Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why We Don't Co-Sleep

OK, before any of you get up in a huff, I have no problem with choosing to co-sleep if that's what works for your family. Live and let live, Kumbayah, and all that.

Last night Madison spent the hours between midnight and six in the morning in our bed.

This is not something we usually do. We very, very rarely offer either girl an invitation into our bed. And typically, they don't need to be there.

When we lost power after the October snowstorm and didn't have heat, we all snuggled under a down comforter together after the house temperature dropped into the 50s (we spent the next three nights in a hotel).

When Madison had a bad cold and a persistent fever, and we wanted to keep her close so we could keep an eye on her.

When Reagan was a nursing baby going through a sleep regression and wouldn't go back down after a three o'clock feeding, and we needed to quiet her and allow me to close my eyes for a few hours.

Every time we've done this, it's been a one night thing.

And every time, we wonder how in the world parents do this every single night. Not in a "wow, they're crazy" way, but in a logistical "how in the heck to you actually do this and sleep" way.

Last night, I finally brought Madison into bed with us after I'd spent the previous hour trying to comfort her in her own bed. It's really my own fault. She's been kind of fighting her bedtime lately, telling us she just isn't tired and just doesn't want to sleep. She traded her pacifiers to the "pacifier fairy", and although she hasn't actually asked for them, I can't help but think that she really misses having them in her bed to ease her to sleep, and so she tells us she doesn't want to sleep. I promise her that she doesn't have to sleep, she just needs relax in her bed, and once I'm in my pjs with my teeth brushed, I'll come back. And every time, she's been asleep.

But last night, when I went in to check on her, she wasn't. And as soon as she saw me peek in and reach for a blanket to cover her, she started sobbing about being in her bed. I tried to stay in there with her - her eyes were barely open - but it just wasn't working. I gave a couple of excuses to leave for five minutes, to see if she'd drift off when I wasn't there to talk to, but no dice. I'd leave, and she'd get herself completely worked up. I could barely keep my eyes open, and the odd angle I was forced into on her floor was already hurting my neck and back. So I invited her into bed with us.

And I remember why I don't do it.

Because this was the worst night we've had in a long time. Madison tossed and turned and flipped and kicked. She tried to make conversation with us. She sat up, laid down, sat up, turned around, moved over, moved back, asked why Daddy was snoring, asked why I put my arm over my eyes, asked if it was time to get up.

I barely slept. She barely slept. Adam slept the most (and it wasn't his finest night by far).

I was left wondering how people do this, night after night, with babies and toddlers and preschoolers. Because I loved the comfort it initially provided, and I loved the snuggles as we settled in, but after that, I just have questions. And not even the "how do you balance your couple needs with your parent needs" questions. Just the simple sleeping questions.

1. How do you all fit?

Do most co-sleepers have a king sized bed? Because I don't think either Adam or I are exceptionally large people, and Madison is an average sized preschooler, and none of us had the room we needed in our queen bed. Adam felt squished, I felt like I was balancing on the very edge, and Madison kept trying to wiggle out some additional room. No one was comfortable. Everyone was bumping into each other.

2. How do you not wake each other up?

Every time Madison flipped, I woke up. Every time I turned, she woke up. Adam's snoring woke Madison, who then woke him asking why he was snoring. I don't think any of us are exceptionally light sleepers, but we just couldn't stop disturbing each other.

3. How do you handle the morning?

Adam wakes up very early. I usually rouse a bit when he gets up, but I go back to sleep. This morning, he woke up, that woke Madison, and she woke me. So we were all asleep well before six this morning. Do you just all get up together? How does that timing work? Can you set an alarm?

4. How do you handle bedtime?

Same questions here. Do you all climb into bed at the same time? And if you don't, how would you avoid waking up whoever went to bed first?

And most importantly...

5. Do you really get a better night's sleep?

Like I said, it was the worst night we've had in ages. Everyone was exhausted this morning (although we still didn't get a nap out of Madison). Sure, I stopped her initial meltdown, but I basically kept her (and me) up all night. I can't imagine the crying would have continued for six hours if she'd stayed put in her own bed.

Every time we try it, I feel more strongly that co-sleeping in simply not for us. Maybe it gets easier. Maybe not. Maybe when you have a child who has been in your bed since their very first night you are all accustomed to it. Maybe if you never start the habit you never have to break it.

All I know is that it doesn't work for us. We tried, we failed, and I think we're done for good now. Next time there's crying in the night we'll find another way to work it out.

Do you co-sleep? Did these problems eventually work out or do you just learn to live with the discomfort?
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