Since the beginning of my time as a parent, I’ve been completely against co-sleeping — for my family, at least.
Don’t get me wrong; different sleeping situations work differently for each family, and that’s great. But for us, this wasn’t ever going to be a good option. My husband and I like our space when we sleep (me probably a little bit more than him), and I didn’t breastfeed either of my children for long because of extremely low supply due to a breast reduction I had in high school. Perhaps if I were breastfeeding, co-sleeping would have been on the table out of pure convenience, but at this point in the game, I guess we’ll never know. My husband and I cherish our intimate moments as well, and having a baby or toddler in the bed made those times more challenging. So, we always opted against co-sleeping — both with our now-9-year-old son and our 1-year-old daughter.
Things were going great in the beginning. Our daughter started sleeping through the night at just 2 months old, and we were all happy because… well… sleep is truly priceless. Then at about 8 months, she hit some major sleep regression, and things took a turn for the worse.
It started one spring night when she woke up in the wee hours of the morning. She doesn’t cry when she wakes up; instead, she jumps in her crib, which happens to be at the foot of our bed in our tiny one-bedroom New York City apartment. When we tried ignoring her jumping-bean antics (it was, after all, 3 a.m.), she crawled down to the other end of the crib, reached out, and started tickling my husband’s toes. In our half-asleep, half-awake confusion, we brought her into the bed with us — and that was our mistake.
We thought it would be just a one-night thing, but it most certainly was not. Our daughter simply refused to be ignored — and refused to fall back to sleep by herself. I would try rocking her back to sleep, but all attempts ended in one thing and one thing only: her sleeping in the bed with us.
As much as I loved waking up to baby giggles in the morning, I hated having no space, being kicked and hit in the face during the night and worrying that I would accidentally roll over on top of her. I became a zombie during the day. I stopped being able to function as a human being and began living on coffee the same way I did when we had first brought our newborns home from the hospital. I was hating every moment of this unwilling co-sleeping, and I knew we’d only brought it on ourselves.
Days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months. Before we knew it, our daughter was coming into our bed every single night at about 11 p.m. and staying until morning. The days were getting more and more difficult, as was the epic parent guilt that was living inside me. “Should I be enjoying co-sleeping?” I wondered. “Should I be more compassionate? Was I just being an asshole?” I honestly wasn’t sure, and my lack of sleep toyed with me.
The misery continued until my daughter was almost a year old, when my husband was sent away to an army training for 30 days. I was alone with our two children for those 30 days, and I decided to make it my mission to get my daughter back into her own bed, every single night. It was our 30-day co-sleeping rehab.
The first couple of nights were rough, and I will admit I had to use the cry-it-out method. But she got the message once we were on night four. And in that moment, I brought sanity — and even some sleep — back into my life.
Moral of the story: I needed to learn to tune out the noise and the mom guilt and focus on what was best for us all. For whatever reason, my daughter clearly needed to be in our bed during those months, and she wanted us to be her own personal security blankets. But enough was enough, and we learned together how to have our own space at night again. Now, we all sleep like babies — in our own corners of the bedroom.