Cosleeping has been a big part of our lives since the Grasshopper was a baby, and it seems especially relevant to me now that Cricket has declared her intent to sleep on her own like a big girl. So let’s rewind time a bit and I will show you how we sidecarred a crib so that Cricket could sleep safely with us.
I’m sharing what worked for our family, but you may find something else works better for yours and that is okay. There are so many roads to wonderful parenting. If you do decide that cosleeping is right for you, please research carefully to ensure you are following the guidelines for safe cosleeping. This post is not a recommendation for one type of sleeping over the other and it is your responsibility to make sure that the choice you make is made with safety at the top of your mind.
After doing our research on the risks/benefits of cosleeping, we decided that sidecarring a crib was the right choice for our family. Sidecarring a crib simply means attaching a crib to the side of the bed. For us, this allowed me to sleep with Cricket without having her on the same sleeping surface as myself, which felt safer than having her on the bed with me.
We explored commercial cosleepers, and they all looked really nice, but they all seemed pretty small, and it felt like she would outgrow them quickly. In the end, we created our own cosleeper out of a cheap convertible crib that we purchased at a big box store, and it worked beautifully for us!
We assembled the crib as you would a toddler bed with one side off, but instead of placing the mattress on the lowest position as you would for a toddler, we placed it at the highest position.
The trouble is, we have a tall bed with a tall mattress, so it still wasn’t quite high enough.
Lucky me, a young person I know had recently gone to college and I remembered that she had purchased risers to help lift her bed up so she could store things underneath. With a set of risers and a thick layer of high density foam underthe crib mattress, we were able to get it to the right level.
To keep things from wobbling or falling over, we used industrial strength bungee cords to attach her crib to our bed. These had to be tight (and I mean TIGHT) so that the crib would be stable.
Still, we needed to bridge the gap between our mattress and hers. Because it was only a space of a few inches, I shifted her mattress over the gap and placed a second piece of high density foam behind her mattress to tightly fill the space left between her mattress and the crib frame.
It’s important to note that we made sure any gaps were either securely covered or tightly filled. Babies are wiley and it’s easy for them to wiggle and get their heads stuck in things. There’s a reason why crib slats are required to be no more than a certain distance apart, and it’s important to always keep an eye out for gaps.
This method of cosleeping was really helpful for us. Having Cricket in bed with us without actually being in the bed helped me sleep more and helped ease those frequent nighttime breastfeeding sessions.
Cricket and I have co-slept from the beginning, and I’ve heard it all.
“You’ll never get her out of your bed.”
“You have to teach her to self-soothe.”
“She’s never going to sleep on her own.”
Yes, Cricket is four. She sleeps in a double bed in her room, and I sleep with her. I’ve heard all of the co-sleeping criticisms multiple times. I’ve been told over and over that I’ve ruined her ability to sleep.
But here’s the thing. I didn’t. And I can say that, not with a defensive glare, but with a serene smile, because here’s the truth, the honest truth:
Sleep is a developmental milestone. When a child is ready to fall asleep on their own, they will.
Sure, the AP books all say this, but it’s hard to believe when what seems like the entire world tries to convince you that sleep training is a necessity.
But it’s not just the books that say they will sleep on their own when they are ready. I’ve seen it with my own eyes with both children.
I nursed both of my babies to sleep every single night from the time they were born. Then, one day, at around 18 months, nursing stopped helping them fall asleep. They still nursed before bed, but it didn’t put them to sleep. After a strange and confusing week, both of my girls learned to nurse, lay down beside Mama, and fall asleep. On their own. There was never a need to teach self-soothing, whatever that is supposed to mean. No need to “train” them to sleep. They were ready. They knew sleep time was a time of comfort and peace, so they were able to lay down knowing they were safe and comforted.
But wait, some folks might say. You’re still sleeping in bed with them! How’s that going to work out?
With the Grasshopper, I got Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I never got the chance to find out whether she would be able to learn to sleep on her own because the sickness took away my night time parenting abilities. With Cricket, though, we’ve been able to go at her pace, and while I sometimes doubted, my trust in her ability to know when she was ready has paid off.
A few weeks ago, we were in the car coming home from the grocery store (because all big conversations seem to happen in the car), and Cricket announced that she wanted to fall asleep like a big girl. It was completely out of the blue. We were listening to the Frozen soundtrack and she just piped up with, “Mama, I’m ready to go to sleep like a big girl now.”
And she was. She likes patterns, so we do a pattern. Every other night, I tuck her in, kiss her head, and say goodnight. And that’s it. No training. No tears. She just closes her eyes and goes to sleep. She knows that if she needs me, I will come to her immediately, so she feels safe trusting that Mama will be right there.
To all the tired mamas out there, keep the faith. Trust your kids. They will get there. It’s hard sometimes, I know. Cricket used to wake hourly in the night some times. But it’s not a forever thing. It will pass. Cuddle those babies. It’s what they need.
Way back in November 2011, I wrote a post called In Defense of Nail Biters. At the end of the article, I gave the following advice to parents whose kids bite their nails:
If you have a kid who bites his or her nails, please just leave them alone and let them grow out of it on their own. The more you push, the more they’ll bite. Please don’t feed the cycle.
I’m sorry to say that I have not been taking my own advice. Oh sure, I leave the Grasshopper alone about biting her nails, but there’s this other habit that she’s developed that I bug her about constantly. She has the habit of twisting and twisting her hair until it is tied in knots. We call this “making dreadlocks , and we constantly pester her to stop. When I brush her hair and I can tell it’s really tangled, I always ask, “Have you been making dreadlocks?” And she always hangs her head and says yes.
Thinking about it, though, how is “making dreadlocks” fundamentally different from nail biting?
Hard truth? It isn’t, and I’ve been shaming my kid about it, and that is not okay.
Man, that is so hard to write. Acknowledging that I have a problem, though, is an important step in making positive changes.
I need to get honest with myself. Why does the dreadlock making bother me so much?
It makes tangles that are hard to comb. She combs her own hair for the most part, and isn’t what what conditioner and detangler is for? It is her hair. If she is not bothered by it, I need to not be either.
It breaks her hair. I originally wrote that sentence as, “It breaks the hair.” I had to go back and rewrite it. It’s not the hair, it’s her hair. It belongs to her. Like fingernails, hair grows. I need to let this go.
It leaves her hair looking perpetually messy. She’s a little girl full of energy, bounciness, and excitement. Her hair will never be perfectly coiffed. Mine sure never was. I need to let her get on with more important things like swinging on swings and following ants.
And for some reason, and I have no idea why, it’s almost like I take the dredlock making as a personal attack. Like she’s doing it just to bug me especially. And that is completely irrational. There is some baggage deep inside that I can’t pinpoint that I am asking my five-year-old to carry. And that is not fair to her.
As an adult, it is up to me to set the tone of the relationship. I can make our relationship about pestering and nagging, or one of peace and attachment.
Right here, right now, I am choosing peace and attachment.
This is me, sitting down, taking stock of where we are in our family, and making the decision to take my own advice. I’m not going to bother the Grasshopper about her hair anymore. We’ve got better things to do.
It’s been a long time since I have slept due to baby night wakings so I am not sure how coherent I will be. But I wanted to reach out to all the families out there that might be going through something similar and offer empathy, sisterhood, and the promise of better days.
We, as a culture, seem to have this Hollywood-esque notion of baby sleep. The phrase “sleeping like a baby” immediately comes to mind. And I know I am not the only person who has been asked, “Oh, is she a good baby? Is she sleeping through the night yet?”
We seem to have lost sight of the fact that infant and toddler sleep is meant to be light. They’re meant to wake often at night for food and reassurance. This is what kept them alive in more primitive times. Of course, now we don’t have to worry about being eaten by sabre tooth cats, but that doesn’t change the fact that babies are hard-wired by their very biology to need to wake at night. Learning to sleep through the night is a developmental milestone that all babies reach at different times. Just like walking and talking, you cannot “train” a baby to sleep through the night before he or she is developmentally ready to do so.
That doesn’t change the fact that waking with a baby through the night can be exhausting. Believe me, I know. We are on day 5 of the current sleep strike. Cricket is waking up every hour and staying up. She is nurse, nurse, nursing. Crawling around. Exploring my face with her little fingers. And just generally not sleeping. Thank God we bed-share. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be if I had to hike my butt down the hall to put her to sleep, stagger back to bed, only to have to hike down the hall again just as my eyes were closing.
She’s not waking to be mean or difficult or because she is a “bad” baby. She is waking because she has a need, and for babies these needs are real and immediate. Babies wake for all kinds of reasons:
Learning new skills
Because they miss us and love us
Baby is realizing that he or she is a separate person from Mama
Just to name a few.
And I’ve noticed with both girls and in talking to other parents that sleep definitely comes in cycles. There are often ways to predict it. There are several periods of wakefulness that we see pretty much across the board:
The 4 month sleep regression
The 6 month growth spurt
The 8 month sleep regression
The 15 month old period of nursing like a newborn
Cricket is right at 13 months. We’re a little early for the 15 month period, but she is teething, growing, and coming down with a cold. Plus, she misses me. She is so busy playing in the mornings and evenings that she often doesn’t want to nurse or only wants to take the time for a little snack. Note: This isn’t self-weaning. This is also really normal baby behavior and will pass with time.
Getting up every morning for work when I haven’t slept at night is hard. Really hard. I feel like hell right now and the horrible cold I caught isn’t helping. This is so hard. But I know it will pass. I am here, waving my white flag. I am surrendering to her needs. She will only be a baby for a little while longer. Every day with her is precious, every night waking is a chance to remind her that Mama will be here for her no matter what.
So if you’re like me, or if you find yourself in the future in a similar situation, I’m here with you, wide awake in solidarity and sisterhood. Dig deep and find that white flag. Surrender to it. Don’t get caught in the moment. Remember that the days are fleeting right now. It will get easier and, as my dear friend Paris says, “Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean you suck at it.”
When we left off oh-so-many months ago, I was in the process of switching Cricket from disposable diapers to cloth diapers for night time, and I was just about to try wool for the very first time. My wool finally arrived in the mail, I lanolized it (more on that later), and tried it out. We haven’t looked back! When she wears the PUL covers (the ones with the plastic, waterproof lining) we get leaks. When she’s in wool? NO LEAKS.
So, let me share with you my love of wool. I love wool so much now that Cricket goes to bed dressed in wool from head to toe. You might find yourself wondering, “Why wool? Won’t it be hot? Itchy?”
Surprisingly, I have found that Cricket sweats far less when she is in wool. This is because, unlike cotton, the wool wicks moisture away from her skin and allows it to breathe. Even on the hottest nights here–and believe me, with no AC and the Santa Ana winds blowing, we get some hot nights–her skin feels cool, fresh, and dry under her PJs. When you’re hot, wool helps you cool down. When you’re cold, it warms you up. Additionally, because she doesn’t have her butt wrapped up in what is, if you think about it, a plastic bag, her little bootie can breathe, too.
What about the itch factor? This is a biggie for me. I am one of those people who thinks of themselves as being “allergic” to wool. I hate wearing wool sweaters. The itching just makes me insane. That said, I have not found the baby wool, which is generally 100% merino, to be itchy at all. It’s very soft against the skin. She seems to sleep comfortably in it, and there are no signs of irritation on her skin in the morning. Something about the way this wool is processed helps to ensure that it stays soft.
Some other advantages of wool? Wool is naturally fire retardant so you don’t need to worry about the harsh flame-retardant chemicals in pajamas. Because of the lanolin, wool is self-cleaning and doesn’t need to be washed as frequently as another kind of cover or clothing. Longies and shorties (long pants and short pants) make great articles of clothing on their own so you don’t need to worry about finding clothes to fit a cushy cloth-diapered baby butt, which, as my friend Katie explained her her cloth diapering guest post last year, can be a legitimate problem. Actually, it’s best to not put anything over the wool. Cotton pajama bottoms run the risk of wicking the urine out of the wool and into the cotton, so the wool stands alone as diaper and PJs all in one.
Wool care is easier than you might think, so please don’t be intimidated. If I can do it while working 40+ hours per week outside the home and chasing two busy kids, it’s got to be easy, right?
The main thing to remember about wool is that you don’t actually need to wash it that often. I wash mine every 2-3 weeks, and it does just fine! The lanolin in the wool and the naturally antibacterial properties of the wool itself make it self-cleaning.
Lanolizing is basically infusing the wool with more lanolin. Lanolin is just the natural oils that sheep have on their skin and wool. Unfortunately (or fortunately) since the sheep is no longer attached to the wool, you do have to replenish the lanolin periodically. I do this at the same time as I clean it. It all gets cleaned and lanolized in one go. Easy!
So here’s how I clean and lanolize my wool (I usually clean and lanolize two covers at a time):
Run your water until it’s very, very hot.
Put a dime sized blob of lanolin onto the bottom onto the bottom of your sink or a basin. I use a basin dedicated to the purpose because the lanolin leaves a sticky residue that I am too lazy to clean out of my sink every time. If I get extra lanolin on my fingers, I don’t bother to scrub it off. I just wipe it off on the crotch of the waiting wool. A little extra in the wet zone never hurt anyone.
Run a bit of very hot water over the blob of lanolin (just enough to cover it) and swish it around until the lanolin melts. Remember, it’s oil so it won’t mix with the water. Squishing the blob with the non-fuzzy end of my toothbrush helps me think it melts faster.
Add the wool wash as directed by the manufacturer, and yes, you do need a special wool wash for this. More on this later.
Swirl the wool wash around the basin gently and you will notice that the lanolin clumps disappear and the water turns milky and white. This is exactly what you want to happen!
Add cool water to fill your basin. The resulting water should be a little warmer than room temp, but not hot enough to take a bath in.
Add your woolies, squashing them around to make sure they get really saturated.
Walk away and forget about it for a while. I usually leave mine overnight or all day while I am at work.
When they’ve soaked long enough, squeeze the excess water (no need to rinse if you’re using a proper wool wash), but don’t wring them out. Just squeeze.
Roll them up in a towel and squish the towel to get even more water out.
Allow them to dry completely (24-48 hours).
Honestly, I know this sounds involved, but realistically, steps 1-8 take five minutes. I have been known to lanolize woolies while I am at work, even. It’s so quick to get the soak ready that I can do it as I brush my teeth.
When the wool is dry, it will feel a little sticky. This is fine. It’s just excess lanolin. It will wear off on your baby and you as you snuggle together. No need to worry about lanolin residue on the skin either. It is actually good for your skin. Think of the lanolin nipple creams!
What about the Wool Wash and the Lanolin?
Wool wash is easy. I use Eucalan. It smells amazing and you don’t have to rinse it. I have friends who use wool wash bars. Do not use Woolite. It is definitely not the same thing.
Lanolin is slightly trickier. I have tried Lansinoh lanolin, but I found that the new version doesn’t melt well and the water doesn’t get cloudy when you mix in the wool wash. I have a tube of old, expired Lansinoh from when the Grasshopper was a baby and that works pretty well. They must have changed the way they process it at some point. I have been told that Medela lanolin nipple cream absolutely will not work, and this is probably because it is not 100% pure lanolin. My current favorite, though, is Sheepish Grins solid lanolin that I get from my local baby store.
Wool diaper covers are great. They’re amazing for overnight and heavy wetters and they are a wonderful, natural alternative to PUL. You wouldn’t think that a butt sweater would make a great diaper cover, but they do. Since switching to wool, we haven’t had a single leak!
If you’re interested in trying wool, but you’re not to hip on shelling out the big bucks for an expensive wool cover, I recommend the Disana merino wool cover. It’s a great price and allows you to try it out before committing to multiple expensive covers. This was the cover that got me hooked on wool!
Have you used wool or did you find it too intimidating? Do you use it all the time or only at night? What is your wool washing routine like?
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We have switched to cloth diapers for Cricket for night time!
When the Grasshopper was near potty training (around 2), we had to switch to cloth at night. Not even the heavy-duty overnight disposables could make it through the night without major leaks. When that happened, I called up my good friend Jess who owns a cloth diaper store and wrote a fantastic guest post for me last year on cloth diapering.
Jess got me set up right away with bamboo fitteds and PUL covers. For those not in the know, fitteds refer to a simple diaper shaped cloth… well, diaper. It’s all cloth (in this case bamboo), and so to prevent leaks, you need a cover over it. The PUL is the leak-proof material that the cover is made from.
Fitteds are awesome (and please just pretend I know what I’m talking about here) because they’re super absorbent and can hold a whole lot of pee. They worked fabulously for Miss Grasshopper, and our days of changing sheets every night became a thing of the past.
Cricket has reached the point of diaper leaking much sooner. I suspect this is probably because she nurses through the night every night where the Grasshopper slept through from a much earlier age.
I am tired of changing sheets every day, and thankfully my husband is too. Because of this, he has agreed to try cloth diapering at night for Miss Cricket. I was so excited to get out the sweet bamboo fitteds and the covers again. I was pretty worried though. Would they even fit? We bought those for a 2-year-old!
Well, I’m happy to report that at 9 months, my freakishly large and adorable baby fits into her sisters 2-year-old diapers without a problem. We’ve had her in cloth since Sunday night with nary a leak.
It will be a little different this time around. The Grasshopper was 2 and not wetting every night. By that point she was well on her way to potty training. Cricket, obviously, is not potty trained. This means my meagre stash of 3 fitteds and 2 covers is not going to cut it.
I need more diapers!
I’ve also decided to switch from the PUL covers to wool. Unlike the plastic, wool breathes. This is important going into summer with no air conditioning. Seems a little counterintuitive that wool would be the coolest option in summer, but apparently it is the ideal option for moms in our area. It also seems counterintuitive that a pair of knitted pants would hold pee and keep it from leaking. I’m a little afraid. I trust my friends, though, so when our brand new purple wool cover arrives on Friday, I’ll be excited to lanolize it and get it onto Cricket.
Thanks, Mr. Grasshopper, for your willingness to make this switch.
It is amazing how completely different my two girls are. Their personalities, their likes and dislikes, and their habits.
Right now those differences are most apparent in the realm of sleep. The Grasshopper was such an easy sleeper. She had her moments. Like with all babies, sleep comes and goes. In retrospect, it was predictably cyclical, though.
We (and if you’re a new parent take notes) expect to see sleep regressions around the time of growth spurts and milestones. Four months and eight months are a very big deal. Milestones and growth spurts all converge during those times and sleep takes a hit. A big hit.
But it passes. I remember with the Grasshopper wondering if I was doing something wrong. I remember thinking, “Gosh, do I have to sleep train her?” I wondered if she just wasn’t able to sleep because I never taught her to do those things that my coworkers were talking about. I remember words like “self soothe,” “bad habits,” and others whirling around my brain.
Thank heavens for the Kellymom.com forums. They stay absolutely on message and make it very clear that you can no more “train” a baby to sleep than you can “train” a baby to walk and talk. Sleep, Kelly says, is a milestone that many kids don’t reach for several years.
Your baby will begin to comfort herself and to sleep for longer stretches at her own developmental pace. If your baby wants to nurse at night, it is because she DOES need this, whether it’s because she is hungry or because she wants to be close to mom. Sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone (like walking or toilet training) that your baby will reach when she is ready to. Trying to force baby to reach this before her time may result in other problems later on.
So I just plugged along through those mercifully short sleep regressions with the Grasshopper, and, just like Kelly promised, the constant waking passed.
Thank goodness I know that now. Cricket is really giving me a run for my money. Her 4 month sleep regression merged into a 6 month sleep regression and when we hit 8 months last week, all bets were off. We are deep into the 8 month sleep regression with no end in sight.
She’ll take an hour to nurse herself to sleep at night. She wakes hourly to nurse. This week we’ve added a new element to the mix. She’ll nurse to sleep starting around 8:30 PM, but then when she’s finally asleep and letting go and I’m thinking I can drop off to sleep too, those little eyes pop open, and now YAY! It’s happy baby fun time! She crawls all around, practices pulling up on the side of the crib we have Macgyvered to our bed, climbs over me to try to get to the exciting looking alarm clock, chews on my shoulders, sticks her fingers up my nose and in my ears, and just generally has a cheerful and noisy time.
This went on from 9:45 last night to 11. Finally, she went to sleep. And then woke up every hour afterwards to sit up and crawl in a circle and then nurse again. At 5:30 AM, she decided it was time to greet the morning. So up she got.
No point in going back to bed. I had work to get ready for. So up I got, too.
I fantasize about a 4 hour stretch of sleep. I can’t remember what that’s like.
Thank goodness for the Grasshopper. Thank goodness she taught me that this will pass and things will get easier. Thank goodness for cosleeping! Right now I can nurse her and then just roll over and fall back asleep. Imagine if I had to get my tired self up, haul my carcass down the hall, try unsuccessfully multiple times to put her down in the crib without waking her, haul my carcass back down the hall to my bedroom, and then try to fall asleep? Good lord! That sounds like a nightmare!
I didn’t talk much about it when the Grasshopper went through her wakeful cycles. I didn’t have the same kind of supportive community, and I wanted to avoid the inevitable, “Well, maybe it’s just time to let her cry. I let my kids cry and they turned out just fine.”
I’m more confident now, and I know from experience that this isn’t a forever thing. So now, when people ask, I’m open about it. I say, “We’re smack in the middle of the 8 month wakeful period. It’s really hard, but I know it will pass, and I know that she needs me right now.” Sometimes I follow with an, “I’m so glad we’re cosleeping. It makes things so much easier for all of us.”
At any rate, I am seriously sleep deprived now. I think I’m handling things pretty gracefully, but wow. I’m tired.
Which is probably why this post is so disjointed. Maybe tonight will be the night that she sleeps.
The Grasshopper is suddenly afraid of the dark. Very afraid.
She has been sleeping on her own in her room for almost a year, but suddenly, when it comes time for me to kiss her goodnight, it’s meltdown city. She also will not go into her room alone to choose her clothes. Or to the bathroom alone. Or anywhere alone. She would rather stand there and pee in her pants* than click on the hall light, click on the bathroom light, and use the toilet. At 3 in the afternoon. (*We assume she would pee in her pants. We’re not willing to humiliate her by putting that to the test. She’s insistent enough that I’m certain it would end with a puddle on the floor if one of us didn’t intervene.)
Clearly this is not about the dark.
I talked to her about it last night, and, from what I gathered, she is missing some of the attention that we are having to give Cricket. She feels sad that Cricket is with us all the time while she has to do things on her own more. Poor kid. I never lived with a sibling. I have no idea what she must be going through.
We tried adding more night lights. No dice. We tried keeping her door open. Didn’t work.
But I think we might have finally hit on a solution.
We have a very sweet boxer dog named China (pronounced “Chee-nah”. She’s nearing old age at 8 years old, and as a working breed dog, she’s needed a job for a long time. Well, we may have finally found one for her: watching over the Grasshopper.
The trouble is, she’s been trained for so long that she’s not supposed to hang out in the Grasshopper’s room. She’s unbelievably loving and patient, but you don’t leave a dog with a baby. Period.
Last night, though, she got the surprise of her life when the Grasshopper and I invited her into bed. Poor China was confused. It took a few tries to convince her that she was allowed to stay in the bed with the Grasshopper. And in the middle of the night, she did her usual pace through the house to check up on things elsewhere. But overall, I think we’re onto something good here!
I think I will do something special for the both of them and find China a pretty new bed that we can place in the Grasshopper’s room for her to sleep on. She doesn’t always like to sleep with people. She gets hot sometimes and just wants her space.
Maybe this new found friendship will be good for both of them. Goodness knows, China’s been unemployed for far too long.