Monday, July 2, 2012

Thinking Outside the Crib

By Elizabeth

Dear Mumbling Mommy,

I write for any open suggestions on how to transition my child over to his crib? He is seven months old. He is quickly outgrowing the glider that he is currently sleeping over six hours a night in. When I try to put him in his crib his eyes instantly open and the fit begins. It's the same with nap time. Then you start the sleeping process all over again. When people find out he is not sleeping in his crib, I get the snickers and "the looks" like I am doing something wrong or am not strong enough to let him "cry it out". I've tried the cry it out method, multiple times. The child is strong willed, and determined, (which are great traits to have in life, just not toward bed time!) There is got to be a secret to make this a smooth transition.

_________________

Dear Frustrated Mommy,

Consider co-sleeping instead of a crib
The first piece of advice I have for you is “don’t worry about what your friends think.” Being a mom is hard enough without worrying about what everyone else thinks about the job we’re doing.

Friends, strangers, grandparents, etc. don’t get to decide how our babies sleep. That’s a personal decision that is up to the family involved only. And you’re under no obligation to give a status report on where he sleeps or how long, except perhaps to your baby’s doctor. Your baby reminds you of my second son, so I’d like to share from my experiences with my two boys.


My first son, Jonathan, started off in a hand-me-down bassinet that he outgrew in 6 weeks. Then we moved him to the crib in his nursery, down the hall from us. Even though we had a small house, I would faithfully listen to the baby monitor each night to keep track of his sleeping. He was a good sleeper and started “sleeping through the night” at about 3 months. No problems, and no, we didn’t try any “cry it out” methods. But every time he was sick, I would be up half the night going back and forth between his room and our room or with him on the couch in the middle of the night. On those nights, I barely slept, but I thought that’s just how it was supposed to be.

When he was two and a half, we had my second son, Lucas. Lucas was radically different from his brother from Day One. He cried louder, nursed harder, and did everything with an intensity and will that we weren’t quite prepared for. We had gotten rid of the rickety bassinet and got a co-sleeper crib instead. We loved it, though he sometimes still wanted to be up against me instead of a whole 12 inches away in his sleeper. He outgrew it (and we moved to another state) when he was 7 months old.

At that point we were living with my parents while our old house sold, and they put a crib in our bedroom. We put Lucas down in the crib each night, but it took forever to get him to settle into it, and he still woke in the night. He did not like going back into the crib, and we lost a lot of sleep trying to get him to do so. After several nights, we realized it was easier on everyone just to let him sleep with us. He ended up spending about a third of the night in his crib and the rest of the time with us. That’s when we realized we were “co-sleeping,” something we had heard of with our firstborn but never tried full-time.

We moved again when he was 10 months and were in a 2-bedroom apartment. We initially put the boys together in the second bedroom, but we weren’t sure if Lucas would stay there. He would not go down in his crib at all in the new place, and it was miserable trying to get him to sleep in it. Plus, his complaining kept his brother from sleeping. We gave up on the crib quickly and let him “move in” with us full-time.

Some might ask why we didn’t fight harder to let him “cry it out.” That theory has never appealed to us, and we’ve never used it. An increasing body of scientific evidence backs this up; responding to babies’ cries and co-sleeping are good for both mom and baby. As one expert writes, babies “were not designed biologically or psychologically to sleep in complete social isolation.” 
That quote is from James Dr. McKenna, PhD, Chair of Anthropology and Director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab at the University of Notre Dame. His sleep lab has conducted a number of studies on co-sleeping and discovered that when babies sleep with their parents, both the babies and the parents sleep better and have a closer relationship, too.

Co-sleeping needs to be safe, and there is a lot of information on how to do it safely. Dr. McKenna’s website provides a lot of information on how to do this. 

We moved into our new house a year ago, and Lucas still slept with us for a while. Eventually we set him up in a toddler bed in his brother’s room. He can get in and out of it easily; we didn’t want him to be trapped in a larger bed as if it was a crib. He still likes to sleep with us for the last part of the night. When he’s sick, he’s with us for the whole night, and I know how he’s breathing or if he’s running a fever. I’m not sitting up all night in the other room, or worried over the monitor, like I was with my firstborn. I’ve found co-sleeping to be a wonderful solution for our active, intense child.

My husband has enjoyed the co-sleeping arrangement, too. He felt like he bonded with our second son faster than with the first one, and it’s been much easier for him to put Lucas down or comfort him.

It’s not up to me how or where your baby sleeps. But if he wants to be with you, look into how to do it safely, and give co-sleeping a try. You might find that the best way to deal with the crib is to get rid of it altogether.

More Resources:






You can contact Elizabeth by emailing her at elizabeth@mumblingmommy.com

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2 comments:

  1. While we have opted to go the Ferber route in our house, I like Dr. McKenna. We used the same Arm's Reach Cosleeper bassinet (endorsed by McKenna) that you guys had during the first few months, when babies are too young for sleep training. I loved being able to roll over in bed and pat my daughter to comfort her, and it was nice not having to climb out of bed and walk down a dark, drafty hall to nurse her in the night. I admit I pulled her into bed with me on the harder nights, too.

    I think consistency is probably the most important factor when it comes to sleep, regardless of your parenting/sleep philosophy. Attachment parenting (and not allowing your baby to cry) is popular, and that's fine, but if parents are 100% on board with attachment parenting, they cosleep. If parents are in the Ferber camp, they let kids cry and work it out. Either way, the problem of nighttime wakings is largely resolved. Instead, a lot of parents like the idea of attachment parenting and do many AP types of things, but they still try to get kids to sleep in their own beds in their own rooms, which is hard to do without setting firm, Ferber-like limits. It's a hybrid approach that doesn't seem to work well (at least with the families I know) and leaves everyone sleep deprived.

    You've done a fine job with your boys, Elizabeth!

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  2. Thanks, Rachael! I'm glad we can agree to disagree and still respect each other as parents. Your girls certainly don't seem to be suffering emotionally either.

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