I am writing this post in my 18 month old daughter’s room. It’s 21.13 and after her taking an hour to get to sleep followed by 3 wakings in the hour that followed I have resigned myself to tonight’s co-sleeping fate.
We’re lucky enough to have a double bed in her room and although right now she is struggling to sleep without us near, she is happy to stay in her cot… But we must hold her hand until she is asleep. This is new and could be down to a whole host of things: we just returned from a 10 day holiday where we largely co-slept or bed shared; there is a commonly known sleep regression at 18 months and often a resurgence of separation anxiety; she seems to be acquiring language at an astounding rate at the moment and such developmental leaps can impact negatively on sleep; and finally she has a runny nose, a few itchy mosquito bites and a tooth about to break through. Could you sleep through all of that?
Up until a few weeks ago she was mostly going to sleep on her own and sleeping through the night. If she did wake she either settled herself back down quickly or we would go and tuck her back in and that was that. But all good things must come to an end.
So what’s our approach right now? We’re riding it out. We’re doing whatever gets us all the best night sleep. I envision ‘sleep experts’ all over shaking their heads in dismay. But this is what feels right for us right now. And really that’s what we have done from the start. You name it, we’ve done it.
We’ve co-slept with Althea in her cot in our room
We’ve bed shared in our room
We’ve co-slept with Althea in her cot in her own room
We’ve bed shared in her room both on a double bed with a rail and on a floor bed
She has slept in her own room on her own
… all with great success might I add. These scenarios worked great for us… Until they didn’t and then we moved on to the next thing. During periods of separation anxiety we co-slept, when that wasn’t enough we bed shared. When bed sharing and co-sleeping was becoming too disruptive for all we slept separately. When she could spend some of the night on her own but needed me close by for the rest we used a floor bed.
Not only is there not one size fits all in regards to babies and sleep, like the ‘experts’ would have you believe but there’s no one fixed solution. You really do have to roll with it and find what works for you and your whole family at any given time.
Lately, I’ve found myself putting a lot of pressure on myself in regards to sleep. With a second baby due in October I have felt that we really needed to find a ‘sleep solution’ that sticks. Even though I know nothing sticks.
I’ve been somewhat panicked by the thought of a co-sleeping dependent toddler and a newborn (even though I know full well that is something that can be made to work). In light of my panic I find myself trying to fix it right now, but you know what, it’s not broken. This scenario doesn’t NOT work for us at this moment in time. It’s not the most ideal but taking a gradual, gentle and responsive approach is what we feel she needs.
It has also worked for us before. After months of bedsharing on a floor bed, which was initially a huge success but had turned into hell, I rebuilt the cot, read ‘the happy sleeper’ and was ready to give it a go because I’d reached breaking point. We put her down in her cot awake, said our script and left. She didn’t cry AT ALL. She rolled around and went to sleep. We looked at eachother and questioned why we hadn’t done this sooner.
The answer to that question was that sooner hadn’t worked. She had wailed like a banshee so we responded with our presence (for a period of time we responded with a bottle – blasphemy, I know). Eventually she didn’t want or need the bottle or our presence. She broke these supposed ‘sleep associations’ herself when she was ready.
But right now, for one reason or another she needs our presence and I’m going to be just fine with that. Yes, I’m probably going to be more tired and more touched out for a little while but it really will come to pass.
If when baby number two arrives we need to adapt the situation we will but from this moment forward I refuse to worry because it all will likely have changed by that point anyway.
So my advice to myself whilst I lay in a dark room listening to a toddler with a blocked nose snoring away? Sleep is important. So do what gets you all the most comfortable night sleep. Don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable with (for some that is sleep training for others it’s bedsharing). Listen to your gut instinct and most importantly listen to your child. And don’t bother trying to find a solution for a situation or set of circumstances that haven’t arisen yet because seriously, nothing sticks, everything changes and you cannot predict any of it.
And so, Sweet Dreams!