Sleeping Around

Don’t tell Husband, but I’ve been sleeping with another guy.

My paramour is about 2’6″ and 27 lbs.  He doesn’t speak in complete sentences and he can’t yet cut up his own food, but he’s very easy on the eyes and he likes to cuddle.

Allow me to explain.

You see, my parents were in town visiting this weekend (while Husband, I might add, was off gallivanting with his friends) and my mom’s presence in the living room during Big Boy’s “quiet” time allowed me to sneak off for a different type of quality time with Tiny Baby.  For the past couple of weeks, he’s been taking shorter and shorter naps, but, as my perpetually sleepy third trimester self has discovered, he can pretty reliably be coaxed back to sleep with a little rocking, or – if the stars align and there is another adult around to corral Big Boy – if I snuggle him back to sleep in my own bed.

And what a joy it is.  To see his soft, perfect skin and scandalously long lashes from a two-inch distance.  To feel his warm, moist breath on my neck.  To pat his back and send him back to sleep at his slight stirring.  (To ignore his occasional spasmodic kicks to my unwieldy abdomen.)

And it’s a joy Husband and I haven’t shared too often with our boys.

Both of our sons were early roommates of ours, but almost never our bed-mates.  They each slept in a bassinet next to our bed during their early weeks to facilitate all that middle-of-the-night nursing.  Big Boy moved to his own crib in his own room after a month or two once his odd nocturnal utterances (think of a cross between that low-pitched chanting of Tibetan monks and the sound of a metal fork stuck in a garbage disposal and you’d be on the right track) started to steal away the few winks I was getting.  Tiny Baby was granted a longer stay, not moving in with Big Boy until he started sleeping through the night.

Not co-sleeping with our babies wasn’t really an active choice that we made.  It just wasn’t what we ended up doing.  We backed our way into the decision as we have done with so many parts of parenting and it seems to have turned out fine.  Our kids are happy and healthy and loving and have slept well since their early days.  (Yes, I do realize that having written that guarantees that Baby #3 will emerge and remain a night owl for years to come.)

And, to be honest, I didn’t (and don’t) really mind having a space in our house that belongs to Husband and me.  Sure, our kids are in our room all the time.  Big Boy builds forts on our bed with our down comforter; Tiny Baby uses the bed as a perch from which to arrange and rearrange the lotions and potions on my bedside table.  But, at nighttime, they sleep in their room and we sleep in ours.

But these magical afternoon naps with Tiny Baby almost have me reconsidering my approach and I almost wonder if Baby #3’s arrival will usher in a new sleep approach chez Motherese.  I say “almost” because I’m not sure if my Type A instincts are ready to scrap the approach that has worked well for us so far.

Ooh, but that skin and those lashes and that eerily good breath of a baby asleep at my side?

Who knows.

Do you have a child sleep philosophy?  Is it part of your larger approach to parenting or did you just happen upon it?

Image: bed by Judy ** via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

36 responses to “Sleeping Around

  1. Our family sleep habits revolve around one maxim: Nobody’s happy if Mama ain’t sleepin’. Thus, we didn’t co-sleep, though all three kids slept in a bassinet in our room for a few months.

    The ironic part for me is that I could sleep through just about anything before I was a mom. Now all it takes is a sigh to wake me up. (Or the tiniest of footsteps tiptoeing in my room, long lashes tickling my cheek, and a small voice whispering, “Mommy, is it time to wake up yet??”)

    • I’d have to say that that’s been our maxim as well – not that we necessarily planned it that way. But the fact is that I am a beast when I don’t get enough sleep and we realized pretty early on with Big Boy and his snoring ways that the only way we would stay somewhat sane is if he moved into his bachelor pad down the hall.

  2. Our sleep arrangements were exactly like yours, and neither boy moved into their own room before 3 months. Except for in the mornings. When my oldest was a baby, he and I used to sleep the wee morning hours after my husband left at 6 cuddled together. Indeed it was bliss. Sadly my youngest wasn’t as amenable. However to this day they both come and cuddle in our bed on weekend mornings.

    A little secret? If there is a 3rd (big IF) I suspect I might change things too, if only to relish the last baby moments.

    • “A little secret? If there is a 3rd (big IF) I suspect I might change things too, if only to relish the last baby moments.”

      The knowledge that Baby #3 will – most likely – be our last is exactly the reason why I’m tempted this time around. I get weepy even thinking that there will soon be an end to those “last baby moments.” Otherwise, I think I’d default to my usual “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ways.

  3. Each of my boys have slept in their own crib in their own room the first day home from the hospital. The thought of having a bassinet in my room never crossed my mind. But oh! Stealing those afternoon naps with a little person… precious! Enjoy!

  4. My philosophy– do whatever works. I guess you could say we backed into that one. With the older son, he came home on monitors; I didn’t sleep for a month for all of the false alarms. He then refused the crib, and ended up sleeping with me until we put him in a toddler bed. I was so scared of co-sleeping, especially as a first time mom, but my pediatrician (with five kids of his own) put my mind at ease.
    With the younger son, he came home to a bassinet in our room, until he was about 2 months old and sleeping through the night. Then he went into a crib, no problems. That changed when he could climb out of the crib consistently at ten months. Then he crashed where ever for the next two years. Floor. Couch. Bed. Floor. We would double gate, and he could pop those suckers open in less than five minutes. It was nerve-wracking, to say the least.
    Soon, we were able to make it work, however, and I think– at least for me– that’s the take home message; whatever it takes to make it work for you and for your child(ren).

    • I like your philosophy. Wouldn’t it be nice if all parents bought into it so we could spend less time criticizing each other and more time commiserating over the challenges and wonders of this work we all do?

      By the way, your younger son sounds like a mix between Houdini and an Olympic gymnast. My younger guy is 19 months old and I don’t think it’s ever crossed his mind to try climbing out of his crib. He hasn’t exactly been ahead of the curve on movement related things, though. 🙂

      • He was, in fact, a bit of both! It didn’t help that he was a very large baby (nearly 11 pounds, 2 feet long), and now is a very large school-ager (4’10”, and the tallest in the second grade). Oh, and we’re an active child as well. You know, just to round things out, and all.
        It does make for exciting little league games, however, so there are some perks!

  5. I know this tension!! I didn’t have either child in my room for even a single night, sadly – I’m such a light sleeper that I went to them when they woke up to nurse but couldn’t sleep with them in the room. When Whit was about three, I started taking naps with him in our bed – otherwise he wouldn’t nap, and this was only an occasional thing. But, dreamy .. made me wonder what I’d forfeited!!

  6. My first woke every time she lost contact with me. Every time. After a couple days, I quit trying anything else and coslept. It took years to get her out of our bed however. But, still when #2 came, I loved those snuggles (and now I’m conditioned to sleep better with the sound of baby breathing, so apart I just wait fir the inevitable wake up). Still. Neither baby was good (is) at sleeping through the night. I think being further away might help.

    You do what works. What gets you sleep and keeps you sane.
    And hooray for naps with lovely lashes.

  7. Like you, we all sleep in our own beds at night. Also like you, the times when travel, illness, special occasions (my oldest LOVES slumber parties, so we use that as a reward sometimes) have led to co-sleeping, I find it to be very sweet. I love how safe and relaxed my kids seem when they know mom and dad are nearby.

  8. I had my boys sleep with me on occasion and there were times that they didn’t want to leave. I have to say there is nothing as wonderful as waking up to see a your child sleeping next to you. I treasure those times.

  9. We didn’t do the co-sleeping route because I desperately needed what little sleep I could get. But I will say that I loved every stolen naptime snuggle!

  10. My daughter slept in her crib in her own room. It was a great arrangement because then we could catch up on our sleep. However, now things have changed dramatically. She won’t sleep in her own room. If she starts out in her room, she will eventually migrate toward our room. In order for all of us to get some sleep, we set up an air mattress some nights in our room or I sleep next to her in her room. There is a certain comfort listening to her breathe and I can sense her peaceful slumber.

  11. I hate sharing this story– but it made such a huge impression on me– my neighbor accidentally smothered her new(er)born baby in bed with her. It was just awful and makes me cringe every time I think about it. Thus, we never slept with our baby when she was a newborn in our bed. I was just too nervous to do it. She slept in the bassinet next to our bed for the first four months, swaddled- although that lasted only a couple of months. Gradually, she started taking naps in her crib and around 5? months she transitioned to her crib permanently. And– quite selfishly, I was a bit sad. The first time I put her in her crib she puked all over it- ha! I tried sleeping with her in bed with me once when she was about 4 mos old and she woke up everytime I moved. And, I didn’t really have a restful sleep myself. She will fall asleep ON me, snuggling… In the mornings we sometimes bring her in bed with us, but not to sleep. I would love to be able to lay down on the bed with her and just take a nap at this point- although she’s just started crawling. We might have to wait a bit!

    • What a terrible story. That poor, poor family. And I can understand how your proximity to the story – both emotionally and geographically – affected your decision on how to sleep with your own baby.

      On a much less important note: I’m not so sure that Tiny Baby would have been as content to nap with me when he was E’s age. He’s certainly active, but now that he’s down to one nap a day I think he knows somehow that his body needs the rest – and if he can do it with his mama at his side? What could be better? 🙂

  12. I used to be very nervous about smothering the kids too. I sleep like a rock, anywhere at any time. But we developed a sense of things and I learned how to sleep a little bit lighter.

    All that being said we made sure from the start that our children would be able to sleep through normal noise/activity. I refused to be the family that couldn’t alter our schedule because of the kids.

    I found that part of making that happen was making sure that the kids understood that the crib/big kid bed was the place to sleep. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t slept with mom and dad because they certainly have. But we worked to make sure that it wasn’t a regular thing.

    • I remember, back in the days when I was a mom of one, how irked I would get whenever the UPS man would ring the bell or a loud truck would pass during my son’s naptime. Then some wise person reminded me that it is an impossibility to shut out the noise of the world – and that it’s much better to have a kid who can sleep through a little bit of chaos. Not a bad lesson to learn early on in the parenting experience.

  13. We are family bed people. Through and through. I carried my babies until they asked to be put down. They slept in my room until they wanted rooms of their own.

    Having said that…I have dear, dear friends who do it almost opposite and have fabulous kids. We agree on one thing: Love. If a kid feels loved and safe their sleeping arrangements are pretty far down the list of concerns.

    I will say this. When I’m conjuring my happiest memories one that tops the list is this: the soft pitter-pat of sock footed toddlers sliding down the steps after a resting time. I’m seating in my red rocking chair writing. The toddler climbs into my lap and we rock to chase away the cobwebs of naptime. I often stretched this 15 minutes into 45 because I loved it so. My kids would always sit for a cuddle.

    Enjoy your nap time!

    • “We agree on one thing: Love. If a kid feels loved and safe their sleeping arrangements are pretty far down the list of concerns.”

      And there you have it. I couldn’t agree more, Rebecca.

      And that image of you snuggling with your kids after their naps? Absolutely divine. Almost makes me want to go wake up my boys so I can snuggle them.

      Almost. 🙂

  14. I started out thinking we needed boundaries, but one night my husband said, “they aren’t going to want to do this forever, once in a while won’t hurt.” And that made so much sense to me, that whenever they decide to climb in with us (which isn’t that often, actually) we welcome them. Lately it has been happening even more with Andrew, I think because I am comforted by his presence, and he by mine. I just wish the whole arrangement were a bit more comfortable!! He likes to sleep horizontally! 🙂

    • I like your husband’s approach. It’s an attitude toward parenting in general that I wish came more naturally to me at times. Big Boy is just about Andrew’s age and I don’t think it’s ever occurred to him to climb into bed with us. Maybe that’s because Tiny Baby gets Husband and me up long before Big Boy is awake so he never really gets the opportunity for early morning snuggles. 🙂

  15. We, largely, happened upon our sleeping situation by virtue of where our little one was born. We gave birth in Japan where co-sleeping, often beyond infancy, is the norm. There was one crib for sale at our local baby store.

    Without central heating and tatami (straw mat) floors that make it unsafe to space heat while sleeping, we were primarily concerned with how to keep our little one warm, given that we were Americans that were bombarded by safe sleep campaigns (no blankets, sleep on back, not with parents). When we inquired about this we were met with a universal response, put a blanket on that babe and sleep with him.

    That is where our sleep, and parenting, journey began. That is when we began to question and realize how steeped in culture each parenting choice is and that, really, there are many right ways to do this parenting thing. We chose the right one for our situation.

    Our little one still sleeps in our room. We have a queen bed and a twin bed beside it. Our arrangement is so fluid. Sometimes he is in the twin alone. Sometimes my husband is with him. Sometimes we are all in the bed. I like it’s fluidity and I love the fact that now I wake up to a toddler hollering, “mama, up up up,” and promptly hurrying to get me my slippers. Cuteness!

    With another on the way, I imagine our sleeping arrangements will change again. Part of me feels this need/pressure to move him into a room of his own. Another little part would like for things to stay the way they are. They way they have been. Where we are all together, all comfortable and all able to get the cuddles and snuggles when we need them.

    • Back when I was teaching, I did some reading in the field of comparative education and was always fascinated to learn about each culture’s “right way” to teach. Your comment makes me want to look for books that deal with this issue of comparative parenting – and how so many of the things we’re taught to do (e.g. “Back to Sleep”) fly in the face of what other cultures (and even our own) have been doing for centuries.

      I know this plays in during pregnancy as well. A friend of ours lived in France during her first pregnancy. She enjoyed an occasional glass of wine without comment, but was lambasted by a stranger when she ate a green salad at an outdoor cafe. (Apparently, in the town where she was living, the concern over bacteria in uncooked greens far outweighed the concern over a little bit of red wine.) And I’m curious: do women in Japan eat sushi while pregnant?

      I also wanted to mention to you a great book I just finished: Waiting for Birdy by Catherine Newman. It’s a memoir of her pregnancy and early months with her second child. She deals a lot with the issue of not wanting things to change with your first while your second is on the way. I think you might find it quite resonant right now!

  16. This is an arena where parenting philosophy intersects with what our actual kid is like, our relationship is like and our capacity to be our best Selves in the context of sleep deprivation… in the end we go with whatever works, but still I recall with extreme tenderness naps taken with my tiny kids sleeping on my chest. Those all-nighters listening to Steely Dan’s “Gaucho” while my oldest could not quite sleep are even vaguely sweet memories now (but I know the nostalgia would fade fast if I were transported to that time).

    Here’s to good sleep and great naps in every configuration.

  17. Lovely, lovely, lovely to read. And to remember. My boys were not nappers, but there was some cozy time just before they would sleep, and seeing those amazing little faces so close remains deliciously absorbed into my bodily memory.

    And I admit to enjoying seeing my younger – even at 17 – when he is sound asleep on the couch. Still so beautiful…

    As with virtually all other parenting behaviors, I took my cues on sleeping routines from my kids. Cradle by the bed when they were tiny, then their own cribs/beds in their own room. So far so good… 🙂

  18. I think there’s a big difference between sharing a couple of snoozing hours here and there with our kids and spending nights on end together co-sleeping. I’m way too tired all the time (read, staying up too late in front of the computer or a good book) to share my bed with my kids. I’ve seen them squirm around in their own beds, and the few times that they stop by our bed during the night, I quickly send them back after a few kicks in my back or belly.

    My best friend admitted after almost 8 years that co-sleeping was the worst she could have done for her son. He can’t sleep alone in his bedroom and will constantly require the presence of an adult.

    Of course, it’s all a matter of personal choice, so whatever works for a family may not work for another! As long as everyone is happy and rested, enjoy it!

  19. When Javi was a baby, he slept in a bassinet by my bed (until he was nearly 9 months old) because we lived in a tiny apartment in Boston. After I moved back South, I (as a single parent) would bring him in bed with me if he wouldn’t settle or woke too early to get up. Once I was co-parenting, our focus was on teaching him to sleep (and stay asleep) in his bed.

    As things tend to go, things with Bella were different. She was a restless/loud speaker and refused to sleep in our bed. Therefore she was in a crib in her room by 4 months. Now, however, she winds up in bed with us almost every morning around 4am. Some days I put her back in her bed, but most days I ignore it, go back to sleep, and relish that she stays asleep longer if in the bed with me.

    Therefore, my philosophy is = whatever works.

  20. I think you have to do what fits the situation you are in. My kids slept in a bassinet in our room for the first three months. Afterwards, they slept in their own cribs, and eventually, their own beds without any problems. That being said, the younger two will climb into bed with us from time to time, when they are not feeling well or if they are having nightmares.

    You are right. There is nothing sweeter than watching your baby sleep next to you. Your husband may understand…

  21. When my babies were new, they slept in a bassinet near our bed. They moved to their own beds in their own rooms pretty quickly.

    All four of mine are good sleepers, maybe because of learning to soothe themselves? I don’t know.

    But I do know that I wish I had done things differently. The time with infants and small children passes so quickly. I wish I had known to snag every moment I could with those sweet, loving little ones.

    I think it’s a good policy to do whatever feels right to you.

  22. I nursed my babes in bed with me until they were 5 or 6-months old. I was not going to get up and nurse the babies in a rocking chair unless I absolutely had to. At the same time, I moved them to their own cribs as soon as they were finished (or whenever I woke up). I don’t know what to call my philosophy–sleep when you can?–but it has worked for us. But, once the babes were old enough to not eat every 2 or 3 hours, we moved their cribs into their rooms and happily bid their wild sleeping ways farewell. And, until recently, they have been sleeping angels.

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