I apologize to whoever loves to share their beds with their babies in advance: personally, I think that co-sleeping sucks. If I had had a choice when Souris was born, I would have forgone it. Let’s face it; you’re stuck in an awkward position, you’re always trying to be careful so as not to crush or hit the baby. When you wake up, your neck hurts, your back hurts and you feel like you haven’t been able to stretch out your limbs for a week. You do it because your baby has a hard time sleeping in any other spot, and their ability to sleep better is more important than your comfort.
Some people have a higher tolerance for co-sleeping than others, and do it for YEARS. Hey, whatever floats your boat I guess! However, I didn’t intend to have my daughter sleep in the same bed as her father and I for long, and my goal was to help her sleep in her own bed as soon as possible, but without making it difficult for her.
Even now, I sometimes forget how I was able to do this and so I might as well write it down. Perhaps it’ll help me out next time around, and perhaps it can help some of you out!!!
Let me start by stating that my first priority has always been to help my daughter have the greatest quality sleep as possible, while waking up the least amount of times unnecessarily. This meant that, early on, we nearly always had her sleeping with us. In the beginning, we even had to sleep with the lights on because being in the dark scared little Souris!
Souris therefore spent almost all night in our arms, and almost all of her naps next to me also. If I could put her down on the couch or in her swing for a nap, I was lucky. Sleeping in her own bed at naptime was a fantasy she was NOT going to let me achieve easily ;).
Getting to know Souris’ sleep patterns was the first step at knowing how to transition her into her own crib. I learned to distinguish between her lighter sleep cycles and her deep sleep cycles. When I saw her go into deep sleep (where she does a sucking movement with her tongue, even without a pacifier in her mouth, and her eyes don’t move behind her eyelids), I started to put her down in her bed. I tried as much as possible to keep her blankie on her so that she didn’t feel colder when put down, and I always put on her Sleep Sheep sound machine to soothe her back to sleep. Some people put a warm towel or blanket that was previously popped into the dryer, or a shirt that they wore the previous day next to the baby, but those tricks never really worked for me.
At first, she would often wake up immediately, which meant that I would have to pick her back up and start all over again. Once she was awake, there was no getting her back to sleep on her own… It was so frustrating, but I didn’t give up because it was so important for me to be able to get a comfortable sleep position back at night and the ability to go about my business during the day! I also couldn’t imagine her sleeping with us until she was five years old, and wanted to get her comfortable with sleeping by herself as soon as she was able! The more we persevered, the easier it got for Souris to sleep soundly in her bed.
She would sometimes wake up at night and refuse to go back to sleep in her own crib. I learned not to insist too much because 1- I didn’t want her to negatively associate her crib with crying and loneliness and 2- I figured that, if she cried as much when not in my arms, there was probably a reason that she needed to be held in the first place. Sometimes, just being close to a warm body with a beating heart can do wonders for a baby – whether it be because they have gas, they’re teething, or simply feeling scared.
At approximately 2 months of age, Souris was able to spend the entire night in her crib!!! Oh, the elation!!!
Naptimes were a whole other ballgame. First of all, forget about trying to get her to fall asleep on her own – even trying to get her to nod off in her swing was a rarity! Therefore, I always had to hold her until she fell asleep. I learned to recognize the first signs of fatigue – a yawn, rubbing her eyes, or pulling on the hair at her neckline. Once I saw those first signs, I didn’t hesitate to put her into her sleep position – favourite blankie rubbing against her cheek, pacifier in her mouth. I learned that tapping her bum lightly, or pushing her bum at a slightly fast, gentle and regular pace helped her zone out. Once she was deep enough in her first sleep cycle for me to get up without it waking her up too much, I started to get in the habit of walking her to the bedroom and put her to bed. It was difficult at first because she would fight it, but with habit, she became more and more used to it. I also learned not to wait too long before putting her in her own bed so that she could get a good amount of sleep in her bed. Once again, having white noise helps her stay asleep much longer, so I strongly recommend looking into finding a way to put some on in your child’s bedroom. Rachelle has an iPhone application that she turns on every night for her baby.
I personally love the sleep sheep because I can rest it near Souris’ head and it’s really cuddly. I got the travel size, which is great for when she needs to nap or sleep while being babysat. It’s easier for her to relax and get to sleep in someone else’s arms when she recognizes the noises around her! The bonus is that the sounds are really soothing, and I’ve grown fond of falling asleep to wave and river sounds at night ;).
It took a lot of time, perseverance, and a willingness to go at my infant’s pace, but 4 months in, I was finally able to put Souris down for all of her sleep times in her own crib!! So don’t give up, follow your instincts, and always remember that infants need to be challenged in their insecurities at snail speed. If it’s important to you to get your own bed back and don’t believe in the cry-it-out method at a very young age, there is hope ;). I hope that this can reassure you!
Now if only I figure out how to get her to fall asleep on her own… 😉