Monday, January 26, 2009

Confessions of an Accidental Co-Sleeper

We never co-slept with Pumpkin much when she was a little baby. Hubby is a sound sleeper, and I always worried a bit about whether he would roll over on her. But more important was the fact that I couldn't sleep well next to her- she was too active, and I am a light sleeper.

But these days, Pumpkin spends several hours every night in our bed. We've stumbled on an unorthodox method of nightweaning. I have decided that I want to start weaning a bit more actively than I have been to date, and since Pumpkin wasn't giving up any nursing session easily, I decided to start with the one that bothers me the most- the middle of the night.

We decided, as we had before, to start moving the time of the first nursing back. We said I wouldn't nurse her before 3 a.m. For the first three nights, she slept past 3, so we didn't have much trouble. On the fourth night, she woke up at 12:30, and as we'd agreed, Hubby went in. She screamed, then settled, then screamed, the settled, then screamed... for twenty minutes. Finally, so tired that I felt sick to my stomach, I stumbled in, thinking I'd nurse her or whatever else was needed to just get to sleep. But when I picked her up, she snuggled in. She whimpered "boppy" (her word for nursing) a couple of times, and then went to sleep. I brought her in to bed with us, and we all slept until morning.

The next three nights, when she woke up at 12:30, I just went in, picked her up, and brought her in to bed with us, and we all slept until morning. Last night, she didn't even wake up until after 4. I was so disoriented from being jolted awake ("Mommy! Mommm-MEEE!") that I was nursing her before I thought about whether it would have been better to try to get her back to sleep without nursing. Oh well, Hubby and I can debate that later.

We won't be debating it tonight, because Pumpkin has come down with the cold Hubby had this weekend, had a very rough day at day care, and wouldn't eat anything for dinner tonight. I think I'll nurse her when she asks for it tonight.

However, when it is time to return to our nightweaning plans, I think we'll stick with our new method. I never would have thought that the easiest way to nightwean our toddler would be to start co-sleeping, but the evidence indicates that this is indeed what we should do. I guess she wants company more than food in the middle of the night these days.

And what about the mismatch between Pumpkin's active sleep style and my light sleeping? I have also stumbled on two tricks to help with that:

1. I settle Pumpkin before I bring her to bed. This sometimes means that I have to sit up rocking her for 5-10 minutes when my brain is screaming for me to just go back to bed, but I have found that if she is pretty much asleep when she comes into bed with us, she will settle into bed peacefully and we'll all sleep. If she is not, she'll spend about 20 minutes fidgeting and playing with my hair before she settles. By this time, I'm quite awake, and I don't get much sleep.

2. I turn my back on her in bed. I did this out of desperation one night (before I'd discovered trick #1), because I just wanted a break from having her little hands grabbing at my face and hair. But the trick makes sense- she wants to play with my hair, and there is far more hair within reach if I have my back to her.

Hubby and I realize that we're probably starting a habit that will be hard for Pumpkin to break. But we've decided that as long as she starts the night in her bed, we're OK with her joining us in our bed for part of the night. After all, it is finally the method that gets everyone the most sleep. And that is what matters the most to us.

I clearly have started taking sleep for granted, because I just updated Pumpkin's book list rather than go to bed. The new books may all eventually make it to the sidebar, but they may not- it depends on how fickle Pumpkin is!


  1. Wow, that's great! I'm also a light sleeper, if E's in bed with me I don't get much sleep unless we're both really exhausted. We resorted to putting her in bed with me a few times last week when she was really sick (husband went to sleep in her room so there would be more space) and it worked great. Fast forward a few days to when she's feeling better, and now she wakes up in the middle of the night screaming "Mommy's bed!". We've tried it, it doesn't work. She will just sit there glaring at me waiting for the fun to start...or something. I'm feeling so miserable about this because I love the idea of co-sleeping, and I really wanted it to work, and it just doesn't. We all get much better sleep if she is in her own bed, even if there are several hours worth of her waking up screaming, us going to resettle her, and then her starting to scream again (I'm getting much better at that, and we're actually getting into a bit of a resettling routine), but I think she's hit 2.5 a few months early and is starting in on the testing behaviour.

    Anyway, don't mean to hijack your comments, just really wanted to wish you luck. I really hope it works, and I'm horribly jealous :)

  2. I hope it works out well for you guys. You know that the cosleeping in the middle of the night usually goes well for us, but not always. Fortunately for me, when it doesn't go well, my hubby gets the brunt. That's because she really wants only him at night, but she ends up snuggling him right to the edge of the bed. But in general, it gets us all the most sleep to just have her come in our room when she wakes up at night.

    I hope the weaning goes well too. I think it's great that you've figured out that (when she's not sick) she really just wants comfort.


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