When I was pregnant with my second child, my husband and I made the decision that it was time to transition our daughter from co-sleeping with us into her "big girl" room. We wanted the transition to go smoothly, so we did it right.
We talked up the milestone for weeks in advance. What a big girl she was! How cool was it that she would get to have her very own big bed, just like Mommy and Daddy! We took her with us shopping for furniture. Oh, how she loved getting to try out all the beds and strike up conversations with the sales people. We splurged on furniture that could grow with her through her teen years and even into college.
We kept things from her baby room to make her feel comfortable. The throw pillow embroidered with her name that was in her toddler bed, now rests at the head of the twin bed in her room. We bought new Pottery Barn Kids sheets and every owl accessory they had in stock to go with her new room's theme. We found the perfect green bed spread to match her soothing "spring green" wall color. Of course, there was no television or anything that was not conducive for a good night's sleep. And, for the finishing touch, the room was topped off with pink polka dot blackout curtains.
We were ready. Everything was in place. Then came the big test.
The first few nights of our daughter sleeping in her "big girl" bed were tough for all of us. Either my husband or I had to lay with her until she fell asleep. Once she finally fell asleep, we would use our agile, ninja-like moves to sneak out of her bed without waking her. Then, each night around 3:00 a.m. like clockwork, she would awaken crying for me to return. So, I did, and I would usually end up falling back to sleep in her bed until it was time to get up in the morning.
This routine continued for days, and then days turned into weeks. As my pregnant belly grew, I was not comfortable climbing in and out of her bed anymore and my agility was fading fast. (Also, by this point, I had realized that we should have splurged a little bit more on the mattress). My husband took over most of bedtime duties, and yet the routine remained the same. Exhaustion and frustration finally gave way to us allowing our daughter to sleep in our bed when she awoke each night in the early morning hours.
When our new baby arrived, we continued to work on getting our daughter into her own room at night. Still, we could not break the previous cycle. My husband would now spend most nights sleeping in her bed. Trying to get our daughter to sleep in her own bed alone was not working. The process was stressful and emotional for all of us, and no one was getting adequate rest. Something needed to change.
And something did. We allowed our daughter to go back to co-sleeping with us. Although maybe not the most socially acceptable decision, it was the decision that worked best for our family. We needed rest. Sleep was a non-negotiable for us and we needed to find a way for everyone to get it. This was our way.
And, honestly, I love co-sleeping with my daughter. I sleep so much better having her near me, even in spite of the occasional kick in the ribs or elbow in the eye. I know that she does, too, and that it brings us both a sense of calm. This is our arrangement for now, and I will enjoy it while it lasts.
So, my bedtime secret? Do what works for your family. There are no right or wrong answers. Don't worry about what the parenting books and mommy-shamers think you should be doing. This stage won't last forever. My daughter will make the transition when she is ready, and when she is, that beautiful "big girl" room will be waiting for her.