There's a lot of discussion and debate regarding the best way to get a child into their sleep groove. Some parents advocate setting a sleep routine right away. Other parents take a slightly crunchier approach and opt for co-sleeping or bed-sharing. While each situation comes with its own unique set of challenges, there are issues both sleep training and co-sleeping moms have to deal with. This is a good metaphor for parenting in general: most of the time we're working through the same nonsense, just in different ways.
I co-slept with my children for 10 and 16 months (my daughter was a much more considerate co-sleeper than my son, so she got to stay in bed longer) and then sleep trained them both afterwards. And while both experiences were rewarding, difficult, and the right thing to do, what ultimately struck me is how very little difference either choice made when it came to my relationship with my children (or, for that matter, my partner). Ultimately, it didn't matter whether they were in bed with me or on their own in their cribs.
Often we delineate motherhood by who does what. Who breastfeeds? Who formula feeds? Who babywears? Who uses a stroller? Who cloth diapers? Who uses disposables? Who works outside the home? Who stays at home? But these divisions are cosmetic. As my adage-loving grandfather is fond of saying: "There is more that unites us than divides us." (He pretends he coined this quote. He did not, but I don't have the heart to tell him I can easily Google it.) So with that in mind, here are just a few things both sleep training and co-sleeping moms have to deal with on a, sadly, regular basis:
Sleep training people can be judgmental, co-sleeping people can be judgmental, and people who have literally no horse in the race can suddenly become so-called experts (and contrarians) the minute you share what works for you. In the words of our Blessed Mother Beyoncé, twirl on your haters. Whatever side of the sleep fence the fall on (I can only assume this is the fence sheep jump over, btw), all will be well.
Let's be real: children don't sleep. Even a baby who is a "good sleeper" is still probably keeping you up half the night, at least for a while. That's just how babies work. As my computer geek husband would say: "It's not a bug, it's a feature."
Worrying About Your Baby
Whether they're right there next to you and you're worried about rolling on them, or they're in another room and you're worried about something happening when you're not there to see, we're moms! We worry. It's what we do. It's not like we're going to stop an intrinsic maternal worry about the welfare of our children just because of how we choose to get them to sleep at the end of the day.
Co-sleeping is pefectly safe! Don't change anything!
Co-sleeping is safe, but you have to follow these rules!
No! These rules!
Sleep training is psychologically damaging!
Sleep training is crucial if you want an emotionally well-adjusted child!
Sleep training is a modern invention!
Parents have been sleep training since the dawn of time!
Co-sleeping is the natural way to parent!
OMG, enough! All of you! There's just so much crap out there, no matter what side you look at. And here we stand, we happy few, we band of mothers who just want an unbiased information, standing amid all of it, working to parse the truth from the "truth."
Concern That You're Doing It Right
Between the Judgy McJudgersons and the people swearing up down and sideways that their opinions are facts, co-sleeping and sleep training moms alike wind up in this twilight zone of second guessing and self-doubt. Can you blame us?!
Again, this is just one of those things babies and kids do, regardless. All the good intentions and excellent "go to sleep" techniques in the world can't eliminate this fact completely (again, especially in the early days). Crying at night and right before bed and when they wake up and literally any other time is just something parents learn to cope with as best they can.
This is very likely the absolute worst thing to deal with when it comes to sleepy or sleeping children and, like death, no one escapes it.
Playing The "Do Those Sheets Really Need To Be Changed Right Now?" Game
Some people would just assume that co-sleeping moms have to change sheets that baby pee leaked through or spit up on but, as a former co-sleeping mom I can tell you that, well, sometimes that's what towels are for, you know? And there were times when, after they were in their own beds, my child would leak a bit or something and it was just so much easier to move them to the other side of the crib than take them out, hope they don't wake up, and change all the linens.
No, you're gross and unhygienic. You know what, let she without a night nurse to do these things for her throw the first stone, OK?
Challenges To Your Sex Life
One thing I often heard from overly familiar people when I was co-sleeping was them suddenly very concerned with how much sex I wasn't getting.
I had an infant. Do you honestly think I was getting any sex anyway? Early parenthood is full of wonderful, precious, and memorable experience, but a whole lot of sex is not included among them. Seriously, co-sleeping and sleep training has nothing to do with it. Do you really think sleep training parents are spending any significant amount of time humping? Come on now.
(Also it's called a couch, people.)
Doing What You've Got To Do To Make It Through This Stage
We're all just moms trying to get by. Godspeed you, my sisters.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.