I’ve never been a parent who labels my “style” of parenting into a category or wears it like a badge.
Not that I’m implying there’s anything wrong with labeling, of course. I’m simply not exclusively any “type” of parent. I think I’ve borrowed a few ideas from different “camps,” ultimately adopting my own individual approach and tactics that mostly work, or don’t. For me. For us. For our kids. Individually.
I definitely don’t subscribe to a one-size-fits all parenting approach to anything because every baby and child is obviously different and unique. Even children who share the same DNA from the same parents are completely different and unique. Boy, how they are unique. For instance, some babies can’t sleep without being snugly swaddled, burrito-style, whereas others feel a sense of claustrophobia akin to be submerged underwater in an air-tight submarine. And these two babies are siblings. Imagine that!
With that said, you’ll never hear me saying I’m a natural-birthing/attachment-parenting/co-sleeping/cloth-diapering/exclusively-breastfeeding/organic-only/fill-in-the-blank-with-another-label type of mom, because there’s no way I could stick to any one of those, in my opinion, rather rigid, limiting categories, wholly and exclusively. I’ve certainly adopted and adapted from each of those, ahem, labels. I’ve loved “wearing” my babies in slings and Moby wraps and Ergo carriers, not really because it’s a “thing,” but more so because it’s convenient and hand-freeing and practical and overall suitable for putting babies to sleep. Some babies, of course. Because obviously, there are babies who absolutely loathe being “worn.”
If there’s some kind of provable psychology as to why baby wearing is “better” for babies or if they’ll somehow turn out to be nicer, more well-adjusted, less sociopathic, psychologically secure adults all because their mama once carried them through the Target in a piece of over-priced fabric on her chest, it doesn’t matter to me. All I know is it sure makes doing things easier and my babies love it, except the middle one, who didn’t.
I’m being slightly tongue-in-cheek here. But, seriously, does anyone have significant proof that babies are somehow better off because they were breastfed until six, worn until three and cloth-diapered until potty-trained? I’ve done a few of these “things” with my children solely because they seemed to be more convenient and take less of an effort (well, except cloth diapering, that took lots of effort, but saved money) and were just plain practical for me.
I personally like the idea of adapting and adopting a little from each category to tailor a custom-made style to raising my own, unique children. I’ve cloth-diapered a little here and there with my two youngest, but also have nothing against disposables, because we’ve used them the majority of the time with all three boys. All three of my boys have been breastfed (the baby still is), but the oldest also got formula mixed in, when I went back to work four months after his birth.
My almost three-year-old and the baby have been exclusively (again, a term I’m not even fond of) breastfed simply because I’ve been home with them the longest and frankly, it’s been most convenient for us all. I’ll just chalk it up to being lazy and cheap. No, really, I know all about the health benefits for both mama and baby, La Leche League, thank you. And I also need to clarify: I’m not still breastfeeding my almost three-year-old, I weaned him at fifteen months.
This is all an incredibly lenghthy preface and disclaimer to the original point of this post: co-sleeping. I want to talk about co-sleeping. Sleeping-co. The Family Bed. Whatever you want to call it. Again, I’m not even fond of the term co-sleeping, because, well, it’s another “term” that seems rigid to me, implying that children and parents are some kind of one-size-fits all, one-stop-shopping club you belong to and clearly, they/we aren’t. But, for lack of a better word, I suppose we’ve been a family that’s sort of big on co-sleeping. Not because it’s a “thing” or a theme or some ideology we subscribe to because blah-blah-blah parenting “expert”/guru/pediatrician with a lifestyle brand hawking a line of products says so, but because it has been the easiest set-up for us and our kids. Again, I’m lazy and looking for the path of least resistance.
For me, it’s always been so much easier to have a baby in bed with me during all of those seemingly endless, groggy, bleary-eyed nighttime feedings during the early weeks of infancy and even through early toddlerhood. Until they start developing elbows and kneecaps and learning how to Kung-Fu you out of bed. But before those more uncomfortable nights when you start waking up with a foot in your mouth, quite literally, co-sleeping has been nothing but warm and cozy and snug as four bugs in an oversized IKEA bed can be for us. Until it’s not anymore.
Lately, it’s starting to become less and less comfortable to have children sleeping in our bed (and we have a very large, California King-sized bed). The baby has used his crib all of two times in the past year (and those two times were just for napping). With co-sleeping, we’ve also trapped ourselves into the double-edged sword situation of making sleeping in the bed with us so comfortable for the kids, they don’t want to sleep anywhere else. Enter the challenge of now getting them to sleep in their own beds/cribs.
With my almost three-year-old, we were able transition him into his crib in a separate room (with his older brother who has always been a pretty fabulous sleeper) at about ten months. It was easy and he slept well like that for about a year. At two years old, when his baby brother was born, he turned into a crazy insomniac wild child who refused to sleep in the new toddler bed we bought him, that in turn the family dog took over, because there was no way our boy was going to sleep in it.
And we’re wimps and we weren’t going to let him cry it out for three nights.
So, we discovered the only place he would sleep was the living room sofa, with daddy becoming his own personal sleep valet and accompanying him to sleep each night. Something about his baby brother’s presence turned him into a child who did not feel secure enough to retire to his own bedroom each night, in his own bed — I’m sure out of fear that in the morning he’d discover we sold him to another family and replaced him entirely with his new baby brother, whom he was very unhappy about (I’m only exaggerating slightly here).
All this resulted in a year of him sleeping on the living room sofa.
Last week, after I finally put my foot down and said there was no way our almost three-year-old was going a day longer sleeping on that living room sofa, which was becoming a tangle of blankets and pillows and quite frankly — pee stains — we finally caved and purchased a bunk bed for the two older boys. And lo and behold, our almost three-year-old was actually excited to sleep in it, with his big brother securely overhead (and I’m sure the fact that we further indulged his Spiderman fixation with a brand new set of Spiderman bedding helped).
The next step, although I’m not all the way ready for it, is to move the baby’s virgin crib out of our bedroom and into his brothers’ room so that all three Wild Things can ultimately be in the same bedroom. I know the baby will not be happy with this at first and I’m anticipating some (gulp) tears, but I think it’s time. I think it’s time to end an era of co-sleeping and to finally have our bed back to ourselves.
It’s been a good, warm, cozy, convenient, snuggly run, but I think it’s time to leave off the “co” in sleeping and go back to just plain, old sleeping in this house.