jp and i and ramona have been bed-sharing since day one. we always knew we would. firstly, we had to at least co-sleep bc we have a one bedroom home. secondly, in all my research of co-sleeping, everything about sleeping with our new little one just made sense to me. it really resonated with something deeper in me. which is why our choice to share a bed with our little one has never been a statement or a rebellion. it just suited us. there is certainly no judgement on others who choose to put their baby in a crib from the get-go or soon after nights have been established.
bed-sharing worked for us. for a while. using a co-sleeping pillow when ramona was just a wee, new one, i liked that i could easily check on her without having to get out of bed. i fell asleep to the sound of her tiny breathing. once she got the hang of nights i found that nursing her side-laying was a very efficient way of getting her to be satisfied and allowing me to remain in bed and continue sleeping. when she woke up to nurse it was a non-event. i simply rolled over, offered her the milk source, and we both dozed off. jp, for a few months stretch, never woke up once to this dance.
jp and i talked about moving her out of the room one day. we never really could imagine it bc things were so easy and we were getting sleep but we knew that one day it would happen. the date we had set for “night weaning” her was just before our second child arrived. we thought that bed-sharing would only become a hassle when we have to try and alter the life of a toddler in order to make room for another newborn. we knew, for certain, that we did not want to share a queen-bed (or any size bed for that matter) with four beings. and furthermore, i had decided that i would not be nursing two children at the same time (in the past i have exalted extended breastfeeding and, while, i support any woman in her decision to do that, i have since decided that is not for me).
i am not pregnant, and do not plan on being so again for some time. but the need to move ramona out of our room came a lot sooner than we had anticipated. ramona started out each night the crib at the foot of our bed. she usually woke up anytime between 9:30 and 11:00. at this point, i would nurse her and put her back into her crib. then she would wake again between 1:00 and 2:00 and jp would groggily pull her into bed with us. i would nurse her and we would fall asleep. or we wouldn’t. ramona had started thrashing and crying in her sleep. and gone were the days of the quiet wake up, fumbling to find her food source. now she just wailed with impatience and annoyance. and wasn’t always satisfied after nursing. we’d place her back into her crib and find, most nights, that she would fall quickly back to sleep. she was, it seemed, cooler than how she was between our two bodies (certainly hot in this unseasonably warm year). and then the wake-up calls! at 5:00 freaking AM. ramona would wake up and see us and wail until we pulled her into bed, where she would nurse again and then fidget. even though her eye-rubbing and sporadic laying-her-head-down-on-the-mattress-or-jp’s-chest suggested she was dog tired.
and she was. she went down for her first nap no later than two hours after she first woke up. jp and i were dog tired as well. her thrashing was keeping us up and we couldn’t handle the early mornings.
enter my mother and pamela druckerman. my mother was in town to help us redo our front yard. during this visit, ramona’s nights were particularly draining and frustrating. my mother, who has always been incredibly respectful of our parenting decisions, lightly advised some options and encouragements and condolences about ramona’s sleeping habits. around the time of my mother’s stay i started reading bringing up bebe, by pamela druckerman. i know, if you are a mother, you have at least heard of this book. (you need to go read it now, btw.)
so my thoughts on bringing up bebe will be a whole other post. but let me say that, despite any complaints i may have (and do!) about this book, i was encouraged in “le pause” (disclaimer: a simple internet search will easily find you multitudes of angry mothers decrying anything and everything in this author’s book. again, i am not addressing the controversy here but only the way this book “spoke” to me in the issue jp and i were in middle of trying to figure out). i had never let ramona bean cry just to see what had happened. lucky for me, she’s always been a tough girl so so far (knock on wood) she hasn’t cried just to get attention. when she cries she is HURT! or HUNGRY! or really really TIRED! and so i’ve responded. bc her communication has been really honest. but something about “le pause” (letting the baby cry for a couple of moments or minutes to see if they really need you or might just be expressing themselves or working something out on their own) got me thinking: i’ve never seen what has happened if i just lay there and don’t respond to ramona immediately. would she just go back to sleep? i wouldn’t know. i’ve never tried.
when things had been getting rough and before i started reading druckerman’s book, we had looked into recommendations from bonbon mini on AP weaning. we considered trying these bc, at first, the gradual introduction to sleeping alone and nursing seemed to be the obvious transition from bed-sharing. but then, when i inserted my daughter into these hypothetical situations, this system really, in all honesty, did not make any sense to me. it seemed like a tease to the child. here honey: i’ve given you everything you’ve wanted during the night and soon i’m just going to stop but sit here with you and rub you back while you don’t understand what the hell is going on but at least i’m here with you rubbing it in that you’re not able to nurse or be pulled into bed. we had tried this, a little, w ramona before we had read about it. jp would go in there as soon as she started crying and hold her and sing to her but she would just be so pissed that i wasn’t offering her the boob. one time maybe, one time out of LOTS, did she go to bed without me if she knew i was around. reading about “le pause” encouraged me to at least give it a try. we had no idea what would happen if we put on the timer for some minutes and see what she did.
i know we’re not the first parents to do this. and i know some of you are thinking: oh man, we never went in there right away and baby soon discovered it could roll over and find its pacifier and go back to sleep. and some of you are thinking: let your baby cry? put a timer on? that is awful.
but again, we had never tried the timer; le pause. we didn’t know. and i was scared shitless to try it. i was worried i was going to listen to five minutes of bat-shit-crazy-screaming-and-craziness. and my ear drums and my heart were going to hurt so bad. what we had found fault with in the dr. gordon, changing sleep patterns in the family bed recommendation was that we were there with her. ironic as it sounds, it just didn’t seem to make sense to us. we had to get outta the bedroom to see how she was on her own. so we pulled our futon mattress from downstairs up into our living room. we placed the iPad by our head for timing purposes and went to sleep. oh man, i was nervous about the potential screaming and the lost sleep and the failing. but we wanted to take a pause and see what our daughter really needed during the night.
the first night i nursed her any time she woke up before 11:00, per the recommendation of dr. jay gordon, which, made complete sense to me. she woke up once at 10:30. i nursed her and she went back to bed. then i heard her cry at 12:27 AM. I clutched jp’s arm and held my breath after i started the timer. she was quiet and asleep by 12:30. at 3:30 i woke up to her making some light whines. by 3:35 she was quiet and asleep again. i went to check on her and woke her up. this happened twice. each time she fell back asleep in less than three minutes. she slept in until 7:00 the next morning.
we decided we were not going to move back into the bedroom until we had a night where we were not woken up with any sort of whimper. the second night i heard her at 2:00. she whimpered in her sleep (obviously asleep) until 2:15. she woke up at 6:45 the next morning.
the third night. not a peep. i woke her up at 6:27 in order to relieve my full boobs so i could leave on my 7:00AM run.
on the fourth night we decided to move back into the bedroom. ramona slept through the night with us in there but, early in the morning, when she did her zombie wake-up (sitting up but not really awake) she got a glimpse of us, which was enough to really wake her up. an early morning for us (early is anything before 6:30).
so the fifth night we moved her and the crib to the basement. i barely slept a wink, anxious about my daughter being so far away. she slept through the night and didn’t wake up until 7:00.
so all of this to say, well, a couple of things: we understand not all babies sleep through the night on their own given the space and quiet they need the way that ramona did. ramona wanted to be left alone. and if we’re really honest with ourselves, she was probably ready by around nine months. she’s been the same crazy bed-sharer since right around then. however, it’s worth a try. what we did was not crying-it-out (though we were certainly prepared to go that route) but was simply giving ramona the space and time to see what she actually needed. who knows? leave that older infant alone for a bit and see if they work it out. start with three minutes, maybe increase to five. these small minutes can seem like eternity if you’re a) in the same bedroom of the crying babe or and/or b) don’t have a timer by you to remind you that it’s only been ten seconds of crying. but just pause a little bit and you may be surprised by what your baby copes with. importantly, there was a time in ramona’s development that this worked for her. some people let their babies sleep on their own right at the six month mark. the baby learns to sleep through the night but, admitted by my close friend who goes this route, it takes some times and emotional nights to go this route since the baby is, cold turkey, not getting what it’s used to. we only went this route when ramona made it obvious to us that change needed to happen. we weren’t happy and she wasn’t happy. and finally, i’m a new woman. i love ramona and i loved sleeping with her. but getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep at night has changed my life. and my mothering. and, honestly, i don’t miss her in bed with us. i get to snuggle with the man of my dreams now! and we have our privacy back and thus, more of the intimacy that we’re meant to have as a married couple. it’s been so amazing for our marriage and our friendship. and a contented and fulfilling marriage is, i strongly believe, one of the most important things i can give ramona. we needed this change in order to reconnect on the marriage front.
ramona now sleeps in the basement. and sleeps through the night. and so do we. and i have my encouraging mother and druckerman’s helpful (albeit at many times annoying [again, i’ll soon give a quick review of my opinions]) book. and we, the powerdriver’s, seem to be a whole new family.