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Clarifying Sleep, Not Sleeping and the Family Bed

I'm going to clarify a few things about the sleep situation in my house.

Yes, I probably do complain about sleep a lot. However, I doubt anyone has noticed when months go by when I don't even mention sleep. That is because the sleep is really good at those times. I'm not normally supersticious, but I am about this because it feels like the few times I've mentioned good sleep happening, it's gone right out the window (it would probably happen anyway, but just in case it's karma...). So you should all know that if I'm not talking about sleep, than the Pumpkin is sleeping through the night in her own bed consistently, the Pookie is getting sleeps in reasonable chunks and Londo and I are well rested. (It happens! I swear! It's happened all this week, except for the hour early wake ups because of the time change!)

To understand some of our parenting decisions around sleep, you have to understand where Londo and I are coming from with some childhood history.

caramama's baggage:
I had trouble falling asleep when I was little. My mom doesn't remember it being an issue, but my dad does and I DO! I have vivid memories of two different scenerios that would happen when I was 4 or 5 or 6 and had trouble falling asleep:
1) My dad would lie down with me to help me settle down and fall asleep. Probably half the time, he would fall asleep first and I would lean over him with a big smile until he opened his eyes and we would laugh. I would finally fall asleep and he'd go back to his own bed. (This is what my dad remembers.)
2) I would call for my mom from my bed, and my dad would yell to leave mom alone because she was trying to sleep and that I should just go to sleep. It wasn't that easy, just go to sleep. (My dad does not remember this.)

Guess which scenerio I preferred? Not having anyone come to me when I couldn't fall asleep was very upsetting. I was a sensitive child, and this was actually a bit traumatic to me. As an adult I totally understand, but as a child, I felt a little abandoned that my parents wouldn't come when I felt I needed them. Meanwhile I have very fond memories of when my dad would lie with me, even if he'd get upset and tell me to settle down.

Early on, Londo and I discussed my feelings on this and how I didn't want to do CIO. He agreed and was/is completely on board.

Londo's baggage:
As a child, Londo was scared of the dark. He has a very busy brain, and when it gets going it's hard to settle down. When it would get going in the dark, he would get scared and have trouble being by himself. (This is my understanding of it.)

Londo's parents always let him come into bed with them if/when he woke in the night. It didn't matter the reason or the age. It was always an option to him. He didn't always need to go into their bed, but he felt safe and secure knowing he always could.

Early on, Londo and I discussed his feelings on this and how he wanted to always let the kids in our bed if they needed it. I agreed and was/is completely on board.

Parenting the Pumpkin at night:
The thing about my lovely daughter is that she has had issues with falling asleep and sleeping alone since she was born. Before she was born, we had decided that we would set her up in our room in the cosleep that attaches to the bed. She would sleep in there with us for at least the first 6 months. As a breastfeeding mother, I knew it would be helpful to have her right there next to me for the feedings. As a father who was planning to share as much of the night-time parenting as possible, Londo also found it easy to have her, a changing table and a chair for rocking right there in our room.

Without once again going into my daughter's history of sleep, I'm just going to sum it up by saying that when there is a sleep regression, growth spurt, teething, developmental spurt, etc., it seriously affects my daughter's sleep. It doesn't matter where she is sleeping and how well she had been sleeping. We've had periods where she slept through the night in our room, her crib in the nursery, a big girl bed in the nursery, and the big girl bed in her big girl room. Slept through with no problems. But then, for whatever reason, she also has periods where she is unable to sleep no matter where she is and what we do to help. Luckily, it's gotten better as she's gotten older.

For those of you who have never had a child who really had serious, long-term difficulties sleeping, I don't think you will truly understand or even believe me when I say that it's just the way she is and it's not due to our parenting styles and decisions. And you don't have to believe me or agree with me.

For those of you who have had a child like mine, I'm guessing you might have nodded your head in agreement to what I've written. I hear stories of hope from Charisse, posts on how to cope from Cloud and words of understanding from mom2boys* and others. It's always nice to know that my child isn't the only one like this and that there are other parents who struggle through some of the nights as we do.

And that's why I continue to write about the sleep issues in my house. It's in a large part to share my stories so others out there with difficult sleepers will know they are not alone. Partly it's also to vent and complain. Even though we try no-cry methods to get her to sleep and even though we let her come in our bed when she can't sleep, I am still going to vent and complain about the rough nights. And that doesn't mean that I or Londo have any desire to change our parenting decisions. I'm a woman. I get to complain when I want. ;-)

A final point I wanted to write out is something that Londo and I were discussing the other day. We definitely lean towards the "attachment parenting" style by instinct. Luckily, we both have the same feelings on the matter and are usually on the same page. In addition, we are both research-a-holics, and we researched the heck out of parenting, attachment parenting, co-sleeping and all sorts of other related things.

We believe the research that supports attachment parenting. (Check out this site for an overview of the science supporting it.) We believe that providing a secure parent-child relationship in which we are there for them to meet their needs in these ways allows them to go off on their own when they are ready and in the ways they are ready. We believe the research that says attachment parenting and co-sleeping does not make kids over-clingy, but instead provides them with a feeling of having a safety net, thereby allowing them to feel free to explore and adventure on their own.

We do not feel the need to push our children to independence. In fact, the Pumpkin is EXTREMELY independent in almost every way. We believe that self-soothing is a skill like any other and that different children are capable of different levels of self-soothing at different times. We can encourage its development, but we can't force it. Just like communication skills or physical (movement) skills. We do not believe that the skill of self-soothing is tied to a child's ability to be independent. It's simply another skill that children will learn within the time frame that is right for them. We believe that as parents, it is our responsibility to help her with this skill and be supportive of her during the time period she is unable to master it.

I believe that other ways of parenting are great also. I never believe anyone who says that [whatever way they believe in] is the only way to parent. Each person, each parent, each child is different and unique. We all have to find ways that work for us and our families. This is the way that feels comfortable to Londo and me and seems to work for our children.

Finally, Londo was saying to me the other day that this is really a short time period in our children's lives and our lives. Soon (too soon) the kids will be shutting doors in our faces and running off to be with their friends instead of spending time with us. He said that he wants to enjoy the time with them when they'll let us snuggle with them and sleep with them. When the Pumpkin comes into our bed in the middle of the night these days (it's maybe once a week), she almost always immediately cuddles up to my husband or me and falls back asleep. That's some sweet snuggling time, and we are cherishing it while we can.

But I'm still going to complain at times. Cause dudes, I'm tired. ;-)

*Corrected mom2boys's name! Oops! Sorry. I even proof-read, but I have been crazy at work and home. And did I mention tired?


caramama said…
Hmmm. That was longer and rant-y than I originally intended...
LFP said…
thank you for sharing your experience. you are right, people who haven't been through it do not understand. my husband & I have a similar approach to yours. he's actually in sleeping w/our 4 year old again after a month of multiple wake ups/night. I don't do well co-sleeping, and am grateful that he's up for it.

I am soooo tired though, after we got the Boy sleeping w/Dad again, then I had insomnia, and my sleep is still not as restorative as I'd like.

good luck!! we'll get through it!
Lisa F from askMoxie
mom2boys said…
mom2boys here (although I think boys2mom has a nice catchy pop-group quality to it ;) ) -

I just wanted to say that more than a post on sleep and parenting that really read like a testament to the strength of your relationship with your husband as you navigate being parents together. I really enjoyed it.
I always thought attachment parenting was BS, but then I had a preemie and new instinctively that that was what she needed, and still needs. That doesn't mean I carry her around all the time. She's definitely independent and often wants to sit by herself and play or crawl around on her own.

Some babies need attachment parenting. Some don't. I think it's good to follow your instincts. Now that I've had a kid you won't catch me having opinions about anyone else's parenting style unless it's totally off the rails (like our neighbor with a 10-month-old who is 7 months pregnant and stands outside chain smoking every day -- that is messed up).
Cloud said…
Glad to hear my ravings about sleep (or the lack thereof) are helpful to someone!

I do think it is hard to understand if your kid "gets" sleep. Already, Petunia is sleeping sooo much better than Pumpkin did at her age. We're using the same parenting style... so its obvious to me that its something innate in the kid. But if I'd had Petunia first, maybe it wouldn't be so obvious.

Anyway, the entire sleep issue experience has taught me a lot of humility as a parent. I try to take that with me whenever someone complains about an issue with their kid that isn't an issue with ours.

And my #1 parenting mantra is: Parent the kid you have. Meaning, listen to your kid and do what you think the kid needs.
I'm Not Skippy said…
So you and your husband had sleep issues and rather than break the cycle, you're going to pass on your past issues to your child now?

I have to disagree about the attachment parenting. I know this from experience with my sister and her kids. The attachment parenting, including cosleeping, caused her children grow into old children who are completely unable to do anything for themselves. It also helped contribute to the break up of her marriage.

Maybe it is the kid not the parent. I may just be lucky to have a good sleeper, but I tend to think it also had to do with how we approached sleep transitions. It may make me unpopular with you and your readers, but I don't think cosleeping is the answer.

I also think the attachment parenting is just a way for parents to feel better about spoiling their kids. My son knows we are there if he needs us, he knows his needs are met, and we are no where near being attachment parents. I think he benefits from us being more hands off. He learns to be more independent.

Of course, it's all really just a big sociological experiment. We won't know if what we're doing is right for 20 or so years.
Londo said…

Saying that colloquially, "someone I know did this thing, and it didn't work out, so that thing sucks," is pretty simple minded. Big choices like how to raise our kids are rarely as black and white as you seem to think.
I'm Not Skippy said…
But the argument for what you're doing is "someone else did this so it can't be that bad." Isn't that just as simple minded?

Doing what is right is seldom the same as doing what is easy. Co-sleeping is what is easy. So is nursing too long because weaning makes the kid cry, not potty training for real because the kid doesn't want to do it, giving in when they ask for a Happy Meal (I wonder why childhood obesity is on the rise). . . dealing with your kid being unhappy at times is hard, but it's also the right thing to do for you and for them.

Instead of focusing on the attachment "giving in" parenting, check out something like Marybeth Hick's book Bringing Up GEEKS. She offers a parenting approach that focusing on the fact that you are an adult and can say "no." It's aimed more at parents of older kids, but the same concept holds true for younger kids. You aren't there to make them a happy or popular kid, you're there to mold them into a responsible adult. Childhood will be over in 15 or so years, then they have another 60-80 to go where what you do now will effect how they act.

Ultimately it doesn't matter that much to me. This is the last comment I'll write on the subject. You believe you're right I believe I'm right. Neither of us is going to sway the other.
caramama said…
@I'm Not Skippy - I think you are confusing attachment parenting with something else. Maybe permissive parenting or just bad parenting? It's not about doing the easy thing, and in fact there are quite a lot of hard things about it. Also, it sounds like you are making a lot of assumptions about my and my husband's parenting based on very few things you know about me.

I agree with the general sentiment of your second comment. However, I can't get past feeling offended at what you wrote in your first comment. Specifically:
-"So you and your husband had sleep issues and rather than break the cycle, you're going to pass on your past issues to your child now?"
-"I also think the attachment parenting is just a way for parents to feel better about spoiling their kids."

Not only do I completely disagree with both of those statments (among other things), but I can't think of a nice, non-condescending way to take them.

It seems to me that you aren't trying to understand a point of view other than your own.
caramama said…
@Lisa F - Glad that your husband is up for the co-sleeping. I hope he gets through this phase quickly! So sorry you're dealing with insomnia on top of it. That sucks. But you're right, we'll get through it.

@mom2boys - Thanks for your kind words. I think it's much easier when parents are on the same page in most areas of parenting. My husband and I are a team, and we work together. It really helps.

@Two Shorten the Road - I hear ya. You've got to listen to your instincts, and when you have a preemie they especially have specific needs.

@Cloud - We are having a similar experience with the Pookie. I'm just amazed at the innate differences between my kids, even though we are the same parents.
MommyEm said…
Perhaps we should take a step back and take stock of what is really important here – Pumpkin and Pookie. Are they loved and treated with respect? Yes. Are they provided with a stable home surrounded by supportive and loving family and caregivers? Yes. Do they have two dedicated, thoughtful, intelligent parents doing the best to be parents of two children? Absolutely. Are they meeting developmental milestones? Yes. Will they get educational opportunities and life experiences that will round out their lives? A hearty yes. Aren’t these things the most important factors to their development as children? Sure, others may not agree on Caramama and Londo’s parenting decisions – attachment, co-sleeping, discipline methods – but I do believe that a healthy, stable and loving environment is much more vital to development than the nuances of when and how Pumpkin and Pookie sleep.
Cloud said…
@I'm not Skippy- attachment parenting doesn't equal "giving in" to your child.

For the record, we're not cosleeping in that we don't have children in our bed right now. For about 6 months, we did let Pumpkin join us in our bed if she woke up in the middle of the night, because that got us all the most sleep. She sleeps through the night in her own bed now (except for when she loses her socks and wakes me up at 4 a.m. to come find them, but that's another story). Petunia is in a cosleeper next to our bed- and you may or may not know, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having the baby in the same room as the parents until 6 months old.

I'm currently rereading parts of What's Going on in There? by Lise Eliot, and I came across the bit that summarizes what parenting style the research indicates is most likely to produce happy, well-adjusted kids who grow into happy, well-adjusted adults. The parenting qualities that research studies show are most likely to produce such kids are: nurturing (physically affectionate and emotionally supportive), involved (consistently spend time in shared activities), responsive (accept the child's individuality and work together to solve problems), and demanding (expect appropriate behavior, set rules and enforce them). Importantly, the research indicates that demanding works best when combined with responsive- demanding on its own doesn't lead to as good results across large numbers of families. (Demanding + responsive often gets called "authoritative" parenting, whereas demanding + non-responsive gets called "authoritarian" parenting).

Anyway, the point is that you can be responsive to your child's individual personality (e.g., keep a kid company while she falls asleep) and still have clear rules (e.g., no more play time after the bath). This is the style I'm personally aiming for, because it feels right to me and because the research says it is most likely to give me the outcome I want, which is a happy, well-adjusted adult. From what I've read of Caramama and Londo's parenting, they seem to be aiming for something similar.
-goofydaddy said…
Good explanation, you write well. :-)

This is neither commentary on your co-sleeping, nor is it meant to persuade you to change your ways. Just some hindsight on my part with our 3 year old, and what just happened last night...

Here's some reasons why we don't do co-sleeping.
1. Head lice. our daughter got it from school, and transferred it to Mommy cause sometimes she gets up at 6:30 instead of 7am, and we let her (I mean MAKE her, cause she never used to like it) snuggle with us in our bed for that 30 minutes.
2. wetting the bed. thankfully, she's only done this once in the past 9 months, and it was in her bed.
and lastly,
3. vomit. she just woke up last night and vomited all over her bed. this has happened only twice in 2 years, and it's traumatic for everyone. But it grosses me out to think that it could have been in our bed, all over us too.
Whenever someone criticizes attachment parenting, an evil part of me wants them to have a kid with certain special needs (such as sleep issues, etc) so that person can grow some empathy. That would take care of the smugness that oozes out of those posts.

BTW, sure, I could let my daughter CIO in her crib, but then I'd just have to go in there and clean up loads of vomit after about 5-10 minutes. (She's also a refluxer and it gets really bad when she cries for long periods of time.) Anyone who criticizes my choice to make sleep a gentle time must really like cleaning up vomit, changing crib sheets, and bathing and comforting an upset baby.

Also, I slept with my preemie on my chest in the early days because then I could tell immediately when she stopped breathing and I could tap her on the back and get her breathing going again.

I don't understand why Skippy would go out of her way to criticize your parenting style, which is clearly what she's doing. If I disagree with a blogger, I stop visiting. I don't write pissy comments on their site.
I just read Skippy's last comment. I say "no" to my kid all the time. It has nothing to do with how I choose to get her to sleep, etc.

I guess he's just uninformed.
Londo said…

"But the argument for what you're doing is "someone else did this so it can't be that bad." Isn't that just as simple minded?"

No. The difference is you are using one catastrophic example to prove something couldn't possibly have any validity, whereas I am saying that through careful research, planning, and whatever instincts Cara and I have, we made a choice about a parenting style, and in no way take away ANYTHING from any other style.

"Co-sleeping is what is easy."

Spoken like someone who knows absolutely nothing about it.

"...dealing with your kid being unhappy at times is hard, but it's also the right thing to do for you and for them."

Of course it is. There are lots of ways to teach your kids how to deal with adversity and their emotions.

"Instead of focusing on the attachment "giving in" parenting, check out something like Marybeth Hick's book Bringing Up GEEKS. She offers a parenting approach that focusing on the fact that you are an adult and can say "no."

I will check out that book, I like to learn about the merits of different approaches even though I may disagree with their basic principals. Additionally, there are DOZENS of excellent sources in the link Cara put in the original post. I recommend reading a few of them so you can get a better understanding of what attachment parenting truly means. Clearly, you aren't even trying to understand its practice outside the extremely limited example of your sister.

"You believe you're right I believe I'm right. Neither of us is going to sway the other."

Agreed. The difference is that I am not trying to sway you at all and, in fact, am willing to believe your way has validity. You seem to be of the mindset that my way is going to make my kids turn out to be psychotic or something, and lead to the end of mine and Cara's marriage.

Like you, I will stop responding after this one. Good luck with your way.
caramama said…
@goofydaddy - Gah! Head lice! What a pain. I totally get why you wouldn't want the kiddo in the bed for all those reasons. We've actually had pee and throw up on our bed before, thanks to the pets. It's no fun, but it's pretty rare for us.

I hope your girl is feeling better!

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