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A Tale of Two Children: Co-Sleeper and Sleep-Trained


If you were to list out the many controversial topics of child-rearing, the great sleep debate would probably make top three issues.  Parents usually find themselves in one of two camps: the sleep-trainers or the co-sleepers; or, their more commonly known street names: cry it out/lifelong trauma or smother your baby/get kicked in the face ten times a night.  I’m one of the lucky ones that gets to straddle both worlds. 

I recently wrote a post {here} about the benefits of sleep training, but left out one important detail when discussing my wonderfully sleep-trained one year old daughter: my co-sleeping four year old son.  Why, you might ask, aren’t both in their own rooms or both in bed with us?  The answer is simple: I don’t know.  I can tell you how we got here but I can’t tell you why, but if I had to muster a guess I’d say, because desperation.  We were desperate to stop the night wakings when my son regressed at 14 months, so we started allowing him into bed with us.  Later, we knew we wouldn’t survive the chaos of a newborn and toddler in the same room, so out of sheer necessity and fear kept the baby in her crib.  Both are cases of the tail wagging the sleep deprived dogs, but such is life with kids. 

Some parents have the luxury of choosing which sleep method they prefer, and actually following through with it.  If you’ve been blessed with babies that take to schedules, or been granted the baby whisperer gene that I severely lack, textbook techniques work for you and you can stop reading here.  Enjoy your life of peace and tranquility.  For the rest of us, when things get rough, and the toothpicks holding our eyes open begin to stab our skin, it’s time to choose the option that leads to immediate sleep, no matter how fleeting or uncomfortable.  The topic of sleep has been covered exhaustively by others with more knowledge and advice than I can provide, but what I can offer is a glimpse into our nights and what you might be missing out on:

Baby is asleep in her crib by 7:30 pm, enjoy your evening!

Four year old is still awake and can’t sleep unless you lay with him.  Go through bedtime routine, lay with him for an hour, then sneak out.  It’s now 9:30 pm; enjoy what’s left of your evening!

Co-sleeper starts to have nightmares, but since he’s in bed with you a simple back rub, shush and snuggle sends him back to a happier dreamland.  Sleep gained!

Baby is getting her molars in; stay up watching her cry on the monitor on mute as to not wake co-sleeper.  Sleep lost.

Snuggle with co-sleeper all night, cherish these moments since you know they are temporary.  Feel slightly saddened that you won’t have these moments with sleep-trained baby.

Potty accident in bed.  Strip sheets, clean and change half asleep child, cling to the dry edge of the bed rest of the night.

Get serious quality time nightly with co-sleeper as he chatters himself to sleep.  Learn so much about his day, his thoughts, his feelings.  Enjoy the bonding.

Struggle with daily guilt of potentially missing these moments with sleep-trained baby.  Feel like a terrible person and parent for making baby girl sleep alone.

Watch co-sleeper while he sleeps and memorize his four-year-old features.  Whisper I love you’s in his ear before you drift off to sleep next to him.

Get ready for work in the dark and blow dry your hair in the closet as to not wake co-sleeper in your bed; go to work with mismatched shoes and smudged makeup.

Greet happy and squealing baby in her crib, refreshed from a solid twelve hours of sleep in her quiet, comfortable sleeping environment.

Co-sleeper takes two hours to fall asleep and wakes up cranky for school, throws a morning tantrum and sends baby sister into a tizzy.

Stare at your husband from the opposite side of the bed, reach over co-sleepers sprawled sleeping body to pat each other’s hand goodnight.  Romantic and chaste.

The truth is, I don’t think I’d be able to appreciate one situation without the other.  Co-sleeping allows us so many beautiful bonding moments with our son, but having our daughter happy, in her own room and on a schedule is what works best for her.  We are better parents to both our kids with that small aspect of our lives in control and I wouldn’t go back and change things if I could.  But, we do have an escape plan for the near future.  And if that doesn’t work, let’s just say I have shiny new bunk beds filled with candy, toys and cash waiting as a backup.


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