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Our bed, not yours

I refer to myself as a “sleep Nazi” sometimes because it was really really important to me when the kids were little that they sleep all night and leave us alone.  It was fairly easy with Jake.  I don’t remember the specifics, but I know that is was months, not years, before he was sleeping through the night, all by himself, in his own room.  Common sense just told me that the longer we waited the harder it would get, so from early on if he woke up at night I waited a little while before I would go get him, to give him a chance to put himself back to sleep.  He was never in our bed in the middle of the night unless I was feeding him, and when he was done he went right back to his crib.

We were a little more lax with our daughter (second child syndrome).  We only had two bedrooms, and we didn’t want her waking up her brother, so we put a bassinet in our room for her.  This was bad for many reasons.  Since she was right there at the foot of the bed, it was a lot more tempting to scoop her up and make her quiet instead of giving her a chance to cry.  And I also would let her fall back asleep in bed with me after I fed her, something my son was never ever allowed to do.  So as soon as she outgrew the bassinet (five months, I think?) we put a crib out in the living room.  She would nap during the day in Jake’s room, and sleep at night in the living room.  By eight or nine months she was sleeping through the night for ten or eleven hours fairly consistently, and we moved her in with her brother full time.  There are many things that I do badly, but I’m good with the sleeping issues.

Another blogger who saw my post quoted on the NY Times site yesterday sent me a link to a site she just launched, Juice Box Jungle, and I loved it immediately.  Seems to be run by common-sense people who don’t take things too seriously, and they’ve got some good advice in their videos too:

More parenting videos on JuiceBoxJungle

I always cringe when I hear about kids who sleep in their parents’ beds.  I wouldn’t be able to get a good night’s sleep.  And when do you have sex?  I remember seeing this couple on Oprah who said that when they wanted to do it, they just moved their 18-month-old to one side of the bed and did it on the other.  Umm, ewwwww!  The dad wanted the kid out, the mom didn’t.

I know some families where both parents are happy with the situation.  If it works for all of them, fine.  And if they don’t mind the fact that later on, when they do want their bed back, it will be that much harder to get their eight-year-old to sleep on her own, fine. But I know a lot more couples where one of them does not want the kid in the bed but the other does.  Or where they both want the kid out of the bed, but they don’t want to deal with making the kid sleep by himself.

I see emails all the time on listservs and advice sites that go something like this: “My son sleeps in my bed with me. He wants to nurse every hour. How do I get him to sleep longer?” Get him into his own bed. “My daughter sleeps in bed with me, and is a really rough sleeper, tossing and turning all night. How do I get some sleep?” Get her into her own bed. “My kids sleep with me, so when we hire a baby sitter they won’t go to sleep because I’m not in bed with them. What can we do?” Get them into their own beds!

I’ve found that getting kids to sleep on their own is like everything else I try to get them to do on their own: it’s so tempting to skip it or do it myself. I can clean their rooms in ten minutes. I can hang up their coats and put away their shoes and empty their lunches without even thinking about it. I can pour water from the Britta filter without spilling it all over. And I can tie their shoes with my eyes closed. But if I invest a couple of weeks in training them to do it, they’ll get it, and then I can put my feet up with a magazine while they take care of themselves. So yes, it sucks for the weeks or months that you have to do the work to get them to stay in their beds. But overall it will take less energy to do that than to get night after night of bad sleep.  And the longer you wait to do it, the harder it will be.

Now if someone could train my husband not to snore…

Originally posted on Selfish Mom

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4 Responses to “Our bed, not yours”

  1. SarahE on February 25th, 2009 2:11 pm
    1

    Love it. Ummmm, if you want your kid to sleep on their own and through the night, teach them. It’s like math. I happen to be able to sleep through a train wreck, so I can co-sleep. Which is good, because I don’t like math. Wait.

  2. Crabmommy on February 26th, 2009 1:25 pm
    2

    RIGHT ON! Couldn’t agree with you more, my dear Selfish Mother. I am well known for being so mean and monstrous if woken at night (I call myself the Night Momster) that I have literally terrified my child (and husband) into sleeping through the night. can’t help it–just do not dig waking up for kids (unless they’re sick or having a nightmare, obvs). I was all over Weissbluth’s Nazi sleep book and got my kid to sleep in her own bed for a good night’s rest from a young age. A little benign neglect–or straight up shouting GO TO BED THIS INSTANT!–from a tired mom does wonders for sleep training. It amazes me to read the many moms out there who wonder how to get their kids to sleep through the night when they’re always available for snuggles, boobage, and whatnot. Make it NOT FUN to be awake and that tot will choose sleep.
    Very nice to meet you, buy the way. We are moms of a feather. I write Crabmommy for Cookie magazine and also at blogspot. Stop by sometime…

  3. anne marie on March 2nd, 2009 12:28 pm
    3

    i think by having twins, we never had the option really of having the lil’ ones sleep with us at the beginning, and MAN am i glad we started from the beginning with them in their own bassinet, crib, and now bed! They still come in each morning for a morning wake up huddle in bed which is great, but i think they each love having their own sleeping space;)

  4. Amy on March 2nd, 2009 1:21 pm
    4

    @anne marie – I would think that with twins the temptation would be even bigger to let them in bed with you so you wouldn’t have to get up twice as much at night, so good for you!