Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Independence

All links in today's blog are to older posts of mine. Feel free to read away!

As she gets older, Little Olive is reaching those autonomous, independent stages. It's crazy to watch her change so much, so quickly.

At the beginning of March, we decided it was about time to move Little Olive into her own bed. Call it co-sleeping, bed sharing, or the family bed - we've been doing it since Day One with her. And we've seriously loved it. I expected her to stay in the bed with us until she was much older than 15 months, but Exceptional Parents are the ones who make the best choices for their families - and that would be us! I never really felt crowded in our queen size bed, but I knew it wouldn't fit four bodies comfortably. And once finding out there would be a fourth body come October, we decided to make some changes.

It wasn't just my pregnancy that got this started. For most of her life, Little Olive would take great naps...sometimes 2-3 hours long. But once we put her to bed for the night, she was guaranteed to wake up within 40 minutes. After trying the consistent bedtime routine, we truly saw a difference - but it was short lived. Eventually, she crept back to her old habits of wanting to be with Mommy or Daddy. She wouldn't move, or even want to play - she just wanted us to be next to her till she fell back to sleep.
My sleeping beauty

It sounds sweet, and you might be quick to think, "Just do what she needs." But we literally had no life after 8 or 9 pm. We took half-hour shifts of laying in a dark room for hours, waiting for her to doze off.

The other driving force behind this transition was the fact that Little Olive is such a cuddly, touchy-feely, little mush bug. I absolutely treasure the snuggles we have together. But there were times when they became a little more sour than sweet. When laying beside her while she was awake, she felt it was necessary to touch as much of my skin as possible - no matter what. Her little hand would softly touch my face, then block my nose, then find its way into the collar of my shirt, after
which she would twist her wrist inside my bra, happily find my boobs, get tangled in the straps of my tank top, somehow end up around my belly button, and emerge out of a mysterious hole in my shirt. 

I literally had to make a blockade of blankets between us and only offer her my hand to prevent this every night. One night, I was at my wits end, so Ian offered to sleep in the middle - for the first time ever. The next morning, he told me, "I have no idea how you handle that every night." 

Thankful for his understanding, we discussed how we would go about the change. I wasn't ready to move her into the other bedroom of our house - which is upstairs. That was not even an option for me. Instead, we took the crib mattress from the upstairs bedroom (which has barely been used) and made a cozy sleeping place for her on the floor at the foot of our bed. We made a big deal about her "Big Girl Bed" and put some books and stuffed animals nearby. She is so advanced, she knew right away this was special for her and started to say "big girl bed" in her own little way.

I started with naps. For this, I waited till she was very tired, sat on the ground next to her, and she fell asleep. At night, we started doing that too, but realized she would just stare at us for a creepy amount of time until she finally closed her eyes. Ian discovered it was better pretending he was going to sleep too, and laid on the bed above her. Worked like magic.

As always, it wasn't easy at first. The first few nights were choppy and exhausting. We actually turned our sleeping positions the other way, so that we could reach over in the middle of the night and give her a comforting rub if needed. Sure enough, she got the hang of it, and she is such a champ in her BGB. A lot of times, she sleeps right through the night - not even waking up after her usual 40 minutes. When she does wake up, it's a breeze putting her back to sleep. Maybe only 5 minutes. Sometimes her pacifier is lost and all she needs is for us to find it. Sometimes we find her half-way off the mattress snuggled into the wooden floor...but this is something we don't quite understand.

I always advocate co-sleeping because the benefits are phenomenal. I never expected to have sleep issues fixed by moving her out of the bed. For a toddler, it was just right. I love having her so close by, because she still needs us - even if it's just to answer her sleepy little voice asking, "Mommy? Daddy?" in the dark of night.

Follow your heart, be flexible, and do what works for you!


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Created2bholy said...

Awesome post!

Cindy said...

Lovely story.. I admit I giggled a bit out loud imagining the "and out the mysterious hoe in my shirt" part :)

With both girls we have only coslept for a little while but it was sweet while it lasted.

Natalie said...

So sweet. :) Love the picture!!!

i.ikeda said...

We're still trying to work on N. I'm sort of ready for it, maybe not 100%, and she still snuggles without disturbing me... We've talked about her big girl bed. We have it, and it's just waiting to be put together. But every time I bring it up, she straight up tells me "no, mama, I sleep with you and papa."

I know when we finally do it, it's going to be a battle of heroic proportions.

Sarah @ said...

Nothing could be more important than doing what works for each individual family. My daughter, at nearly 21 months, is still in our bed. I thought it would have passed by now, but she loves it and it works for us. It kills me that people really care that much about where she sleeps - if it works for us, it works for us, what else matters? And if moving into separate beds works for you, it works for you!