I’ve mentioned many times that my family is a co-sleeping one. We love sharing our bed with our precious son, and couldn’t imagine sleeping in a separate room from him. Those snuggles, special memories, and the closeness and security we all feel being together are priceless. There are moments we’ve been able to enjoy that would never have happened if we weren’t co-sleepers, like hearing Cody’s first laugh, in his sleep in the middle of the night when he was two months old. Being pat gently on the face and greeted, “hi mama,” first thing in the morning is another thing I treasure.
Plus, when you’re breastfeeding on-demand with a high-need baby, co-sleeping is really the only way to go. Rolling over to nurse and falling back asleep is so much better than trudging down the hall, nursing in a chair, re-settling the baby in the crib, and then dragging yourself back to bed. Co-sleeping has allowed me to be an active nighttime parent without sacrificing sleep any more than necessary. And even though my sleep has been interrupted every night for more than the past two years, it has still been adequate and I have never felt sleep-deprived. It may not be for everyone, but co-sleeping is definitely for us!
Yet one thing I have sometimes felt misled about when it comes to co-sleeping is the idea that doing so will lessen bedtime battles and bedtime anxiety. The idea is that since your child knows you will be with them throughout the night, they don’t fight bedtime as much as other kids who are dreading the long period of separation. Yet for us, bedtime has been an increasingly challenging routine.
It started with Cody occasionally having a hard time falling asleep, or seeming “wired” at bedtime. Then it became a common situation to spend up to an hour trying to put him to sleep. As attachment parents, we don’t believe in sleep training, and we have always helped Cody go to sleep by nursing, rocking, and snuggling in bed. But we came to a point where none of that was working. We’d already been using white noise, blackout curtains, and a consistent bedtime routine. We started eliminating any screen time within a couple of hours of bedtime. We tried putting him to bed earlier, or later, or at a more consistent time. Nothing seemed to help! Finally, we tried giving him a very small dose of melatonin on nights when he was taking over 30 minutes to fall asleep. When that became almost every night for about two weeks, we finally decided that something had to change. We were not comfortable relying on drugs to get him to sleep!
I did some research, weeded through the sleep-training sales pitches, and finally came across an article written by a fellow attachment parent and co-sleeper, describing exactly my problem. The solution was simple, but kind of sucked: making your bedtime the same as your child’s. At first I was resistant. Cory and I have really enjoyed our hour or two of alone time to relax together at night. We also often used some of that time to catch up on chores. Losing it was not an appealing idea. Yet as I read this article, I realized the truth of the matter, which was that many nights we weren’t getting that time anymore anyway. At this point, we were spending an hour or more putting Cody to bed, and then pushing our bedtime out further and further just to have 45 minutes or less of time to ourselves. It was inefficient, stressful, and pointless.
We knew that we had two realistic choices. We could sleep train our toddler, going against our instincts as parents and undermining the strong attachment and sense of security we have built with Cody since his birth. Or, we could make another sacrifice on this parenting journey, and start going to sleep with him to put an end to his bedtime anxiety.
Attachment parenting is many things, but easy and convenient are not the words I would use. And you know what? That’s okay. Parenting shouldn’t be easy or convenient. Parenting should be about sacrifice. It’s about giving everything you have and are to raise your children to be the best they can be. It’s not always fun, and it’s not always comfortable. But boy, is it worth it. That love… it’s like nothing else.
So we followed the way of love, and gave up our alone time to help Cody have a better bedtime. It has been so much easier already. The bonus is that even though we don’t have that alone time, we do get more sleep, which I desperately need now that I’m pregnant. Plus, Cory can get up earlier in the morning and have time to himself for working on his personal projects, which works out really well considering the morning is his most productive time of day. I still get my alone time every day during his nap, which has been really good for a long time! I think it’s interesting that he has no issues going down for naps (except on the days when he randomly decides to skip it), but bedtime has been so difficult. This kid likes to keep things interesting!
Anyway, Cory and I still have time alone on the weekends during Cody’s naps, and we allow ourselves TV time in the evening even with Cody around. He’s going to be a very “cultured” child, you could say. 😉 There may be a time when we decide that “adult” TV isn’t appropriate for him, but for now, we’re okay with him being exposed to the stuff we watch. We tend to be fairly protective over what images and words and themes go into our minds anyway. But that’s a topic for another post.
As far as bedtime goes, it has been stress-free since we made the change. He still doesn’t go to sleep very quickly yet, but at least now we’re using that time to fall asleep ourselves, rather than laying awake and waiting for him to fall asleep. And I can say one thing for sure; I have been enjoying the extra sleep for myself.