You get to a point in your mothering career where you actually get the results of your "experiments". I can't think of a better way to put that. We are inundated with advice from our relatives, friends with kids and complete strangers. We have to decide what's right for our family. I did a lot of reading while pregnant with my first child and continue to educate myself on different ideas and parenting styles. In the end, I make the decision that I feel will work best for us. So far, so good.
There is a lot of debate on sleeping. How to put your kids to bed, the benefits and risks of co-sleeping, setting consistent routines, all pointing to which is best to avoid sleep issues and allow the best sleep for the children. It's a lot of information. I've wondered if my choices would negatively impact our children. I've found out recently that it's not as big a deal as it's made out to be...at least not in our case.
I did not consciously set out to co-sleep. We bought the crib, outfitted the nursery and waited for the arrival of our son. Once I laid eyes on him I didn't want him out of my sight. I slept with him on our couch for the first 3 months, using the excuse that it was easier to nurse in the middle of the night and didn't require getting up to retrieve the baby. When I went back to work, and worked 50 hours+ a week, having him next to me at night became even more important. We moved upstairs to the bed and he stayed there until he was 2.5. We moved him to a toddler bed to make room for the new baby that would soon be coming. He had had the toddler bed for over a year but we were slow in getting around to using it. When we did, Hubster or I would lay with him until he was sound asleep, one of those things your warned against as a new parent. "It's important for children to learn to fall asleep by themselves." I figured there was plenty of time for that.
Along came Puddin Pop and the 3 months on the couch returned. Looking back, I was keeping her (and him) all to myself. I didn't want to share that precious snuggle time. After 3 months we again bypassed the crib and took her straight to our bed. I love the feel of my children snuggled up next to me. I feel safe knowing I can check on them throughout the night and I am right there making them feel safe. When Hubster is out of town I bring both kids into bed with me and love having them there throughout the night.
Fast forward to a couple months ago.
Puddin Pop has had her own twin bed since she was 18 months old (Handsome moved to a double just before his sister was born) she just recently (at age 4) has started sleeping in it regularly.
At the beginning of summer we instructed the kids that we would try over the summer to get them to sleep on their own. We were hit and (mostly) miss on this one. Knowing you're giving up that snuggle time makes you want it even more. That's my feeling. At the end of summer we spent a week in Nags Head with another family. Handsome, PP and Sasha (not her real name) all shared a room with bunk beds. They did an excellent job going to bed on their own and we figured, once back home, it was the perfect time to put our plan into action. The kids are now 4 and 7. They have never had a structured bed time routine. They have never gone to sleep without a parent there to snuggle with them until they dosed off. They often fought over which parent was going to "go to bed" with them.
We proposed, in honor of a new school year and the fact that PP would be starting school as well, that we stagger the bed times. PP would go up at 8:00, brush her teeth and we'd read to her until 8:30. Baths are done earlier on nights they happen. 8:30. Lights out. Kiss from Mommy and Daddy and off to sleep you go. While the good night wishes are being doled out, Handsome brushes his teeth and then one of us lays with him until 9:00. We enjoy the pleasure of having him to read to us during this time. 9:00. Lights out. Kisses from Mom and Dad. Off to sleep you go. That's what we proposed.
The results are in...
It hasn't been an issue.
We didn't "break" them by laying with them all these years. They are fully capable of going to sleep on their own and stay asleep through the night even though we refused to let them "cry it out" when they were babies. It was only a theory in the beginning and it may not work for other people but we are totally happy with the outcome. Proud of our children and ourselves for trusting our judgements. Thrilled we've had all this time to snuggle and sleep with them and happy the "experiment" worked in our favor.