Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Exit Light, Enter Night... Take My Hand...

I've noticed that many - or most - of my blog entries have been tagged with "sleep" on the bottom. That's kind of entertaining, considering the amount of time spent trying to get the baby to sleep, keep the baby asleep, or prepare for when the baby wakes up from sleep. It really is an obsession with us. I suppose it beats talking about baby poop.

My wife and I have been having a long series of very serious conversations about our sleeping arrangements lately. For the last three months or so, the baby has been sleeping in bed with us, sleeping directly in between us. This is, I believe, a traditional "co-sleeping" or "family bed" arrangement. It just works for us, right now.

We've evolved into this arrangement slowly. When The Boy was younger, we would put him to sleep in his crib, wake up to bring him in for feeding, and put him back to sleep in his crib. Then, when he woke in the morning, we'd take him inside to the family room for snuggling and playing. This was a convenient arrangment; no bottles were necessary, considering that we've been breastfeeding the whole time (as we continue to do). But, at some point in The Boy's development, we hit a bit of a development: the baby, and the wife, don't have to be awake anymore while the middle-of-the-night feeding occurs.

So, what wound up happening was, the baby would come in with us, the two of them would fall asleep, and - if I didn't wake up and put the baby back in the crib - all of us would wake up four hours later in our family bed. Eventually, we started skipping the middle steps, and we just brought the baby to bed with us in the beginning of the evening. This way, nobody really wakes up for the 2 or 3AM feeding - he cries a little bit, the booby comes out, and everyone falls back asleep while The Boy eats. It works for us.

Understand, though, that this is a relatively stable situation. My wife and I are both immobile sleepers - we don't toss and turn, we don't roll over or move while we sleep. The Baby, also, is not a mobile sleeper. Once he's in between us, he doesn't flail or kick in his sleep, he doesn't rotate or anything like that. He sleeps like we do: in one place, and thoroughly. He does usually sleep on his side instead of his back; when it's just the two of us (him & me), he tends to roll over onto his stomach and sleep like I do. That's pretty cute.

This has inspired a number of conversations between my wife and myself, as each of us is concerned that the other is unhappy with the sleeping arrangement. Neither of us is unhappy. This was works and seems to be the most efficient and enjoyable for all parties involved. Is it ideal? No. I'm a very tactile person - physical contact is important to me. (Not talking sex, here, although the baby in bed does present opportunities for creative problem solving.) I miss not snuggling with my wife. It's difficult to give her the good night kiss I've given her for years, because I don't want to wake or crush the baby. But in one sense, I agree with her statement: "I am unwilling to listen to my son cry for minutes or hours just because someone else tells me that I need to change my sleeping arrangements."

I agree with that. I've read most of the infamous Ferber book. I think The Wife read the whole thing - marching band got in the way of the ending for me. Yes, one of the sleeping method "fixes" that he speaks about talks about allowing the child to cry it out. But, he's not talking about a willy-nilly, arbitrary decision to change sleeping habits and locations. It's not going to do any good for The Boy to "cry it out," because the same bottom-line problem exists: he still needs that 1 or 2 or 3 AM feeding (depending on when he eats last) to make it through the night. I am unwilling to wake up, go into his room, pick him up, carry him inside, wait until he's done eating, then put him back to bed in his crib. My wife is unwilling to wake up, go into his room, pick him up, carry him inside, wait until he's done eating, then put him back to bed in his crib. So, that neatly solves that - unless someone is willing to come to the house to do that for us, then we're "stuck" the way we are.

If he was a different boy, then things would be different. If he was a wild sleeper - a kicker / puncher / flailer - then he's be in his own room, crying or no crying. If he had many, many loud dreams, then he'd be in his own room. The way things have evolved has allowed us all to get the maximum amount of sleep at night.

I understand that things are going to need to change for him to begin sleeping in his own room. When his eating habits have changed such that he can make it from his bedtime until the next morning without a full feeding in the middle of the night, then we begin the discussion of putting him back in his own bed. I should probably start putting him down for naps in his own room instead of in our bed, but most of the time, I nap with him. He will nap for a solid hour and a half if I'm next to him; he'll wake up, see that I'm asleep, play with the sheets or pillow (the other pillow is placed to prevent him from rolling off of the bed on the other side) for a little while, then snuggle into me and go back to sleep. I nap with him in the morning and in the midafternoon, and we're both happy with the arrangement.

Nothing, after all, is better than a gorgeous baby snuggling up to you, sticking his thumb in his mouth, and going to sleep. I could, however, do without the open-palm smacks to the head when he really wants me to wake up.

Anyway, step one will likely be to bring the crib in our room for a week - let him sleep in his bed, but be in the same room with us. It's not the most convenient way, because our room isn't that big. We'll manage. Then we'll move the crib back into his room and start the whole bedtime routine thing. We'll make it work.

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