Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Parenting with less stress {Bedtime and Co-sleeping}

Concerning my children and bedtime and sleeping I feel very blessed. I have known of other families that seem to have a lot of trouble in this area and we haven't. I think we got a good bunch of kids! :-) (God also knows what we can handle I think.) Anyway today I thought I would share our methods in case they might be able to help anybody else as they raise their kids.

 So concerning bedtime....

For our Babies:
We did have beds for each of them. With Mara we were given a little bassinet which I had fun getting all set up before she was born and then I don't think she ever slept a night in it. I do remember putting her in it for a daytime nap a couple of times. :-) Obviously she was sleeping somewhere and that somewhere was our bed. We are blessed with a California king size bed so there was plenty of room (But my parents had all of us kids sleep with them when we were babies and that was in a double bed, so a king size bed is not essential). For the rest of our kids we did again set up a crib or bassinet and I did start using it a little more because we placed it right next to our bed rather than in another room but generally I would just put the baby in it when they first went to sleep and then later on when they woke up I would pull them into bed with me.

  What I liked about Co-sleeping was:
  • I could nurse them easily without having to get up and be wide awake. Mainly- I didn't lose as much sleep. With sleep being a precious commodity for a young mother this worked very well for me.
  • Being near my babies and being able to be sure they were okay.
  • I have read that is reduces the risk of SIDS because the baby follows the parents sleeping pattern and heart beat.
  • We had more bonding time.
   Co-sleeping isn't without its interesting moments. Generally when I would bring the baby to bed I would nurse them (while lying down) and then slide over closer to Ken again and give the baby space. While we slept Ken would slide over a bit to have more space and then the whole process would be repeated with me pulling the baby over to nurse and then sliding over towards Ken after which Ken would slide over towards the edge. I don't know how many mornings we would wake up to find Ken on the very edge of the bed and the baby would have 1/2 of the bed to him/herself.

  I know some parents have many concerns about this method such as:
~"They might fall out!" I'll be honest, this did happen a couple of times but it was when they were bigger (and rolling), it was on carpet and they didn't get hurt- we just both got scared.
~"They'll never want to leave your bed." We chose to "kick" them out at around 1 year and never had much difficulty with that, none of our kids sleep with us now.
~"We won't be able to have physical intimacy as a couple." This doesn't need to be unless you choose it to be, and if that is so you need to get creative and fix that problem.
~"We'll crush them." As long as you haven't been drinking alcohol or are on drugs (which Ken and I never did and I hope you are doing that either!) this is very unlikely to happen. I did prefer to keep the babies over on the other side of me (I slept in the middle) since I would bring them to bed in the middle of the night and with Ken being a pretty sound sleeper he wasn't necessarily aware of it.

I never had a baby who slept through the night but with co-sleeping I was able to survive even with middle of the night feedings. It worked quite well for me. When our babies were still under a year they were pretty much on the same schedule as us, going to bed when we did and then getting up a little after us but then they would take many naps.

For our toddlers:
Around 1 year of age Ken and I chose to train our children to sleep through the night and the co-sleeping ceased. I remember there was a couple of tearful nights but I would go to their bed (which was in our room) and pat their back and try to help them get back to sleep without nursing. Those couple of nights were a bit of a challenge but they were soon over and then they would sleep through the night. We did try to make sure that all of their needs were met before we ever put them to bed. That they had just been fed (if they were still nursing) or had a drink, they had a dry diaper and were warm enough.

  At this point in time we started putting them to bed a little earlier and they started napping a little less.

For our kids:
We don't have an early bedtime for our kids compared to many families that I know. Our kids go to bed around 9:15-9:30pm. This works for us as generally they don't have to be up super early either as we eat breakfast as a family at around 8 am. Since Ken doesn't have to be to work super early and we home school we can be a bit more flexible. Going to bed a bit later works well when we are out in the evening for church or any other event.

Ken is in charge of bedtime with the kids. This started when Jonathan was a baby and Mara was 2. At this point I was getting both kids ready for bed and then I would take my shower and by the time I got that all done it would take quite a while and Ken would be waiting for me to finally be ready for bed. So he ended up taking over making sure Mara was ready for bed (though I would do the bathing when necessary) and then read her a bedtime story. Each time a baby was added Ken would have another kid to be responsible for though then they could take care of themselves fairly well.

 Our routine now is that the kids dress themselves for bed and brush their teeth (at this point they are all fairly self-sufficient) and then Ken reads a bedtime story to them. After they are in bed I sing a song and pray with them. We both kiss and hug them all and tell them goodnight.

  One thing we have been fairly firm on in our training is that once they are put in bed, they stay in bed. Otherwise bedtime can turn into a very long drawn out process with children popping out with a new need every few minutes. Sometimes our kids do forget to go the bathroom or get a drink and we aren't inflexible but they know better then to get up and mess around.

  Now that Mara and Jonathan are reading a lot we do allow them most nights (they request it each night from Ken and he gives them a limit) to read with a lamp on for a bit. Usually he allows around 2 chapters.

Over all bedtime has gone pretty smoothly for us. We have had to do some training but it has worked well and bedtime is pretty stress free. I do really like the traditions that have developed with reading, singing and praying to help them get ready for sleep.

  What works for you all when putting your kids to be? Do you like Co-sleeping or not? I would love to hear your opinions too.


All in a Day said...

We do the co-sleeping thing, and it is Mike that has ended up falling out of the bed, not the baby! :)

Miriam said...

We have practiced co-sleeping with all four of our babies and plan to continue with our fifth. The difference is that when our now-11-year-old was a tiny baby, the prevailing trend among our church family was to sleep train from birth. I felt very strongly that this wouldn't work for us even though some families we know and love did find it worked for them. None of our kids slept with us past 14 months or so, although we found they did prefer to move into a room with big sisters! I love to read your stories and hope many young moms are encouraged by them!

P.S. I think the picture of your daughter sleeping tucked in with her dolls is just precious. :)

Anonymous said...

We love cosleeping. With our first we started out trying to have the baby sleep in a crib next to our bed. It didn't work, she wanted to touch me. So we coslept. She ended up sleeping much better (though still waking a fair amount, it was much much less). We ended up feeling pressured by well meaning friends and around one year we tried to transition her out (to a crib) and it was awful for us. So we went back to cosleeping until she seemed more ready around 1 1/2. Then she transitioned fine and only came into our bed occasionally. At 2 she was out of the crib, in her own room, no issues. Our second is currently cosleeping. We have a side rail on our bed and it works well. We have a crib in another room where she is for naps and also the beginning of the night until her first waking- usually around the time we go to bed or sometime before 12 am and then she comes in with us. We have no desire to move her at this point, but of course will down the road although I'm not sure when, as we love it and know that she won't be there forever and I treasure this right now, it works really well for us.

Becky R said...

I learned co-sleeping was the only way to get some rest with a nursing baby. Even though we are done nursing, mine still sleep with me, but I don't mind, just wish I had a king size bed. I think my boys actually just like my bed better than there's at this point. LOL. Not much is written on co-sleeping with older kids, but it works for our family.

Abbi said...

It is fun to hear from all you other that have found this to work too!

Melissa said...

I was scared out of co-sleeping by so many stories. I never tried it when Ezra was young. I had the bassinet by my bed for the first week (he was 9 days old our first night at home) and did not sleep well at all. I would hear him every time he moved. So by 3 weeks he was in his own room. The only time Ezra has ever been in our bed is when he was very sick, otherwise he only wants to sleep in his bed. The problem I have now is he sleeps in our room. I am not sure how I am going to make the transition for him to go back into his own room. I am not sure if I will try it when this baby comes but seeing all of these positive stories makes it not seem as scary to me. Thanks Abby for your posts on parenting. I have enjoyed everyone.


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