With two babies and three years of decent sleep (well, as decent as it gets between teething, nighttime nursing and kicks in the ribs) under our belts I thought I’d give the rundown of how things have progressed. In our case, we actually do a combo of cosleeping and bed sharing – that’s just what works for us in this season of parenting.
For Max’s arrival, we added the co-sleeper back to my side of the bed and Jemma’s floor mattress moved to Dominic’s side of the bed. Before Max was able to roll over on his own, when Jemma was still joining us in bed for part of the night, I would actually move to the guest bed with Max. This was the trickiest part of bed sharing with two little ones. It was really important to us that Jemma didn’t feel booted and potentially take out her feelings on her brother so Dominic and I had to each pull night duty for a few months while tending to both of our children’s night time needs. Jemma needed snuggles and Max needed nursing – hence our division of responsibilities.
When we moved into our new home I planned to use the move transition as a catalyst for a bed transition for Jemma. We moved her same crib mattress into her first room. We explained that at our new house she had a special space of her own and that is where her bed would go. She would fall asleep there and if she ever needed us, she could just walk around the corner to our room. For quite some time she slept pretty consistently in her own room for much longer than I ever expected. Sometimes the whole night through in her room and other times she would choose to join us somewhere between 1am and 6am. To this day we still haven’t figured out what wakes her and leads her to get up and join us.
Ever since summer hit she’s had a harder time falling asleep with it being light at her bedtime. She ask, “Where’s the moon and stars?” Some nights she wants extra water, other nights a specific stuffed animal or a snuggle. Occasionally, she just asks to go to “mama bed” and is always able to fall asleep there. Pretty much, we’re still in transition.
Max has been making his own transitions too. As an infant he spent most of his time in bed right next to me. Three cheers for easy nighttime nursing! If he napped independently I would lay him in the co-sleeper and until he was able to pull himself up he would also sleep in the co-sleeper after I nursed him to sleep for the night. Most nights he would sleep from 7-10pm or so before he’d wake and I’d bring him into bed with me for the rest of the night. Once he was able to pull himself up (and therefore flip out of the co-sleeper) he transitioned to spending his alone sleeping time in his crib. These days he goes to sleep between 7-8pm and doesn’t wake until somewhere between 11pm and 2am. At that point he comes into bed with me and nurses back to sleep for the rest of the night.
So, most days, by the wee hours, we’re four in a bed. Dominic primarily cares for Jemma’s night time needs and I take care of Max. This system allows us all to get the maximum amount of sleep. Which isn’t much, but at least we’re functioning :) By no means is this easy. What part of parenting falls into the “easy” category? The constant up and down of where everyone will settle for the night and in the end can be a bit overwhelming at the end of a long day. But. And this is the but that makes it all worth it … there is a peaceful sigh of contentment we get to experience every single night as they snuggle close. That makes it all worth it.
At some point in the next year I think Jemma and Max will transition together into the same room. We’ll see how much longer Max and I choose to nurse at night, I guess. I’d like to think we’d set up two cute twin beds, but in reality I’m thinking they may prefer to share a queen floor bed for a little while. They are definitely snugglers and may find it more comforting to sleep beside one another. We’ll see. Long term I’d love for them to have bunk beds, but obviously that’s a ways down the road.
Also, Dr. James McKenna has done an extensive amount of research on how cosleeping/bed sharing may reduce the risk of SIDS which is very interesting since popular media usually states the opposite. Dad’s fathering instinct kicks into higher gear when bed sharing too!
And, before anyone comments – when they’re tiny infants, before they can roll/wiggle/crawl, we have drastically less pillows and blankets in our sleep space. No blankets (we use sleep sacks) or stuffed animals in the co-sleeper or crib. In our actual family bed, Max (or when it was Jemma) has always been tucked in the crook of my arm for nursing. We’ve never had any rolling scares – when breastfeeding, mom’s hormones are very in tune to where baby is, their movement, sounds, everything. Mama and baby are in sleep sync when next to one another. We rarely drink alcohol and when we do it is not in excess or close to bedtime. (Hey there morning mimosas and afternoon cocktails!) Neither of us take prescription medication. In the case that Dominic has an extra beer near bedtime or takes a Benadryl for allergies – he sleeps elsewhere. Cosleeping is about what is best for your family to get a safe and good night sleep so making responsible choices is our biggest priority.