Monday, August 25, 2008

And down will come Baby, cradle and all!

Well, it's official. Monkey has a big boy bed, or, as he refers to it, a "bid bid bid." It's really just his crib, which had been side-carred onto our queen size bed (an arrangement that allowed me to spend many nights curled around a sprawled sleeping toddler with enough of my body in the crib as to make me start worriedly calculating how close I was to exceeding the weight limit of the frame!), but which now has been scooted over like six feet to the foot of our bed.

I really enjoy having the kiddo in the bed with us, mostly because I'm so lazy. Ever since he was a newborn, I was able to nurse him most of the night without ever really waking up--just by rolling over and stuffing a boob in his mouth every time he squawked. I think back to the first couple of months with Jabber, when I lived in terror of nodding off during one of those late night nursing sessions and letting him slip from my grasp onto the cold hard floor.

It was the eczema that brought Jabber into our bed, in the end, which was the only good thing that ever came of those horrible itchers (except perhaps my children's story, "Prince Elliot and the Incredible Itch," which I still have some hope for publishing, once I'm a big hotshot author. hahaha.)

See, when Jabber was about two months old, he suddenly became covered with this itchy, oozing rash, and the only way we could keep him from scratching his face down to a bloody nasty mess is by plunking him in between us and falling asleep on either side of him, each one of us holding one of his little baby hands, with those little baby claws that were sharp no matter how we clipped and filed and clipped and filed.

So we started co-sleeping, although that term always strikes me as sounding somehow deviant. I read The Baby Book by Dr. Sears, who used the term "sharing sleep," and I felt a lot better about the fact that our infant had about as much use for the big fancy crib as he did for a steak knife or a quadratic equation.

Other books told me he should be crying it out, on a schedule, self-soothing, and other rigid ideas that hurt my heart. But in the end, we could blame it all on his eczema--sorry, but we just can't let him cry-it-out or he would gouge his cheeks off. It was a good excuse to do what our instincts told us he needed: cuddling and on-demand nursing. The best thing I ever learned how to do was to nurse him lying side-to-side, both of us sound asleep. Gone were my fears of falling babies. Gone were the exhausted midnight wakings...and one o' clock wakings...and three o'clock...and four-thirty...and six o'clock...and well, I guess I should just get up now 'cause otherwise I'm going to fall asleep and drop him again.

Other people warned us that we'd never get him out of our bed, and yet, when he was about sixteen months old, he began expressing a personal preference for sleeping all by himself in the toddler bed (the same crib converted into a bed that Monkey now sleeps in). At some point, we gradually moved him into the bed in our room, where he nodded off to bed peacefully for the most part, and then when we moved to our new home, he happily slept in his own bed in his new big boy room. He seemed to have little trouble "self-soothing." In fact, to this day, Jabber drops off to sleep without so much as a murmur, if he's truly tired.

So when we were preparing for Monkey's arrival, we just skipped the whole cradle and crib routine and set the bed up for, sharing sleep. Those first few nights, when he was so tiny and transparent and floppy, I tried to get him to sleep over on the crib mattress, with nothing fluffy or snuggly or otherwise unsafe. I placed him carefully on his little back. He would sleep. For five minutes. Then he'd wake, gagging on spit-up or startling himself out of his swaddling, bursting into a fit of crying that was sure to wake everyone in the house.

But if I curled him up close to me, within reach of the breast, with my breath on his downy little head and my hand curled around his little bottom, he would sleep soundly and sweetly. And so would everyone else.

He's 21 months, now, and although I'm pretty content with him in our bed, he seems ready for a bit more independence. So far, he's been napping happily in his bid bid bid, crawling up into it and snuggling into his own special blankets and pillows. He seems honored and pleased to be given his own space.

And so far, with a couple of exceptions (that I have to admit have probably been more my fault for not listening to his signals about being tired or not), he has nodded off in his new bed with very little trouble. He likes it.

He still comes into our bed at various times in the night--last night he was crying for nursing at 2:00 AM or so, and I scooped him up, but the night before it was 5:00 AM before we heard from him. I'm so happy with this arrangement, and I'm so glad to have the confidence to choose this sharing of sleep despite the fact that Monkey doesn't have any eczema!


Anonymous said...

Yikes girl. You're still BFing at almost 2 yrs? I'm sure you've heard it before..but basically your just acting like a pacifer.
I was always wanting my kids to be a bit more indep. then that.
He should also be sleeping thru the night by now! Arn't you tired in the AM?? I guess I never understood the kids controlling or dictacting how the house was run. I thought that's what parenting was about? I guess different things work for different people..but if I was you I'd be tried as all heck!

liss n kids said...

anonymous (too critical to sign your name, I guess?)

Uhm...that's just the thing. We are all sleeping through the night, pretty happily. My kids are both extremely independent, and they certainly don't dictate how our household is run.

I'm not going to get into a debate about the benefits of extended breastfeeding because that wasn't the point of my post (you could check out for a starter course if you so desire, and even the World Health Organization recommends bfing until at least two). Suffice it to say this post was meant to show how happy I am with the decisions we've made regarding our sons' sleeping arrangements. (And no, we're not tired, at least not because of Monkey. On the nights when Monkey wakes, he rolls over, nurses in his sleep for five minutes, and detaches, leaving me usually asleep.)

Anonymous said...

The opportunity, privilege and responsibility to raise a child is incredible! And there is no owners' manual. We are equipped only with natural instinct and a sense of reason. Luckily, our babes come equipped similarly (though for them instinct is the trump). In the end, only we are in the moment when decisions are to be made. Perhaps that is the definition of "parent". I was lucky enough to be a nursing mom. And that bittersweet day, when at almost two, our A patted my breast and said, "Muk all gone, Mom Mom!" sits in my memory as a day of proud accomplishment. I was able to parent/Mommy as no one else could: I was able to give to our A what we knew he needed. His needs-my gift. Parent well,dear liss. CONTINUE to parent well! ily,M

liss n kids said...

Thanks, M! Beautifully put!