My daughter is almost six years old. Last night, she spent the whole night in her own room. To many parents, this is probably commonplace. In our family, this was a major milestone. After years of the security of co sleeping, our daughter was gaining independence and choosing to sleep on her own.
When my daughter was in infant, she shared a room with us right from the start. Not only did co sleeping seem natural, but it was also recommended by our pediatrician. As a nervous first time mom, I would never have been able to sleep with my baby in another room. Even having her in the same room wasn’t enough to allay my fears. I needed her right next to me.
As a nursing mom, it was also convenient to share the same room. Night feedings were made easier by the fact that my baby was right next to the bed in her little co sleeper. This arrangement allowed us all to get better sleep, for many reasons.
Co Sleeping Beyond the First Year
I know a lot of parents start out sharing a room with baby, but transition them to their own room after a few months, usually once baby outgrows the bassinet. This is the stuff so many parenting books are written about. There are countless different methods for getting babies to sleep, and most of them involve training baby in one way or another to fall asleep on their own and sleep through the night.
I’ll admit, as a first time mom, I felt the pressure. Even though I had stumbled upon attachment parenting and was practicing the principles of it – still some part of me felt that I needed to live up to the expectations of our society. I had done all the “right” things as a first time mom. I registered for all the nursery essentials, set up baby’s room in just the right way. Part of me felt like I was missing out on some aspect of parenting if we didn’t use that nursery.
So when our baby was around nine months old, we decided to finally move her into her own room.
You’ve probably guessed by the title of my post that this didn’t go so well. Getting her to sleep in her room was hard enough, and my husband and I each wasted hours and hours of our lives sitting there in the dark trying to get our baby to sleep. But that wasn’t the worst part.
As we are definitely not the type to let our baby cry (even in the pursuit of better sleep) we would have to get up and go to her room several times a night. I remember many times where my husband eventually fell asleep on the floor holding her hand through the bars of the crib. It was no fun for anyone. I was really missing the co sleeping arrangement we had and wondering why we gave it up.
Eventually I asked my husband to just bring her in bed with me. I found out right away that bed sharing was right for us. We all got a good night’s sleep. Nobody had to get up and stumble down the hallway to my daughter’s room. We were all safe and sound in one room together. It was magical.
Co Sleeping Into Toddlerhood
From that day forward, we slept with our daughter every night. It was just so easy and felt so natural. I absolutely loved sleeping with my baby next to me in bed. I was getting the best sleep I had since before my daughter was born.
Sure, there were some changes we had to get used to. We bought a king size bed to give us more room. We got used to sleeping with a baby in between us. As she got bigger, we sometimes got kicked in the middle of the night. But overall, it was awesome.
As my daughter grew, we didn’t want to make the decision for her as to where she slept, so we made sure she always knew she had a choice. She had her own room, but she could choose to sleep in our room as well. There was no shame involved, no attempts to convince her to move out of our room. As long as co sleeping still worked for everyone, we saw no reason to make an issue of it.
Of course, there were differences of opinion among family and friends regarding co cleeping. You can find plenty of reasons not to co sleep with your kids – but other than safety, which is a top priority, none of the other negatives really worried me. My instincts as a parent told me that there was nothing wrong with it. Our baby slept better because she felt safe and comforted being with us. We slept better having her there.
Co Sleeping With An Older Kid
I will admit, when we started out co sleeping, we had no idea it would last this long. There are many reasons why it might have ended sooner. A major house move and the birth of our twins certainly had an impact on our daughter’s sense of security. But I knew she would start sleeping in her own room when she was ready. There was no need for us to push her or make her feel bad about it. Besides, even as she got bigger and sometimes more difficult to sleep next to, I cherished those moments with her. I knew it was only a matter of time before she would outgrow sleeping with her parents. Like so many fleeting aspects of childhood, there was no need to rush it.
It has been a gradual transition. It started with bedtime in her room where she would fall asleep but ask to be brought to our room when we went to bed. Then she would try to spend the whole night in her room, but wake up sometime in the night and crawl in bed with us.
And then came last night. She didn’t wake up and come to our room. She made it through the whole night by herself. I have to admit, it made me a little sad. It’s just another reminder that my little girl is growing up.
Will she ever come sleep in our room again? I have no doubt. It might even happen tonight. She knows she is always welcome, just as our twins will know as they get bigger. I hope that having her parents close in those first most vulnerable years has instilled in her a sense of security and peace that she can carry with her long after the days of sleeping with her parents are over.