Nighttime Parenting Isn’t Always Pretty

My first had always been a good sleeper. We co-slept through about 18 months or so, and when we moved, Little Man jumped right into his big-boy bed and that’s where he wanted to sleep.

After I had my second child, we went through a phase where Little Man would wander into my bed in the middle of the night. Which was fine for a while. Hey, if he needed some extra security or mommy time or whatever it was, I was happy to oblige. After all, he was adapting to a pretty big change.

After a few months, he would wander into the bedroom in the middle of the night, where the other 3 of us were sleeping, and start asking for trains. Or cookies. Or to go to Zia’s (his aunt’s) house. And when we would say no, a full-throttle tantrum ensued. So, the 3 of us would have to wake fully, get Little Man settled, then try to settle ourselves and the baby to sleep.

He did this every night for about a month. It had gone on long enough that we were all becoming tired, cranky zombies.

I have no problem waking with him for nightmares, for monsters in the closet, or if he’s not feeling well. But to burst in at 2:00 a.m. every night, getting everyone all fired up? It affected everyone, every day. And I didn’t want to start feeling resentful.

Okay, I was already feeling a little resentful.

At a loss, I did something about it. One night, when he came into our room, he made his usual request for something he could be sure we would shoot down. As soon he showed the first signs of tantrum, I picked him up and put him in his bed. I told him he could come back in and talk to us or sleep with us if he could do it quietly, without waking the baby.

Of course, this made him wail. When he came back in, I took him back to his bed, and repeated what I had just said. By the third time, I had almost given up. I felt like I was doing a form of cry-it-out for almost-three-year-olds. But because I was inviting him into our bed and the alternative (sleepy, crabby family) wasn’t good for anyone, I decided to stick to my guns this time.

After one more round, he started to calm down. I asked him, “can you come into the big bed quietly?”

“Yes,” he whispered.

I tucked us all in.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Get trains,” he said.

“No, it’s dark down there and we won’t be able to see them.”

“Okay.” He rolled over and went to sleep.

That was the first and last time I had to do anything like that at night. Now, when he wanders in, he sneaks in quietly and nobody knows until morning. We can all wake refreshed and happy. He has his nighttime security, we have our rest.

Still, as with every parenting move I make, I can’t help but wonder if I did the right thing.

Reflections on Our First Year

I entered parenthood with a crib and an epidural. I had never heard of attachment parenting, and was pretty sure the family bed was something that could wreck a marriage.

As my baby turns one, and my husband and I celebrate our eighth year of marriage, we happily (and a bit nervously) went out for our first time alone as a couple since her birth, and reflected on the highlights of our year.

In addition to watching each other blossom as parents, the way we parent was at the top of both of our lists.

I never could have guessed that our style of parenting could be equally important to us as the event of becoming parents.

While hard to explain – or even justify – to the uninitiated, the steps we’ve taken to build a deep and secure bond with our daughter have transformed us as just much as they’ve helped to ground her. Specifically, our top seven favorite steps we’ve taken as parents this year:

  1. Bringing Dalia into our bed. Not only does she fall asleep faster, and sleep longer and more soundly, but the precious time we have as a family, gazing adoringly at our beautiful baby as she sleeps, or laughing together in the morning, is priceless.
  2. Breastfeeding! While it wasn’t clear if I’d be able to at all, and then whether I’d need to supplement forever, at around the two month mark – thanks to cosleeping, in fact – we were finally able to nurse exclusively. From that point on, it’s been invaluable to nurture Dalia both nutritionally and emotionally in my arms.
  3. Letting Dalia take the lead on her feedings. Introducing solids has been fun and fulfilling for the whole family, as we let go of our expectations of how a baby should eat, put safe “adult” foods in front of her, and let her show us how and what she wants to eat.
  4. Taking our infant to the potty! Reading up on Elimination Communication before Dalia’s birth, I skipped over all the yada yada about building a deep bond through pottying. Who are they fooling, I thought! But boy, knowing when she has to go and keeping our baby dry and happy are way more intimate experiences than we could have guessed.
  5. Tossing the disposables! While at first we were afraid of the work – and stigma – of cloth diapering, it’s incredibly gratifying to know we’ve reduced our landfill contributions to about one diaper per day. I’d like to go all the way, and am actively looking for a leak-free overnight cloth diaper, so any recommendations would be appreciated!
  6. Babywearing! How wonderful to be able to strap her in snugly under my winter coat and hit the road! Especially with a baby who hates the car and squeals when we take out the stroller, our beloved collection of carriers has increased our closeness and mobility. Beyond the practical benefits, the joys of “spoiling” our baby with all the in arms time we can give has been unmeasurable.
  7. Meeting like-minded parents! Since joining a group for AP moms, Dalia and I have met some amazing moms and babies who have paved the way for larger family friendships. Having a like-minded community of friends has helped us to bask in the wonder of parenthood and lean on a haven of supporters when questions or issues arise.

While each of these experiences has cracked us wide open for more and more love and closeness in a way we had not anticipated, the sum of the effect of our practices is worth way more than the individual parts. As we close the door on babyhood and enter toddlerhood together, I am confident in my ability to navigate our future as a mom. More importantly, my baby has confidence that she is loved, that her world is stable and secure, and that she can come back to us when she needs to recharge.

While AP isn’t for everyone, for those of us who know and love its practices, it can magnify – and multiply – the rewards of the parenting experience. I am grateful we happened upon this path, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

A Sleep Evolution

I am looking forward to some sleepovers with my 4 1/2-year-old and 6-year-old this weekend.  Sometimes their rooms seem so far away and I miss them at night.  We make a point to arrange periodic sleepovers in our bed for some nighttime cuddles and reconnection.

Though I never considered us a “co-sleeping” family, our kids have been in and out of our bed since birth.  Co-sleeping full time never worked for us, as I never got great sleep.  Co-sleeping enthusiasts are probably surprised to hear this; the reason many people co-sleep is because they are able to get more sleep that way, rather than getting out of bed multiple times a night to nurse.  Not to mention the bonding benefits for babies and parents.  I just never slept deeply enough to feel well-rested, so it worked better to have a part-time co-sleeping arrangement.

For many days, I was so drowsy in the morning as I could not get a full night’s sleep. A friend of mine recommended something to me back in my college days about a pill called Modafinil that helped her stay awake and focused during the exam weeks. I was not able to try it but she stand by it. She used to take it in the morning when she feels sleepy but still needed to study. I never got to try it during pregnancy and after, but if you want to, you can get it here: Make sure to read everything you can about before trying it out and talk to a professional.

For the newborn stage, both of our babies spent most of each night in our bed.  Sometimes I’d set them in the bassinet next to the bed, but I found that, even though I didn’t sleep soundly, I wanted them right next to me all night.  The bassinet was too far away.

When they got to about 3-4 months old, we started getting into a bit of a routine, both day time and night.  This meant that nap times became more regular and a bedtime emerged.  I started putting my babies down for their first block of nighttime sleep in the bassinet/ crib for as long as they were going to sleep.  This could have been anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours.  But after the first time they woke, I took them into bed with me for the rest of the night.

As the months progressed, it was later and later in the night when they came into our bed; not because they were sleeping for longer stretches, but simply because I’d put them back down in their own sleep space for a second (and, eventually, a third, fourth, etc.) time.  This process was so gradual I can’t even remember the length of time it spanned.  It was some time between one and two years…closer to one for my daughter, closer to two for my son. This time seems so long ago!

By a long, gentle transition, they were each in their own rooms full-time by the time they were toddlers.  Despite their being in another room, I made sure I was responsive, as nighttime needs matter just as much as daytime.  I got up when they cried out. I nursed them when they needed it.  I soothed them to sleep in their own beds when it worked and took them into our bed when it didn’t.  This wasn’t always easy; some nights during various developmental stages it was hard to get up often, but it was harder for me to have them in my bed, where no one was getting good sleep and I never felt rested.  I always gave my kids what they needed at night, yet still found a way to meet my own needs of at least one segment of deep sleep.

As toddlers in their toddler beds, my husband and I took turns putting them to bed at night.  We each had a different routine for tucking the kids in.  Beyond the basic steps of going potty, brushing teeth, and putting on PJs, John had his special time with the kids and I had mine.  We each had our preferences for laying with the kids and either talking, tickling, reading stories, or singing.  Sometimes we’d stay with them until they were asleep, and sometimes we said goodnight while they were still awake.  We still have our own tucking-in routines, though they’ve changed a bit since the kids were toddlers. Now they’re shorter and involve playing games (John) or reading and talking (me & Elia) or reading and cuddles (me & JJ).

Over the years our kids have developed healthy sleep habits as well as flexibility in their nighttime routines.  They are not dependent on one person, one object, or a very specific routine to get to sleep.  Now, at ages 4 1/2 and 6 they sleep through the night.  If for some reason they do wake up, they know how to get what they need (water, potty, comfort for a bad dream) and go back to sleep.

Our kids are welcome in our bed anytime.  Now that they’re older and waking up less often or not-at-all, I am able to sleep much better when we’re all together.  We have a kid in our bed several nights a month.  Sometimes they come in a few nights in a row for extra comfort, sometimes not.  If the impromptu mid-night visits get too few and far between, we plan sleepovers where one child will get tucked into our bed so the three of us can enjoy falling asleep together and waking up together.  There’s just nothing like cuddling all night with our kids, and I’m sure they’d say the same thing about us (at least for now)!

So this weekend, John will be out of town, there will be a huge empty space in our bed, and my kids and I will spend our nights snuggling together.  I’m looking forward to having their little bodies right next to me!

What I Will Miss

I have two children. My daughter Hannah is 5 1/2, and my son Jacob is 2. While I like to believe that I’ve parented them in the same way, they are two very different little people. From their very first days, they have made their individuality clear.

I have found this very freeing, as a parent. It tells me that my children are their own people, and it is not my job to make them fit into a mold. I strive to teach them the things they need to know, and set reasonable limits. But when my daughter has a scream that could stop a train, or my son constantly runs from me in public, it is not necessarily a sign that I have failed entirely in my parental duty. They are simply expressing themselves in age-appropriate ways, based on their developmental stages and individual personalities.

And you know what? When they outgrow those stages, I miss them.

This struck me the other night, as I was awake at 4:00am (again) nursing Jacob back to sleep. I never remember how I got to his room, but I find myself there every night. My daughter Hannah was a champion sleeper from a very early age. I thought I had it figured out. But at almost 2 1/2, my son Jacob has slept through the night exactly three times. They have different sleep personalities, and I do my best to respond to them appropriately.

Hannah takes a turn at the wheel
My children, just as they were for one instant out of their childhoods

Once Jacob drifted off, I shifted him and threw my arm around him. I felt the back of his soft little hand, and listened to his quiet breathing. It was warm and cozy and so peaceful. In the wee hours of the morning, it felt like the two of us were the only people awake, on that double bed in his bedroom. And I knew, I knew, that I would miss these moments one day.

Our children’s neediness can be hard to take. Sometimes, they need so very much of us that there isn’t anything left for our partners or ourselves. They wake us from sleep, they cling to us while we try to pee, they interrupt us while we talk on the phone, they cry because we brought them the wrong sippy cup. But in these moments, they are also perfectly expressing themselves as they are right now. Little people, who see the world in us, and reach out to us with total faith.

There is so much that is good in the midst of the chaos that is parenting young children. I strive to cling to that goodness. Little pieces of childhood, stolen moments between my child and myself. If I’ve learned anything in my 5 1/2 years of parenting it’s that these moments will be gone, and all too soon. And so I try to reach out and grasp them, even though I know I can’t. And sometimes, on a random Tuesday at 4:00am, I almost succeed.

What moments will you miss when they’re gone? What do you do to hold on to them while they last?

Nighttime Parenting

My son has been awake in the middle of the night often over the last few weeks: because he needed to pee, or had peed in his sleep, had a nightmare, was cold, was hungry, transitioned between sleep cycles right as I was making some sort of noise like watching TV or talking on the phone.

Whatever the reason, I’ve been called on to nighttime parent much more frequently than I have in months (since right after my husband and I separated), and before that since he still nursed at night.

Nighttime parenting is one of those areas that can become controversial parent fodder very quickly. Some people can’t imagine having their baby in a crib while others would never consider having her sleep in the same bed. Many fall somewhere in the middle.
Continue reading “Nighttime Parenting”

API’s Use Nurturing Touch and Safe Sleep Blog Carnival

Welcome to the latest installment of the Attachment Parenting International Principles of Parenting blog carnival. This month’s carnival will cover API’s 4th and 5th Principles of Parenting – Use Nurturing Touch and Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally. If you’re interested in participating in a future carnival, please visit the API Blog Carnival Schedule for more details.

The Importance of Infant Massage
Guest Post for API Speaks by Barbara Nicholson

The mothers of India have given the world one of the most important parenting tools known to humanity: infant massage. It is probably hard to imagine raising a baby without this gentle, everyday experience, but in some western cultures (particularly the U.S.) it is just being discovered!

A Mother’s Kiss
Living Peacefully with Children

When we were expecting our first child, I bought the requisite newborn hats. Afterall, every new baby needed hats to keep their little head warm. When our son was born, instinct kicked in. As I brought him to my chest to snuggle him close, my head automatically dipped, taking in his new baby smell and kissing the top of his wet little head.

Our Nighttime Nurturing
Maman A Droit

For a while, Baby thought 2:30 AM was playtime. It’s our fault really. For one thing, Hubby often stayed up that late doing grad school homework last semester. It also then worked out that staying up until 3 AM meant Baby slept during the day while Daddy was gone, and played while Daddy was home to admire all his tricks.


We parent our children to sleep…. all of them, even the six year olds who don’t necessarily need us to. For all three kids it seems bed time is the time to catch up on closeness.

Where the Baby Sleeps
Living Peacefully with Children

“Good. That’s where babies should be – snuggled with their mamas. Babies need to stay with their mothers in order to stay warm and keep breathing, and so they remember to nurse throughout the night.” This was what had been passed down to her through generations of women.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sleeping With Your Baby
Baby Dust Diaries

I often get asked the same questions about our Family Bed. Aellyn has slept between my husband and I since the day she came home (she also slept in bed with me at the Birth Center – something some hospitals will not allow).

Sleeping Safe and (Psychologically) Sound
Connected Mom

Bedsharing is an ancient concept. Still practiced all over the world, bed sharing has become a subject of controversy in the United States. Often the debate centers around the safety issues regarding bed sharing.

Take Your Kids’ Kisses

I recently discovered the Secret Society of Happy People. While I don’t think I have figured out how to walk through life with the requisite joy to become a member, I’m using them as an example in my quest to learn how to be happy.

Ensuring safe sleep – meeting the needs of parents and child
Little Snowflakes

When Dylan was 6 weeks old, I enrolled us in a mom and baby class at a local parenting center. I figured it would be a good way to meet other moms and to force myself to get dressed and out of the house.

Infant Massage: An encounter of love that goes beyond the borders of the body
Guest Post for API Speaks courtesy of Infant Massage USA

A touch, a look, a gesture… are encounters of love where the magic of innocence and candor unite. Mothers, fathers and babies are immersed in an atmosphere of tenderness and simplicity, in which voices, whispers, songs, looks and movements are party to a loving and eternal relationship.

API June Blog Carnival
Journey to the Simple Life

My journey towards co-sleeping began years ago, I think it was a 20/20 special about it. I thought it was odd at the time, boy, how my mind has been changed!

It’s Not Personal

Recently, I was reading a piece in a magazine by a woman whose husband had left her for another woman. She was coping with the betrayal, in part, by repeating the phrase, “There is nothing personal going on here.” It sounds crazy, but realizing that the problem wasn’t her, it was her husband’s own drama, made it easier to accept and easier to deal with fear and anger.

The piece resonated with me, and the words “it’s not personal” kept popping into my head in the following days.

I’ve long held the belief that when people get angry or frustrated, it’s often for the wrong reasons. That person who cut you off in traffic didn’t do it because he picked you out specifically to annoy; he’s just a rotten or a distracted driver. That coworker who slacked on a project didn’t do it to make you look bad and steal your job; she may have been tired or overworked or maybe just is not a team player. Yes, it’s difficult when there aren’t enough checkers at the grocery store and the lines are long and tempers are flaring and the kids are climbing in the cart and squashing the bananas; but management didn’t cut staff with the express intention of making you mad. It’s my opinion that there are very few things worth getting truly angry over.

But somehow, I have had a hard time applying this theory when it comes to parenting. When your children are misbehaving or being defiant or tantruming or just being difficult, it’s really hard to not take it personally. Sometimes it feels oh so personal.

Last week, my husband was out of town for work, and my kids were dragging out bedtime one night. After my 5 year old got out of bed for what seemed like the hundredth time, I got angry and said, “Why are you guys doing this to me?” And then it hit me. They weren’t doing anything to me. Bedtime battles are incredibly normal. Developmentally speaking, 5 and 3 year olds aren’t supposed to want to stop playing and exploring and go to sleep. I have a problem settling down at night too, that’s why I do yoga.

It was not personal. My children had not huddled together in their room and made a pact to stay up half the night and keep me from cleaning and paying bills, and let’s be honest, blogging and updating my Facebook status.

Once I acknowledged that the bedtime struggles were not a personal vendetta against me and my desire for alone time, it was easier to be rational, easier to put the kids back in bed one more time, easier to not blow a gasket when they wanted water, easier to tell them that they needed their rest to be healthy and that I was done answering questions and fetching water and helping in the bathroom.

It worked. My calmer self led to calmer children who stayed in bed and went to sleep.

The next time I’m struggling as a parent, I’m going to remember this. It’s not personal.

Try it. What do you think?

Bedtime Conversations

Elia went to a 4-year-old friend’s princess-themed birthday party yesterday.  As you can imagine, it was very exciting.  The girls were to arrive dressed up in their best princess dress, and at the party would get their hair & make up done, craft fairy wands, make jewelry and have a tea party.  Elia was dressed and ready 5 hours before the party.

It was a day of friends, activities, sugar, and plenty of stimulation.  That night, as I turned out the light after reading a chapter of The Sisters Grimm: Fairy Tale Detectives, and she flopped exhausted onto her pillows, she commented to herself, “Boy, are my eyes tired.”  For her to say that meant that her eyes were REALLY tired.

Now those are tired eyes.  We always cuddle at night and take the chance to talk about anything that might be on her mind.  Last night, there were a few things on her mind…

Elia: “Mom? I really like talking to Will & Zoe because they can talk well and they are easy to understand.  Some kids are hard to understand, like Aasha, I have a hard time talking to her because she doesn’t talk very well and I can’t understand her sometimes.  Even Will is hard to understand but mostly I can.”

Me: “Yeah, as kids grow, they learn to talk better and better.”

Elia: “Yeah, I can understand Hannah and Haley really well because they’re a lot older than me, so they’ve already learned to talk.  They’re big kids, and when you’re a big kid you already know how to talk well.  Mom? If Flash and Superman were at our house, at this house, at our house that we live in now, and they raced to Sophia Park, who would win?”

Me: “I don’t know.  Who do you think would win?”

Elia: “I think Flash because Dad said that Flash could get from our old house to our new house in 4 seconds.  I had a few things that were my favorite things today.  First, I really liked playing with Hannah and Will when they came over to  play with Brownie [our guinea pig]. And I liked playing Cadoo with you. And I really liked the chocolate cake we had for Dad’s birthday.  But what I didn’t like was when I was trying to get that flower to stick to the end of the stick and it wouldn’t stay on.”

Me: “Yeah, that was frustrating, you were trying really hard and it wasn’t working out.”

Elia: “Yeah, and I also didn’t like having to go close all the doors.”

Me: “Yeah, it’s hard when you’re in the middle of doing something and you have to stop to go close all the doors.  That’s not what you wanted to do.”

Elia: “No. I wish we could just leave all the doors open so we could just walk right through them all the time and I wouldn’t have to close them later.”

Me: “The only reason we ask you to close the doors after you come in or go out is because we don’t like flies coming in here.  They’re annoying. I don’t like them buzzing around my head and around my food.”

Elia: “Maybe we could just hang fly traps in front of all the doors so they could get stuck.”

Me: “Yeah?”

Elia: “Or maybe we could just hang a sheet in front of the doors so we could go right through and air could go through, but flies couldn’t.”

Me: “Yeah, or maybe close the screen door?”

Elia: “Yeah.”

At this point her covers are thrown off, her legs are waving around up in the air, and she is tossing her blanket up & down over her face.  It’s a long way from those tired eyes of five minutes ago.  But she is sharing so much!  She is telling me about who she is, what she thinks of the world, and how she thinks of the world.  And I am trying to take this opportunity to show her that I listen.  Without judging. Without providing The Answers.  I appreciate this moment for what it is…despite the increasingly late hour, I am (hopefully) encouraging my daughter to tell me who she is and paving the way for it to continue.

But the hour is getting later and later, so eventually I have to say, “OK.  Now it is time to put your legs down, [check] roll over [check, check], get comfortable [done], and relax [eyes closed].  I’ll lay with you for one more minute, but it has to be quiet and no more talking.”

We are laying nose-to-nose.  Everything is quiet for four seconds.  Eyes pop open.  “Can I just tell you one more thing?”

Yes!  Of course!  Please always tell me just one more thing!  Keep talking to me and never stop.  I want to know who you are, and I want it to be you who tells me, not me who decides for you who you should be.  So tell me everything!  I will always listen, and I will always love you for who you are.

Content Protected Using Blog Protector By: PcDrome.

© 2008-2022 Attachment Parenting International All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright