I never intended to co-sleep with my babies. It was an accident born from my desire to breastfeed while mostly asleep. I'd pull my infants into bed with me to breastfeed in the middle of the night, and forget to put them back (you know, because I was asleep). With my first two children, it never became a steady habit. I would pop them back into their crib at the side of our bed from time to time, and successfully transitioned them into their own cribs in their own rooms around the time they turned 6 months old. With my third child however, it's been a different story. Right after he was born, he was always in our bed, and it soon became clear that he wasn’t going to transition into a crib without one hell of a fight. Now I don’t know how to stop co-sleeping, even after his first birthday. It was never supposed to be like this.
I didn’t want to co-sleep. When our first child was born, we dutifully bought the elevated port-a-crib that allowed our newborn to be within arm’s reach so I could watch him from my side of the bed to make sure he was breathing and feel secure that everything was OK. I planned on plucking him out for late-night feedings and putting him right back. For the most part, we succeeded, though I loved to let him snuggle between us after his 5:00 a.m. feedings. Co-sleeping was a treat for me, a bonding experience that felt akin to a guilty pleasure. I knew it went against what his pediatrician advised, but it was only for a little while. Only in the mornings. Eventually we moved him to his own crib in his own room, and I was glad for those co-sleeping moments I was able to steal away.
When our second child was born, we tried to do the same. However, I was a little more exhausted the second time around and found myself falling asleep during those midnight feedings, and letting her sleep in the bed more often than I should have. Still, we made sure she fell asleep on her own, and napped in her own crib, and eventually she too made the transition without much complaint.
I didn’t go into motherhood this third time expecting to co-sleep. I planned on having him in our bed a bit more than his brother and sister, so I could relish the last baby snuggles I would ever have. But not too much. Certainly not all night every night, but soon that’s exactly what happened.
However, when our third baby was born, I felt different. He's our last baby. I wanted to soak in every second of his infancy. I hardly ever put him down. His head never touched a pillow (or, you know, a crib mattress with a tight fitting bedsheet) because I would constantly let him sleep in my arms or bundled snugly in a wrap while I wore him around the house. So it made sense that come nighttime, he wasn’t to keen on falling asleep in the arm’s-reach crib when he could just be rocked to sleep in my actual arms.
Still, I didn’t go into motherhood this third time expecting to co-sleep. I planned on having him in our bed a bit more than his brother and sister, so I could relish the last baby snuggles I would ever have. But not too much. Certainly not all night every night, but soon that’s exactly what happened. I'd never put him back after breastfeeding, not wanting to stay awake to soothe him back to sleep when I was also so outrageously exhausted from parenting two other small children. Co-sleeping gave me more sleep, which I so desperately needed during those early months of adjusting to being a mother of three.
When we started to near the point where we transitioned our other two into their own cribs, we made a slightly more pointed effort to put him in his own crib at night. I didn’t care if I still had to rock him to sleep or breastfeed him in our bed then slyly move him. But those plans didn’t pan out at all. He woke up within minutes of being put in his crib — that's if we successfully moved him in there while he was sleeping — and when he did wake, he was hysterical. I knew from our terrible experience using the cry-it-out method with our first that I wouldn’t be able to handle it again, so we reverted back to co-sleeping.
Believe me when I say the allure of co-sleeping has long since worn off.
I easily resigned myself to a few more months of keeping my last baby close. In fact, I secretly loved it, but now that he's past his first birthday, I wonder if we'll ever get him out of our bed. As much as I love co-sleeping, I also want my bed back. Having a 1 month old sleeping in your bed is heavenly, but bed-sharing with a 1-year-old? Not so much. He now loves to lie completely sideways, forcing my husband and I on opposite ends of the bed. When he wakes in the night, he likes to crawl around, poke faces, and whine. Believe me when I say the allure of co-sleeping has long since worn off, but I still have no clue how to quit.
We’ve passed the point of no-return when it comes to co-sleeping. We’re doing it, whether we like it or not.
Not to mention, there isn’t a whole lot of romance going on when you’re sharing your bed with a budding toddler. Not only do we not get to have the bed to ourselves, but we rarely get any alone time together because our son constantly wants someone to sleep beside him. One of us has to go to bed with him, while the other stays up writing about how much it sucks. After a solid year, it is definitely wearing on our marriage.
I know in some respect, we’ve passed the point of no-return when it comes to co-sleeping. We’re doing it, whether we like it or not. My only hope now is that he’ll one day get to the point where he wants to share a room with his older brother, whom he so adores, and not his parents. Until then, I’ll just have to remind myself that this is my last baby, even if he isn’t such a baby anymore, and try to love these last months (years?!) of co-sleeping because I know I’ll miss it when it’s finally gone for good.