Sigh. My little boy has to grow up. This is hard on so many levels. For one thing, its obviously hard that he is growing up, not so much my little baby anymore. Its hard that he wont be there for me to snuggle all the time with anymore. And its also hard because I originally had no intention of getting him to sleep in his own room until we were at least expecting another baby. So this is emotional on so many levels.
Oliver has slept with us since he was 8 days old. We have experienced a lot of criticism for this, everything from "I wish you would get him out of your room" to "This is the worst thing you can do to your child." First, I have to say that I never understood why other people cared if he was in our room. They werent the ones in there. And I can absolutely say it is NOT the worst thing you can do to your child. Mothers and children have slept together since the beginning of time, and in many cultures still do. Its in our selfish American culture that is independence-driven that people think babies "must" sleep by themselves all the time. No, thank you. (Oh, and during that first week of Oliver's life when he didn't actually sleep in bed with us, we spent the nights in a recliner holding him. He spent maybe one night in his bassinet and half of a night in a crib, both times with us sleeping beside the bassinet or crib. It never felt right to us to have him far away.) Once he had his casts on I positively did not want him waking up in pain by himself. Watch your 8 day old baby have his legs painfully twisted and then cast, all the while tugging at you and screaming in pain and then tell me where my baby should sleep. He was right where he needed to be- beside mama. There is plenty of research to support co-sleeping, and I truly believe babies should not sleep by themselves. I know it is not for every family, but I think it is something every family should at least consider. [I should also add that "co-sleeping" does not have to mean "bed-sharing". For us, it did. Oliver slept in our bed. But co-sleeping simply means sleeping in the same room as the parents (particularly, the mother). ]
At various stages during the past 2.5 years we have talked about when he would move to his own bed. I never stressed about it as I figured we would know when it was the right time. We loved having our little man right there with us. I would kind of get a kick out of seeing other people's reactions when I said he was... still in our room. *gasp!*
Last summer we bought him a little toddler bed and had it in our room. He began sleeping there about half of the night, and when he would wake up he would crawl into bed with us. That was working well for awhile, because we were still getting some better sleep than we were before.
When we moved at the end of the summer, it took some adjusting, but he still slept most nights in his bed. However, my sleep started to be extremely affected. I would go to bed and just lay there, waiting for my 1 a.m. alarm clock (aka Oliver). If only he would wake up and just crawl int our bed, that would be fine. But at this point, he would wake up, disoriented, and cry. I would get up, go over to him and pick him up, and bring him into bed with us. Sometimes he would go back to sleep easily, other times not at all.
I dont remember at what point, but he eventually just started sleeping all night with us again. It was more out of desperation at that point because none of us were sleeping well, but we didnt mind it at the same time.
However, things have been rough lately. Oliver was still waking up around 1 a.m. and taking awhile to get back to sleep. He always would ask for a drink,so we would get him one, and he would often lay there, kick around, pull my hair, etc. In his sleep, he would also play with my hair, and as much as I wanted to love it and find it cute, it drove me nuts. I cant sleep when a 2 year old is pulling my hair out of my ponytail. Sorry.
I was getting totally desperate. He was starting to wake up 1, 2, sometimes 3 or 4 times a night. I was barely sleeping and beyond tired. Something had to change.
We made an appt with his pediatrician to make sure there was nothing physically wrong that would cause his night wakings. There wasn't. The doctor started in on this "tough love" approach...PUH-LEASE.
Let me just say that I have an issue with pediatricians giving parenting advice. WHERE A CHILD SLEEPS IS A PARENTING CHOIE--NOT A MEDICAL ISSUE. Pediatricians are not trained in parenting styles, or decisions. Unless they make this their own agenda, and research, such as Dr. Sears, they do not learn these things in medical school. Yet parents go to them to ask questions such as "how long should I let my baby cry?" and "where should my baby sleep?" when these individuals in fact have no training. Their answers are strictly opinions, but until parents realize that, these opinions are treated like gold. This bothers me to no end. Mothers- we have a God-given gift of intuition. USE IT! If something feels wrong, it probably is!! Think for yourselves!!!
So Oliver's doctor, whom I do like-really, I do!- said, "So he wakes up and you go in his room...is this right?" and I said, "Well, he has his room and then he has a bed in our room." (I knew that was going to get a negative reaction, I didnt want to hear what he would say about him sleeping in our bed. I wasnt there to listen to that lecture.) The doctor repeated what I said and then stated, "Well, I've never heard THAT one before."
Really? You've never heard of a child having a bed in their parents room? Huh. I literally wanted to laugh out loud at that one. I said I didnt care where he slept, I just wanted him to sleep. He said that although there are other cultures and families where everyone sleeps together, unless we wanted that to continue for the next 5 years, we should stop sooner rather than later. Yeah, whatever.
He gave us some situations about how to put him to bed and sit there, and then slowly over the course of a few days/weeks move further from the bed until we are out of the room. He said that once we are out of the room, we're out, and if Oliver tries to get out of his room then we should barricade him in. Ha! Yeah, I dont think so. Maybe we'll put a gate up, but I doubt it. When the doctor said that some parents literally close the door and essentially lock their kids in their room, I said "Absolutely not. I do NOT feel comfortable with that, EVER." I said that we have spent almost 2.5 years building a secure attachment to him, parenting him during the night (whoever decided that parenting stops at a certain time on a clock shouldnt have children), and I wasnt going to turn that off now. The doctor said he wanted us to respond to Oliver's needs and have a secure attachment, but that Oliver needed to realize who was in charge.
Oh, DO NOT get me started on that. I firmly believe this is not a discipline issue. I cant stand when people have the "I'll show them whose boss" attitude toward their YOUNG children. I'm not talking school age kids- I'm talking toddlers and infants. These young children do not manipulate and defy their parents nearly as often as some parents believe. I told the doctor that of course I did not want Oliver to be "in charge" and that he wasn't and he knew that. But responding to his needs was in no way letting him manipulate me.
It saddens me when parents think they have to put young children in their place, as if being the boss makes them feel better about themselves. These poor children just need their parents love and affection and instead are left alone to cry and learn how to comfort themselves at much too young of an age. This breaks my heart.
So last night was night #1 of Oliver in his own bed in his own room. We got him to lay down at 9:43, it was a late night because we were at church for Wednesday night service. At first he kept getting up and wanting to sit on my lap. We read one story, and then I put him back in his bed. We did this about 5 or 6 times, and eventually as soon as he would start to get out of bed I would just put him back and say "night night Oliver." For awhile he kicked and screamed and really carried on. My heart broke, and yet I felt a calm about it all. I continued to pray, "God, give me strength and patience, and give Oliver comfort." I repeated this over and over again. And I felt a peace about the situation that could have only come from God. I rarely feel that sort of patience and peace when I am so tired. But I felt totally ok with it last night.
Jay had offered to be there to help, but I wanted to have as little distraction for Oliver as possible and felt like I needed to do this myself. As a mom, I needed to do this.
What was so hard for me was knowing that all I would have to do is take him in my arms and he would have fallen right asleep. But I knew this is what we all needed. I really didnt think I would have come to this point so soon- if we had all been able to sleep well I wouldnt have cared how long Oliver slept with us.
It got to the point where he just laid there, and would randomly start to kick and yell. I checked the time on my phone at some point, and I noticed when I looked away from him that he started to kind of zone out...so I just sat there looking down at the ground for awhile and that was when he really settled down. He knew I was there, but I was boring, lol. He finally fell asleep. He was holding his cup of milk at that point, and started to drop the milk which startled him. He woke up enough to grab his cup and the fell right back to sleep. I was able to get the cup from him a few minutes later and he stayed asleep.
Yay! I was thrilled! Bedtime Night #1 was done!
I went to bed shortly after because I knew I'd be up at some point during the night. I was so worried that he would wake up by himself and cry. Just the thought of it broke my heart. But at 3:56 a.m. I woke up to see my little guy standing in our doorway. He had woken up and just walked down the hall to our room :) He came in and started to get in our bed as I got up and got my robe on. Pulling him off of our bed was rough, and he was very unhappy.
It took 2 hours to get him to sleep that time. He was just so mad, and tired. but I knew he would wear himself out, so I just sat by his bed and waited. I eventually laid down and put my hand on the edge of his bed, and he held my hand and went to sleep. Again he fell asleep with his cup in his hand, and the first time I went to go back to bed he woke up when the cup dropped. A few mins later he was able to go back to sleep, so I was thankful for that! At 5:45 a.m. I was finally able to go back to sleep.
I am *so* thankful that we are doing this while Jay is off work for the next week and a half. I so wish we had started it sooner, as in last week, but thats ok. It will be very hard when Jay goes back to work because he has let me sleep in in the morning after being up with Oliver during the night, but hopefully once he goes back to work we will be in a better routine. It will be a week and a half into our new sleep arrangements.
Once Oliver went back to sleep again just before 6 a.m. he slept for about 2.5 hours. Around 8:30 a.m. he showed up at our door again, no crying!, and at that point we let him crawl in bed for a few minutes of snuggle time before getting up. We all enjoyed the snuggles after our first night away from each other.
So that's a recap of night #1 of Oliver in his own room. I cant believe its time for this change in all of our lives. I'm so, so thankful for our time together co-sleeping, and there will be times again when Oliver will be welcomed into our bed. But for now, we will work on getting him to sleep in his room so that we can ALL get some rest :)
Oliver asleep for the first night in his bed. This wasn't easy on either of us.