Tag Archives: Co-sleeping

Nightweaning a Co-sleeping Toddler

Oh, sleep.

I’ve missed you.

Beginning with my fantasies of being able to press pause and take a nap during labor, my relationship with sleep transformed into something I desired without any real promise of attainment. I craved it. I daydreamed about it. I practically salivated over it.

Until recently.

After twenty months of co-sleeping and nursing on demand, I finally decided I’d reached my limit. I was fine continuing to share a bed as long as I could sleep without having to nurse every hour or two. While E had gone through stretches where she slept a few hours or more at a time without needing me, she was suddenly becoming more and more demanding again and my body couldn’t take it. Just as I always figured would happen eventually, I knew I was done.

Then, I hurt my shoulder and I was really done. Like there was no other option. I couldn’t lie on my side for hours upon hours. She was going to have to learn how to put herself back to sleep.

Now here’s the point in the story where I pause for a moment to tell you every baby and family is different. While we decided not to cry-it-out early on, I now have a new appreciation for the idea that maybe some moms need the separation earlier than others. Co-sleeping and night comforting was something that worked for us for a long time. I enjoyed the closeness. And, honestly, it was just easiest for me. We had shared a body, so it felt natural to share a bed. She was right there next to me, easy to put back to sleep. No need to climb out of bed in the middle of the night. You get the idea.

Even within the same family, moms report different techniques working for different kids. This worked for us. I’m not looking for approval or to suggest what we did was right. It was right for us until it wasn’t anymore. Of course, many people in our lives warned us it would be hard to get her out of our bed, but it was also hard for me to get out of our bed in those early months. To me, it has been worth the trade-off, even if it isn’t easy to transition her to her own space.

What we have done after two long months is get her to sleep for about 8 hours (on average) without needing anything from me. I still nurse her around 5 or 6AM and then she goes back to sleep for a few more hours. When you consider we were nursing hourly at some points in the last few months, this is a HUGE victory. However, it was hard-earned.

I’ve had a couple of moms recount their cry-it-out experiences as gentle fussing in the crib. This was never an option with E. For awhile she’d start her night in her own little Montessori bed on the floor, but as soon as you’d try to put her down in a crib she’d scream to the point of gagging. I’ve heard her gently fuss. This wasn’t it and we couldn’t take it for more than a few minutes. She would hyperventilate. She would freak out. It was too much for us so we didn’t push it.

Accordingly, I scoured the web for a “gentle” approach to night weaning. I knew putting her in a crib and walking away wasn’t an option for us, even if I’d tried it a couple times just to see what would happen, (and, as I described, could only take for a couple minutes!). So, I figured the first step was to get rid of nursing during the night and then worry about the bed-sharing afterward. Fortunately, my husband stumbled across this video and sent it to me:

Basically, the plan went as follows:

  1. Pick a 6-7 hour window to withhold milk as the source of sleep
  2. Nights 1-3 use any comforting you’d like to get her to sleep, nursing may be used to comfort but not put to sleep during the 6-7 hour window
  3. Nights 4-6 no milk during the 6-7 hour window, any other comforting okay
  4. Nights 7-9 no milk, no comforting

I knew it wouldn’t be easy to withhold her favorite source of nighttime comfort, but I had no other choice. It was time. And, it was terrible. She fought back, hard. She screamed, and screamed, and screamed, even though I was lying there next to her.

I tried everything. I sang songs, I ignored her. Nothing helped but time. While the plan in the video suggested 9 days, it really took us about 5 weeks with the first 2 being the most intense. Although the plan transitions to no comforting by night 7, it took us longer to get there as simply rolling over to “hold you” became her favorite trick.

Even now, I have to make sure I pack her full of as much food as possible during the day because she was clearly relying on night nursing for some of her caloric needs. Below are my journal entries from the first few nights to illustrate what a challenge it was:

Night One: Went to bed at 9, nursed but she fell asleep without nursing around 10, withheld nursing 5 or 6 times throughout the night, threw short fits then went back to sleep (still challenging), nursed once around 4 to relieve pressure, and again at daylight, slept in until 9:30+ and put herself back to sleep once after I got out of bed (heard her cry, but didn’t go to her)

Night Two: Ouch. We were off to an awesome start. I nursed her then used other methods to get her to sleep, (sing, cuddle, etc). She fell asleep after about 30 minutes without any fits around 10PM and slept soundly until 1AM when she woke up in a torrent. Nothing would get her back to sleep.

Unlike the fits the previous night, her screaming just kept escalating. A sippy cup helped calm her a little. Walking her around calmed her until my arms felt like they were going to fall off, (well, my right arm since I sprained my left shoulder and couldn’t put much weight on it).

Still, I kept refusing to nurse. I sang songs, tried to cuddle, until finally the screaming became too much. I asked her dad for help, (he was sleeping downstairs so he could face his workday). She just got angrier until the screaming became so intense that I felt like I was going to throw up.

At that point, I deferred back to the rules for the first three nights– nursing is okay to calm, just not to put to sleep. I calmed her with milk and then she went to sleep easily after I stopped nursing her. She slept without fits the rest of the night. I nursed her at 5AM since it was past the 7 hour milk-free mark (starting at 10PM). I just couldn’t handle another fit. She nursed again around 8AM and is still in bed now, (9AM).

Difficult night.

Night three: Repeat of night 2 but took 2 hours to get her back to sleep around 2, minimal additional waking, just one monstrous fit around 2 and a refusal to go back to sleep. Getting harder to want to keep going.

***

We basically repeated this for weeks. Some nights were fine and then we’d start all the way over again. It sucked, but I was determined. And, little by little, it paid off. We started to sleep through the night here and there. It was the encouragement I needed to keep going through the hard nights.

As she began to soothe herself back to sleep more consistently, it was amazing to see the shift. She’d cry for just long enough for me to question whether I should intervene and then magically put herself back to sleep. It made me appreciate the concept of self-soothing in a whole new way.

Eventually, she stopped night waking pretty much altogether. Now she’ll wake maybe once or twice, and put herself back to sleep quickly, as long as I’ve fed her adequately throughout the day. The other magical improvement is naps. She used to wake up in the middle of her nap and want to nurse. Now she generally puts herself back to sleep during her naps as well.

Parenting is such a personal journey. What works and has worked for us is definitely not for everyone. But, this is exactly the kind of blog entry I wish I’d read a couple months ago. It would’ve helped to hear that these plans don’t always work in a week or two. Sometimes they take months. Sometimes they take a lot of (comforted) tears. Our sleep plan is a work in progress. She’s a night owl. She’s still in our bed. But, one step at a time. I’m just grateful to be sleeping on my own clock again.

Welcome back, old friend.

Maybe Co-Sleeping is Just as Much about Us…

More often than not, she is the little boss around here... thank goodness for naps!
Thank goodness the boss *usually* falls asleep on the job a couple times a day.

E. is napping in our bed. My fingers move quickly because I never know how long I have until she awakens. Some days I get hours, others minutes. The result is an inability to focus. Do I work on my novel? Do I blog? Do I catch up on sleep?

Undoubtedly, her eyes will open when I have settled into a rhythm on my own. I have learned to save everything we can do together, like eating and cleaning, for when she is awake. Generally, I cannot bring myself to nap. Time alone is worth the occasional deprivation.

This is possibly the hardest lesson of early parenthood. Everything cannot be done. Must prioritize. As much as I love yoga, it has become a once-a-week activity. Today my husband watched E. while I went to class. Tears streamed down my face as I lay in Savasana, thoughts of growing old and E. caring for me instead of the other way around. Life, cyclical and gone in a blink.

Back home, I cuddled her to sleep in our bed, lingering an extra twenty minutes, minutes I could have had to myself but were too sweet to give up. Choosing to sleep in the same space has been on my mind a lot lately. As with anything, not everyone gets it.

Sometimes I question our choice, too, on hard nights, when she cannot sleep and I am stuck beside her for hours to keep her calm. Then I remember like everything before, this will pass. The alternative would require “sleep training,” and I am just not willing to let her scream for long. Some babies go down with less of a fight and E. is called Little Beast for good reason.

Most importantly, when it works, co-sleeping is a beautiful part of our life. Moments together, close, savoring now. We don’t worry she will be in our bed forever. We know the time will come when either we will encourage her into her own space, or she will say “Peace, y’all.” Seeing as how she demands to feed herself already, I have a feeling she will be asking for a “big girl bed” sooner than we expect.

A recent parenting piece in the Washington Post struck a chord. Sometimes the path of less stress is better for everyone. Maybe we could teach E. to sleep on her own with a few nights of intense “training,” but for what? So I would have to get up to comfort her instead of just rolling over? So we could sleep without her in our bed? The truth, co-sleeping is just as much for us as it is for her. We crave the connection, too, her sweet little body curled between us.

When it consistently stops working we will find a solution. Until then, I am happy to watch her nap all snuggled in our bed while I sit in my big, brown chair and steal some minutes for myself to write. Nothing lasts forever. Part of me wishes it would. I cannot help but think back to all the nights I lay awake in bed, pregnant, talking to her in my belly as she twirled about. I already loved her intensely then.

The night we stop sleeping next to E. will be a bittersweet one.

Celebrating Five Years of Marriage WITH Baby

Last weekend we celebrated our anniversary in North Lake Tahoe and brought along the baby. I know what you’re thinking. Not too romantic. However, we took a page out of a friend’s book, and invited the in-laws.

The result?

Weekend getaway bliss!

We got a couple hours to ourselves, enjoyed the sunset and live music on the lake, then took back over the baby watching so grandma and grandpa could have their fun. In fact, it worked out so well, we are now hoping to pair up with other couples to take weekend trips and trade the baby-watching duties for a couple hours apiece. That way, we get the best of both worlds, family and couple time.

A big shout-out to the Hyatt Regency at Incline Village in North Lake Tahoe for being so family friendly. Even though we reserved our rooms on Hotwire, we were still treated well, which is not always the case with some hotels when booked at a discount. If you’re interested in replicating our deal, check out Hotwire in Incline Village, the Hyatt is the only 4-star hotel with 100% positive feedback, so you can pretty much know which hotel you’re getting before you book. Our rate was even better once we clicked, so head over and check it out!

So much fun introducing E. to the lake for the first time!
So much fun introducing E. to the lake for the first time…
Dad loved dipping her toes in the cold water and her laughter confirmed she did too.
Dad loved dipping her toes in the cold water and her laughter confirmed she did too.

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Such a wonderful way to celebrate five years married, together as a new family.
Such a wonderful way to celebrate five years married, together as a new family.
Grandma and grandpa were such a huge help. We got plenty of time alone and as a family of three, then enjoyed breakfast together as a big family before we took off Sunday morning.
Grandma and grandpa were such a huge help. We got plenty of time alone and just the three of us, then enjoyed breakfast together as a big family before we took off.
Co-sleeping also made a huge difference for traveling, E. fell asleep easily between mom and dad despite the different environment. We're excited for more travel adventures soon!
Co-sleeping also made a huge difference for traveling, E. fell asleep easily between mom and dad despite the different environment. We are excited for more travel adventures soon!