In my head, I am a “Marsupial Mom”. I might be kindred to a Koala in that if I came equipped with a pouch, I would want my baby nestled in there all of the time. If my 5 year old could fit in my pouch, he would be in there too. All three of us would curl into each other, chew on Eucalyptus, and sleep peacefully all night long. Unfortunately, I don’t have a pouch and I am not a Marsupial. No, I’m a human and as sleepless nights have unfolded before me, I have learned just how human I really am.
I should tell you that bed-sharing feels right to me. My 5 year old has not slept an entire night in his own bed since I accidentally fell asleep while nursing him in bed at 8 months old. He went on a crib strike. Being the exhausted push over that I am, he secured his place in mommy and daddy’s bed forever, still crawling into our King Sized bed at some point during the night. It’s a perfect fit as he snuggles in and everyone sleeps a dream filled night.
After the birth of my second son, we put a twin bed in the nursery and I slept in the room with him. My husband slept soundly at the other end of our long Ranch style home with our 5 year old. We would smooch goodnight and jokingly say “See ya in 18 years!” as we each nestled into bed with a child at opposite ends of the house. It was a huge sacrifice that allowed us to all get the sleep that we needed. Between the baby waking up to nurse and my husband’s alarm blaring at 6 am, it just seemed like the right thing to do.
I had so many sweet nights with my baby. All alone in the nursery at 4 am, cooing at one another and bonding. My cuddling tendencies served me well as some nights, I would pull my fussy baby into bed with me (taking all of the SIDS precautions, of course). Remembering how sweet it was to wake up with a baby’s nose on my neck, I just knew that bed-sharing would help us sleep soundly. It did not work out that way at all. We would wake each other up throughout the night and he would get frustrated that I was in his sleeping space. He was so different from my first son. Then it occurred to me that my youngest baby was not Koala-like at all. If I did have a pouch, he would not want to sleep curled up inside it. No, he was a baby that needed his own space. I realized pretty quickly that being a good mom means doing what is best for your child and your family. Although, I wanted to have delicious nights of snuggling, I had to let those expectations go. What may work perfectly for one child may be a nightmare for another.
In the end, after I had spent many early mornings swooping him up from the crib at his first whimper and lavishing him with as much rocking as possible, it dawned on me that I was doing him a disservice. That method was actually keeping him awake. I decided to do something really crazy and abandon my bed-sharing ways. I would try to put him down awake and let him fuss until he fell asleep. Then, I got even crazier and moved out of his room to a room across the hall and let him have his own sleeping space. He is now sleeping soundly for the first time in his life with only one feeding in the middle of the night. After he nurses, I set him back in the crib awake and he settles down back to sleep on his own. It’s an amazing concept to me.
There is no right way or wrong way to handle sleepless nights. Bed-sharing may be a great solution for all of the Koala-like babies out there and all the Mama’s that have pretend pouches to fill. However, it’s not so great for all of the very human-like babies that can sleep just fine on their own, thank you very much. It’s all about trusting your own intuition, reading your baby, and trying different methods until you find the one that fits. I’m so glad that I was open to trying something different with my youngest son, because that was just what he needed. Who knows…maybe soon, I’ll be co-sleeping with my husband again!