed. And against a wall so there was no way of getting / falling out. One day when making it (the beds were pulled apart as the sheets were changed) [Son] was excited about the gap, jumping between the 2. He was asked the question (carefully phrased) about keeping them apart, and he said that's what he wanted. Apart they were kept. A year or 2 later, but quite early I recall, he said he wanted his own room. In he went. There was no trauma anywhere.

    Our view has always been about questioning what other primates do. I know there are extended families that help out, but in no case is it sleeping alone for extended periods.

    There is of course this article of a couple of days back: http://theconversation.edu.au/dont-believe-the-hype-sleeping-with-your-baby-is-not-okay-5344

    good luck with it!

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    1. Thanks for that - I don't believe the stuff of the article - I read heaps before I made the choice - the fact that babies are often sick when brought to the parents bed accounted for a lot of the cases as far as I could tell... and there is a clear relationship between co-sleeping and lower SIDS rates when you look at cultural practices worldwide. And he's past 6 months...

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    2. Oh [Blissful Mama], I recall the same dilemmas. It's only when the inner conflict between what feels right and what we 'should' be doing become apparent that the subliminal social messages about how to raise children are really laid bare.

      [Husband] has already written about the king single bed we set up in the corner of the room against our queen size bed. It definitely gave the term 'bedroom' a more literal meaning.

      Prior to [Son] going in to the king single we had a cot against our bed. The opening side was against the bed and was left down so there was just enough of a barrier that he wouldn't roll out. Like you, we were concerned he might fall off the bed in the period between his bedtime and ours. I would breastfeed him and then put him in the cot while he was sleepy. If [son] stirred during the night I was able to whisper, comfort him or bring him in to our bed. By the time [son] went from the cot to the king single he was quite accustomed to sleeping on his own space in the giant family bed. We made this bed up by overlapping the sheets between the two ensembles - this meant access for physical contact. As [son] got older we made the beds separately but pushed them together.

      In training terms you call this process successive approximation - logical small steps towards the desired behaviour. The big challenge is deciding what really works for you and how you want it to look - unencumbered by external pressures....

      Trust yourself,

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    3. Thank you so much. I can tell you went through the same dilemma as you know exactly what I am thinking. My inner conflict is mainly that I am finding it hard to separate what is best for me, what society at large tells me I 'should' do, and trying to work out what might be right for BB long term. My instinct is telling me that he shouldn't be alone, but how can I be sure that's not just because I like having him with me and don't want to get up!

      I love the idea of the 'bed room'. Sadly, I am now living in a small semi detached house in a pokey English cul-de-sac, not a spacious desert home, so I would have to adapt the plan. I think it may be possible to rearrange the room so that the cot can fit in. That is once the boards for the loft floor move out of my bedroom to the loft (hopefully Monday) and the stuff under my bed moves into the loft. I'll have a measure up and see if things fit...

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  2. and another one - for the other side of the argument!

    I would do 7pm feed then put him to bed in his cot. Get him used to going off on his own. Then get him back in for any night and / or morning feed and snuggles. That was my favourite feed as got to have a lie in. When pregnant with no 2 I had no 1 back in with me a lot and had afternoon naps together so it's never the end of co sleeping. Then there's the 4 year old that climbs in in the night. And the 5, 6 , 7, 8 and 9 year old bed hopper. It never ends!! at least you know he's safe once you've put him down until he starts climbing out his cot (I made mine sleeping bags so they couldn't climb! Lol! I can send you the sewing pattern!)

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    1. Thanks. He does wear a sleeping bag which does help - but he can still roll and shuffle. I know I would want him back for snuggles. And it would be the easiest place to feed in my bed, but then would I be giving mixed messages? And why put him through it if I am going to have him back? If I do it - I feel have to be totally committed...

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    2. I don't think mine got mixed messages. And we all had afternoon naps in the big bed. I'm not against co sleeping. I just never did it as it never crossed my mind at the time. And when she was about 4 months she smelt milk on me and I needed longer than 3 hrs sleep which I could get with her in a cot in her room. But then my hubby used to fetch her in in the night if she cried and she'd feed and stay in. So we just did a bit of both. By a year though she was in a cot all night. And always put down awake in her cot. But we would take her all over with a travel cot and not have to lie with her to get her to sleep. I also have too very independent, confident girls that have never had any separation anxiety issues so I must've done something right. Oh and when [Husband] is on nights or evenings now the girls both come in with me!
      And you are not putting him through it to have him back? What are you putting him through? He has to be safe whilst your downstairs unless you are going to go to sleep at 7 every night too. Can you get a cot that has a full detachable side and just put it next to your bed and take the side off when you go to bed? I like the single between the wall and your bed but what happens when crawling and walking? Just curious.

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    3. When I talk of putting him through it I meant the controlled crying thing, and it says you have to have nerves of steel and not go back! I don't think I have.
      I am thinking of ways that I could rearrange my room to get a cot next to my bed, a more gradual and wholly less traumatising approach is more appealing.
      Meantime, after a week of late nights, perhaps I should be going to bed at 7!

      the reason I say controlled comforting/crying is because I think that will be the only way to get him to settle in a cot. He has never liked going in his cot to sleep. He is happy for you to put him there for a bit while you take a shower or do a few jobs, but if you put him there to sleep he screams like he never screams for anything else - he hates it with a passion - though perhaps if it went next to my bed for a bit I could gradually coax him in...

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  3. And a combination of the above!

    Pretty much agree with everything you have written. I think you have made good sleep choices so far. I think you have also really made your mind up already, but you just don't want to do it. I think you are planning the right thing though. Sleeping with your baby is one of the BEST things ever but it does eventually have to stop because they get too mobile. I was so sad when I had to stop. Getting him into his own cot is a good thing for both of you even if it feels shit now. It might be a bit tough to achieve but it will be worth it long term and it might not turn out as bad as you think. How about an intermediate to start with? One of those cots you can butt up to the bed so he is right next to you. Then add the bars. Then slowly slide him away a bit. He can still sleep in your room for a good while, although you will find eventually he will disturb you and then his own room suddenly becomes more appealing! He probably misses your smell and the coziness of being in your bed in his cot as baby matresses are quite firm. How about a nice soft snuggle blanket to wrap him up in that smells of you? And also something to make his cot more appealing to him? Toys? Singing thing? [daughters] have a singing toy I highly recommend if you want to try that.

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    1. may be some sort of intermediate thing is a good idea

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  4. It is tricky business, isn't it? I think it's a very personal decision. I wouldn't be too concerned about the future impact of co-sleeping now. Trust your and BB's resilience. You'll both adapt as you need to.

    I've probably already told you our story, but just for the info... I also had no intention of co-sleeping pre-R. Yet, we started co-sleeping from his first night - it was just the most natural thing to do for us. Our practice used to be that R slept in his cot for daytime naps (in a positioner) or in a sling if that worked better (which it usually did). At night, for the first few months, I would put him to sleep in the sling then transfer him to the positioner on my bed. When he started sitting up and rolling, I removed the positioner and put him down in his cot. When I woke for a feed around my bedtime, I'd feed him in my bed and we'd co-sleep the rest of the night.

    When he was ~6 months old, I decided to 'let' him try sleeping in his cot overnight. So when he woke up for a feed, I fed him and then put him back in his cot. That was the start of R sleeping through the night. I realised that I'd probably been keeping him awake with my tossing and turning.

    This was pretty much the same story with F, except that he was very easily put down to the cot. I only used the sling a handful of times, he was quite content to sleep in his carrier and when he was too big for that, easily transferred to the cot. At night, he slept in an arms reach co-sleeper attached to my bed, in the positioner. When he started rolling, he moved into the bed with me, but again, he would start the evening in the cot. When he was 8 months old, he started sleeping through the night in the cot.

    About 'regressing'... R decided he wanted to co-sleep again a few weeks before F was born (so, after 1.5 years without co-sleeping). I thought this was going to be a disaster when F came along. But I have to say, it was actually quite beautiful having us all sleeping together. It made the early days when F was newborn much smoother. I didn't need to worry about putting them both down separately, we all just went down together. It was a sanity saver. And R happily slept through F crying (during the days of witching hours). I was amazed how easy it was, it certainly wasn't intuitive!

    I do wonder when R is going to be happy to sleep on his own again. I did have a toddler bed for him, but he's only napped in it a few times. I'm in the process of setting up a proper big bed for him, but I doubt he'll sleep in it until he's sharing his room with F (which he can't wait for) and I'm guessing that's at least a year or two away.

    But, I guess I really don't care either way. The main thing I like about not co-sleeping is that I sleep more deeply and I get more than a third of the bed to stretch out in! But I don't sleep badly co-sleeping and I do love the snuggles. I actually have a theory that R is healthier when he's co-sleeping. The year he didn't co-sleep was his least healthy (I'm supposing it's about stress and quality of sleep).

    Anyway, after all that, my main advice would be to trust your own instincts, be safe, and continue responding to BB's queues. I don't think it would be appropriate to leave BB in your bed alone if he could hurt himself falling off, or if he could get caught up in covers. That's exactly the reason why I always started the boys' night sleep in the cot. But I don't think starting off in the cot precludes you from continuing to co-sleep, if that suits you both. The imminent next sleep stage worry is going to happen when F(/BB) tries to start climbing out of their cot!! That was actually the decider for R co-sleeping again because it was too dangerous to leave him alone in the cot if he wasn't happy about it!

    Good luck.

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    1. Thanks Mama Bear, I had thought about the fact that there might be some 'regression' as you put it - but I was trying to kid myself that if I established separate sleep habits now that wont happen!

      You make lots of good points though. If I were to be lucky enough to have BB2 we would work things out as we went along - there would be no reason why I couldn't have a cot one side and BB1 on the other side of the bed would there? And, there might not even be a BB2, so in general I am just worrying about things that might never happen. Something I seem to have inherited from my dad.

      On the topic of when he can climb out of bed, or out of the cot, what did you do with R in the interim between his bed time and yours then?

      After all my writing above about how he sleeps happily at night, I think he got wind of the plans afoot! He was awake and crying from 5-7 for the first time ever... and now today he is really clingy and wont let me out of sight - I even had to take him to feed the chickens with me, and he usually watches though the window. It is very important to me that he stays a secure and happy little boy.

      I have thought before about putting him down in his cot first and then bringing him in with me when I go to bed, that would be the ideal situation - but he just wont go in his cot. But maybe, if I can find a away of rearranging things so that the cot is right up next to my bed, and I feed him to sleep for a start, I might just persuade him after a while. I think I will give that a go before doing any CC

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    2. Congrats, I see you've got your answer. Lots of luck that BB plays along. It sounds like a good solution.

      About R falling out of the cot... he was 2 years old at the time, talking, walking. It really wasn't the same as dealing with a baby. You can reason with toddlers better. Of course, I put up bed rails on both sides. The main issue at that age was that if he didn't want to stay in bed, he wouldn't. So, he'd climb himself off the bed, walk out and it would sometimes require a long negotiation to get him to stay in bed. I was still BFing, so usually it would require another feed and lie down with him until he fell asleep. Most of the time, he'd fall asleep after the bedtime ritual and wouldn't stir when I left.

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  5. If you want my thoughts at all, then what we did and what some of my 'Montessori' friends did/do, is temporarily do away with your bed frame. Have your mattress on the floor. It's not ideal, no, but he'll eventually want his own space and room, it doesn't need to be a cot with bars, it can be a mattress on the floor, then build up to a toddler bed when he's ready. If you have another baby in the interim, there is still no real hassle as you use the hammock again and the mattress, you can either bring a small mattress into your room for A when the other baby is sharing your bed, or he may want to 'move out'. It means that he is independent, safe, he can climb in and out safely. That would and was our solution.
    It's so hard because you do think that there is going to be no end, but I promise you there is! I really thought B would never leave our bed/room, but she did. She wanted to be in her own space with her own toys, she would wake early and stay in there to play.
    I think you've always made the wisest and best of instinctive decisions and I don't doubt that whatever you do here will be just as wise and right for the both of you.
    Coming to see you soon
    R xxxxxxxxxxxx

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    1. Thanks Mama Bee, I have thought of this before too, but was put off by A sleeping in the floor and B the problem of what would I do with all the stuff stashed under the bed!

      But, stuff under the bed is soon to become stuff in the loft so that problem will be gone.

      I'd still rather not sleep on the floor if possible, but maybe a new bed base, or a futon frame...

      I think at first I'll try the cot next to the bed thing, and if that doesn't work I'll reconsider the options

      Thanks heaps for your input

      x

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  6. Just to complete the story, another friend posted on facebook the words "co-sleep" and nothing more.

    So, that means everyone that has commented is pro co-sleeping in some form. I am surprised by that, but very pleased. It is very reassuring.

    At first I'll see if I can rearrange the room to put the cot next to my bed and try and coax him in... if that fails then maybe a futon base

    So, off to do some measuring...

    Thanks everyone for your time and insights

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  7. Hey Blissful Mama!

    Finn is a few months older than BB, but I'm struggling with the same thing, and a very similar thought process about him being able to get himself to sleep and about what will happen if #2 comes along.

    Most nights Finn eats at 7, when he goes to bed, then again around 11ish. And he then sleeps through the night until about 6, when he wakes up to eat again. And that's with him sleeping the bed with me. We both sleep well (though I do get a lot of neck aches from sleeping weird around him), and it makes me happy to have the extra together time, since I'm gone at work so much of his awake time. I hate the thought of giving that up, and it doesn't seem right, to think of him sleeping alone all night.

    For the past few day I've been having his nanny put him in his crib for naps, and I started doing that this weekend. He doesn't sleep as well in the crib (I'm going to have to use the suggestion to put something that smells like me/our bed in the crib with him), but he does seem to be getting better. Ultimately, I'd like for him to do all his sleeping without me in the crib instead of in my bed. I have foam bumpers on the edges of the bed, which keep him from rolling out, but they won't keep him from crawling out, so I need to get bedrails. But like you said, that's not ideal either.

    So anyway, I'm looking at doing a combination - naps in the crib, cosleeping at night. Aside from that, I don't have any real insight to add, just that I'm glad you asked this question - the responses were really helpful, and it's nice to know others are struggling with the same issues!

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  8. Thanks Shannon, yes I am pleased I posted it too. It's great to hear others opinions and what worked for them, and like you say, to know that you are not the only one going through it. It really helped me.

    Our new arrangement worked fairly well. He stayed asleep from 7 when he went down until I went to bed at about 9.30. He woke up, so I fed him and put him back. He woke up again about 1 and about 4.30, and I fed him both times. I decided it best to suspend the night weaning for a few days, so that he he thinks cot is good. He slept until 8 am.

    I was toying with the idea of having him stay in my bed once I got there but I decided against it. I though it best to let him get used to the idea of staying in the cot. Also, he moves around a lot when he tries to put himself to seep, so the cot is really the safest place for him at the moment. Not saying he'll never come back to my bed though.He did manage to put himself back to sleep two of those times, with the help of the acoustic pebble. He has napped more and fed more than usual today so perhaps he didn't have the best night, but it was a great start.

    I did miss him, but he is still spewy baby so it's nice to sleep on sheets without baby spew for a change, and he was right next to me. I sept right up against the bars and so did he. He could still hold my finger while he slept which was very cute.

    I also want BB to nap in the cot during the day, but I'll let him get comfortable with it at night first I think.

    Good luck with whatever you decide. Maybe when you move house things will change naturally anyway.

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