Thursday, January 29, 2009

Night Time Parenting without Co-sleeping

It was not my intent when discussing night time parenting to exclude those who do not co-sleep. It is possible to be an attentive night time parent without co-sleeping. In many cases the baby (or child) sleeps in a separate bed in the parents room or in a separate room entirely. If that is your sleep arrangement, it does not mean that you are not or can not parent through the night. Each family has to figure out their own comfort level and adjust to their family's needs. Keep in mind, my opinion is that you should respond when you feel comfortable responding, not when a book tells you to. I also believe that mothering instinct does not allow a child to cry without reaction.
So-- how does one parent through the night without co-sleeping?
Let me start with how I parent in the night when I am out of the bed.
As you might have figured out on your own, I do not generally go to bed at seven (now eight) and stay in bed until seven in the morning with my son. On nights when I want to go to bed early, I do, but I also rise early to take care of the house, read, write, etc. On nights I go to bed late, we rise around the same time. This of course, leaves time when The Boy is in bed alone.
I react differently based on the situation, but when The Boy calls my name specifically, I go to him. I don't drop the dishes and race as fast as I can, but I show up within a minute (generally). If he fusses, I listen to see if he wakes or if he is just moving around/readjusting to get comfortable. Early on, I learned the difference between his fussing versus real cry. Generally now, he calls my name if he needs my attention, and yes, I consider emotional needs to be as important as physical. The best part for me, because we have been doing this for The Boy's entire life, he does not cry during the his alone time in bed unless he needs something. (In the rare cases I have to leave town on business, he does wake more often, but from what I can tell from my non-AP friends, this is normal in any case, and again a topic for another post.)
If you do not co-sleep, you can still night time parent by learning your child's sleep habits, patterns and needs. If your child fusses in their room, but settles down on his/her own, you are still parenting if you are monitoring the child's situation. If the child cries and you sooth the child by patting the child's back or rocking your infant, that is parenting in the night.
The hard part in night-time parenting for non-co-sleeping families, in my opinion, is the disruption to the parents sleep, but if your child wakes once in a while, there probably is not much disruption. Also, if the child is not used to your attention at night, there will be an adjustment period, because your child, even infant, might associate seeing you with morning play time rather than night-time-soothing. This is a challenge that would need to be overcome, if you were to decide to parent at night.
Night time parenting is not something I took lightly in deciding. There is literature available on both attachment parenting and sleeping. I'll post some resources separately.
Coming up-- debunking some myths and why I dismiss them. Go on and throw them out there. Also, a resource list for those looking for additional information.


Blacktating said...

My son slept in a bassinet next to our bed for the first few weeks, but then insisted on sleeping with us in bed. He wouldn't go to sleep any other way. Once he got too big for the bassinet, we had him in the crib pushed up next to our bed as a sidecar and eventually he was just in the crib in our room at the foot of the bed. Once he was consistently sleeping through the night on his own we moved the crib back into his bedroom and he has been there ever since (about 5 months now). We never did anything to train him to sleep through the night. One day he just did it. Since he began STTN, we've had some nights when he's woken up and needed to nurse but they have been rare. I can't really understand why people think they don't have to parent at night. Being a parent is a 24-hour job and a lifetime commitment. I am glad my son STTN but I feel lucky that he does so on his own at such a young age. I wouldn't mind sleeping with him all night, but he is a cover and bed hog!

Melinda said...

My four year old loves to sleep in our bed and we really have not done much to get him out of it. We love that he wants to be near us and we love being near him.

My one year old on the other hand will not sleep in our bed, no matter how much we would love him too. But at the same time, he knows I will be there whenever he needs me.

Thanks for these posts because according to all the books, I am a horrible person for letting my kiddo sleep in my bed.

Maria said...

It's time for some new books Melinda. ;-) I'm half kidding, but there are some great books on co-sleeping and attachment parenting out there. :)

Tammy B said...

I didn't realize I was doing 'nighttime parenting" - always god to know what my parenting solutions are called! Our girl sleeps in her own room (after trying other sleep methods that didn't work for us), and she sleep through the night like a stone. She does need help getting to sleep though, and we attend to her until she can calm down and rest. It sounds like we approach her crying at night similarly to you even though we don't share a bed.

We are starting to realize that she lays awake quietly for quite a while. We assumed that she was staying asleep once she drifted off. We need to close the door once she is out because she is sensitive to noises and wakes crying at regular household noises if the door is open. I check on her once in a while, and if I pop in within an hour of her going to bed, I often find her lying in bed with eyes wide open just lying in bed! Then, she sees me and starts fussing, so I get a bit more time with her.

She seems to be happy with a little quiet time in bed - she also does this during naps sometimes.

I always thought babies weren't supposed to want 'alone time', but I guess I was wrong.

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