Before having my son, Gavin, I was a nanny for many years. I had the opportunity to experience and observe many different sleep patterns in children, both with good sleepers and bad. I know many parents that choose co-sleeping and then there is the good majority that believe in independent sleeping. After observing the different sleep options for parents and children, I determined well before I had my son that independent sleeping was the best option for myself. I am a person that needs my own space when I sleep and I am not very fond of sacrificing sleep on someone else’s behalf. I know that may seem selfish but I have my own reasons.
I know many people use co-sleeping because of the bonding it creates and for breast-feeding purposes. I was only able to breast feed Gavin for the first two weeks so I never had to use co-sleeping for that purposes. From the day we brought Gavin home, we had a bassinet set up in our room ready for him to sleep in, hoping we would get a great night sleep every night (you can tell I hadn’t had a baby before). Anyway, every night we would put him in the bassinet and he would fall asleep quite quickly with little fuss. However, there were many sleep deprived nights that I wanted to break down and cry as I was sitting up in bed feeding him with my eyes half open and my mind just dreaming about my head hitting the pillow again after he was done eating. I’ll admit, there were many nights when I would doze off while holding him, then suddenly, I’d wake up startled, scared out of my mind with my heart racing, thinking ,“How irresponsible! What if I had dropped him or rolled over on him?” I know my motherly instinct would not have allowed this to happen but for those reasons alone I was not about to risk allowing Gavin and I to share a bed no matter how tired I was! On the nights when Tim got up to do the midnight feedings, I would somehow wake up and find they had fallen asleep in bed together. It seemed as though Tim was practically on top of Gavin! This freaked me out once again and I can remember screaming in the middle of the night about how this could not happen again. Call me crazy or emotional, but we are talking about a baby that I carried for months and nurtured before I even held him in my arms, I was not taking any chances with co-sleeping. I have taken many classes for infant safety and heard many stories (probably created to scare us parents away from encouraging co-sleeping) but these stories were enough for me to know what I was not going to do.
A few months ago I had the opportunity to be reassured as to why I chose independent sleeping for my family. Ever since Gavin was 4 months he has always slept in his own room alone. Tim, Gavin and I were away for the weekend visiting family and we were sharing the same room with Gavin. I was not sure how this was going to go, but I had a feeling it wasn’t going to go well. We had tried this a few times before and it never seemed to work out. We put Gavin to bed early to get a head start on the usual crying out when he is in an unfamiliar place and with the hope of us sneaking in quietly later that night to go to bed. Finally, when Gavin had fallen asleep, we went downstairs to spend time with our family and play a game. After we finished, we headed back upstairs to go to bed and quietly snuck in and got settled, but it wasn’t long after I fell asleep that Gavin woke up in a panic! I tried to ignore him for a bit to see if he would just fall back to sleep (knowing all to well this wasn’t going to happen but it was wishful thinking.) I finally give in and offered to comfort him and tried to get him back to bed. Nothing seemed to be working, he just wanted to come lay in bed with me. Ugh, of course something I don’t feel comfortable with at all. I decided then, “What’s the harm if he will fall asleep? It’s only one night.” We got all settled in and I try to keep my distance from him just in case I happen to roll over (I do toss and turn a lot and usually take up most of the space in bed). I don’t remember much there after putting him in bed with me. I was exhausted and fell back to sleep quickly. Well, I jumped up around 5 am very startled. I put my hand on Gavin’s chest and he didn’t feel like he was breathing. I picked him up and his head just falls backwards and he felt a bit limp. Finally, I pick him up, about to run out of the room screaming, when he suddenly lets out a gasp of breath. My mind was racing and I wanted to break down and cry as I’m holding him; thanking God that he is okay.
In that moment, as I’m laying him back in his bed trying to collect myself so I don’t wake others up, I knew that I made the right decision to train Gavin to be an independent sleeper.
Is your family a co-sleeper or independent sleeper household? Why did you choose co-sleeper or independent sleeper? Do you feel your choice has been beneficial to your family? Do you have any stories you can share?