I got over my fear of using The Crib

June 28 | Guest post by Maya
This crocodile crib bumper should be the scariest thing about using a crib if you want to!

Last night, my four-and-a-half-month-old daughter slept in her crib for the first time. This was huge — not because co-sleeping isn't working for us, and not because I even think that it's so important that she can sleep in her crib. This was huge because it reminded me how making decisions as a parent works for me.

We've been co-sleeping since our daughter was born, and it has worked beautifully for us. On her own terms (touching me, preferably with a boob in her mouth), Nitsah is a wonderful sleeper — even adjusting with ease to a seven-hour time difference when I visited my family in the US when she was two months old. Not on her own terms — well, we got a taste of that each time we took Nitsah in the car and she was not within reach of my boob (and sometimes not even within reach of me). As my niece eloquently put it, "She's roaring."

At the same time, we always knew that we didn't want to co-sleep forever — at least in theory. In practice, I kept putting off deadlines to try out The Crib. We'd wait until after my trip to America; after all, we'd have to cosleep there. We'd wait until she was four months old. Until six months. Maybe longer. Secretly, I began to feel terror at the prospect. I didn't want bedtime to be like a car trip — I didn't want to watch her scream, staring at me with quivering disbelief that I wouldn't just give her a boob and unbuckle her already. Even when she fell asleep in the carseat, she would wake up the moment the car stopped. In bed, too, she would usually wake up seconds after I moved away from her.

Doing research online wasn't comforting. Everything I read started with the suggestion to put the baby in her crib for naps. Nitsah was happy to play in her crib during the day, pushing herself off the rungs like monkey bars, but sleeping there? ALONE? No way.

Co-sleeping began to feel not like a beautiful choice but like something I did because I had no other choice. It also seemed to shunt me into a parenting orthodoxy — even though nothing I read sounded exactly right for us long term, when it came to sleep it seemed like I had to be 100% attachment parenting or 100% cry-it-out, with no middle ground (unless I had a baby who would simply go to sleep when set down in a crib, which I certainly did not), and with both camps persuaded I would maim my child if I did anything other than what they proscribed.

Then, as I was getting ready for bed, I put Nitsah down in the crib and was about to go brush my teeth when I looked down at her. She was rolling around, smiling happily at her beer coaster mobile and then at me. Not one bit sleepy, but not one bit desperate or unhappy, either. I reached a sudden decision. We were having a sleepover. Here, in her nursery, where she had never slept for even a minute. Without a system, without a plan beyond this one night, without a parenting guide to tell me whether to let her cry or pick her up.

So I nursed her to sleep as we rocked in the rocking chair (also almost unused), telling her a long story. At 11 PM, when she was soundly asleep, I carefully put her down in the crib… and she stayed asleep! I stepped back, stunned this had been so easy. At 11:07 she woke up crying. I settled down on the daybed with the good book I've been trying to read for the past month, and nursed her back to sleep. I tried put her back in the crib, but she started crying instantly. I picked her back up. No rules.

Then she slept — for three whole hours. I know because I watched them all… apparently, I'm the one who can't fall asleep without nursing.

The rest of the night passed smoothly. When she started to get restless, I rested my free hand on her head, and she would relax again. I read several chapters in Middlesex, by Jeffery Eugenies, with What to Expect Your Baby's First Year and The Baby Book by Dr. Sears safely lodged away in the office bookshelf. When Nitsah eventually woke up and wanted to nurse, I took her out of the crib and nursed her. When I put her back in, warm and content, she didn't even wake up. That time, I even slept a bit. About two hours later she woke up again, and this time I took her into bed with me, and that was fine, too.

I don't know if Nitsah will sleep in her crib regularly from now on. I don't even know if I'll put her to sleep in it tonight. I don't know when she will sleep through the night, and I don't care, so long as we are both well-rested and happy. What I know now, though, is that we can navigate our sleep choices the way we've navigated everything else as parents. We can experiment. We can be inconsistent at times as we figure out what we want to be consistent about. I can go with my gut, but that doesn't mean that I should let fear control me. The crib is now an option, not an ultimatum.

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  1. Thanks for this! I sometimes feel like I've done something wrong because our sleep habits are different from most other people I talk to. I'm really just trying to get some rest! I don't care if I'm not following the "rules".

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    • Thank you! I'm the author of this post, and it's so funny to see it appear here now that my daughter is almost 8 1/2 months old. So here's a little update…

      The next night I did take her in to her crib to sleep, and I put the crib next to the futon in her room… and she looked through the bars at me, wailed, and I just couldn't do it. We took her back to co-sleeping. I tried a different method at 6 months or so (using the No-Cry Sleep Solution) but eventually concluded that it was making me miserable, and that in this respect I have a high-need baby who is hyper-sensisitive to mommy presence but nonetheless a great CO-sleeper, and so she doesn't actually have a sleep problem to begin with. (One frustration: I actually said that in the original version of this article… this version seems pretty heavily edited, so I don't quite recognize my voice, sentiments, or even exactly what I did that one night in some of the lines. For example, I actually DID let her cry a bit. I timed it, and it took two minutes of crying for her to fall asleep. So I supposed I did some "cry it out," something I haven't been willing to do since but that didn't seem harsh or harmful at the time. Why take that out? Controversy? This edited form makes it sound FAR easier to spend that night in the crib than it was, and as such I think it diminishes my experience and that of other moms whose kids don't magically accept crib sleeping.)

      Now my daughter is a happy, healthy, independent crawler who is still co-sleeping and sleeping on me for all her naps. It's not necessarily our first choice, but it's working pretty well for us and made it very easy this past week when we had two red-eye flights and a week's vacation in Rome!

      1 agrees
      • Why take that out? Controversy?

        Nope. As explained on our submission page, we reserve the right to edit all submissions for length, tone, and clarity. In this case, Stephanie did a lot of editing for length.

      • Thanks for the update. We did the saaaame thing and I like to hear more positive stories about how evolving sleep solutions worked for you (typing this as little human sleeps next me)

      • Thanks for the update. We did the saaaame thing and I like to hear more positive stories about how evolving sleep solutions worked for you (typing this as little human sleeps next me).

      • Would have loved to of read the full unedited version. Most moms appreciate feeling they aren't alone in the sleep "struggle".

  2. This was a wonderful post. I agree that it is so difficult to find middle ground between co-sleeping and cry-it out and the associated philosophical "camps". My daughter still needs me nearby to fall asleep, and I'm fine with that.

    I never wanted my daughter to co-sleep in our bed as my husband and I deem that "our" space, but I often sleep with my daughter in her room. For a long time we slept on the floor because I was sure it was "just for now" and felt vaguely that I wrong, but after too many nights of a sore back I finally put a mattress next to the toddler bed. Sometimes she sleeps all night alone, sometimes she needs me. When it stops working we'll try something else, but for now it works just fine.

  3. I did something very similar, except that back then I had never heard o co-sleeping, etc. I slept in a bed right next to my daughter's crib, so I could reach out and touch and soothe her if she was restless through the night. If she cried, we'd cuddle until she fell asleep, then I'd put her back in her crib (if I hadn't fallen asleep too)

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  4. I think this is a really beautiful reminder that we all need to do what works for us and for our families. There is NO right or wrong answer in pregnancy, childbirth or parenting. Now if only we could all realize it sooner and not fall prey to the constant barrage of advice, we would all be so much more peaceful!

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    • I so agree! We are "co-sleepers" and it's definitely had its ups and downs. My daughter loves to sleep with a boob in her mouth. I am not so much a fan lately.

      Elizabeth Pantley's "No Cry Sleep Solution" has been so very helpful for us. Maya's night actually sounds like something right out of that book.

      It's guidelines and helpful advice, not hard & fast rules, that parents need. No need for mommy wars on co-sleep vs. cry it out. (or really mommy wars ever.)

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  5. It's so good to have options and not be ruled by fear! Also totally agree about experimenting. Co-sleeping didn't work for any of us, and I wasn't able to take "crying it out", so we had to figure it out for ourselves. In the beginning I'd let her suck on my (clean) finger while she laid in the co-sleeper until she fell asleep. Then (5-11mo, I think) we'd bounce and sway her in our arms until she was asleep enough to put down in her crib. Then, we switched to rocking her in the rocking chair before putting her down. Now I lay next to her in her bed until she relaxes, sometimes until she's actually asleep. Sometimes reading your kid is better than reading a book for instructions!

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    • "Sometimes reading your kid is better than reading a book for instructions!"

      YES! We have that parental instinct for a reason!

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      • I read this early in my pregnancy and I am so glad I did. I forget the article but it was online and it was the author's grandmother that said it…

        "Read your baby not a book".

        I keep reminding myself of that and hopefully I can put those wise words into practise when our baby arrives.

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  6. For those of you looking for a book to help guide you with sleep habits that can't find an option besides cry it out and cosleeping, I HIGHLY recommend Secrets Of The Baby Whisperer-http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Baby-Whisperer-Tracy-Hogg/dp/1565114582

    Tracy Hogg has a method halfway between the two. You never leave your child to cry, but instead learn how to establish a bedtime routine that over a few weeks (days if you have a child less than 6 months) will lead to you being able to comfort your child to sleep in their own bed and sleep through the night. My son still has some bad days/nights where he just can't sleep, but who doesn't?

    She emphasizes knowing your child and doing things the way you intend to go on with, as babies need routine/rhythm, not a schedule, but a pattern.

    • I too love the Baby Whisperer. She's very much against cry-it-out. She endorses establishing a routine and emphasizes it is not a schedule but a pattern to help your baby know and anticipate what comes next.

      As for something between a crib and co-sleeping, when my daughter was tiny she slept in a bassinet pulled right up to our bed. We would take turns patting her at night to help her back to sleep. Plus, she was right there next to me when she needed to nurse. When she grew bigger, we switched to a crib in our room then finally to her own room. Because of many reasons, we chose not to co-sleep and this worked well instead.

  7. This was beautiful! I too felt the 100% either/or conflict and was terrified that I was making the "wrong" decision that would maim my child for life – like I would still be rocking my 16 year old to sleep or something.

    I have found that the best parenting strategies for our family are a collection of SEVERAL different philosophies and not one strict set of rules and regulations. It's kind of like a buffet – you pick and choose what looks good to you and try a little bit of everything before really figuring out what you want to get for seconds.

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  8. Try reading Dr. Ferber's book before you make a judgement. I kept saying, "I'm not just going to leave my baby to cry it out" but when co-sleeping stopped working for us at 8 months, I got the book and actually read it. The methods aren't actually that extreme. I kept reading horror stories from co-parenting books and online, but it really isn't as bad or extreme as it sounds when you use his methods.

    5 agree
    • I don't think this post is about whether any method is good or bad or extreme… I think it's about how not using ANY "method" can work just as well.

    • From what I understand, his latest edition is much more moderated than his first one, and he even apologized for the hard tone/philosophy of his first book.

      I did read this latest version and we used it to get our son (age 13 months) to fall asleep on his own and to sleep on his own. We had been cosleeping/nursing to sleep until that point and I had had it! Now he's 5 and he's a great sleeper, fortunately.

  9. I co-slept until at 2.5 months when my baby started to roll over– once she started to roll over, and preferred her belly to sleep, my bed was too cushy, and I didnt want her to suffocate, so she is now happily sleeping in her crib. When I hear her start moving, and huffing because she cant find her Binky I wait two mins. to see if she will fall back asleep.. if she doesn't I get up and put the Binky back in her mouth, and shes out again. The thing about her is, she slept in it as well before she could roll over, but only about 25% of the time. Good luck!

  10. I'm glad the transition is going well for you!

    I started cosleeping out of desperation to have more than an hour of sleep at a time, and also discovered I had a baby who would sleep for hours and hours, and even skip usIng the bathroom, as long as I slept with him. But my husband was so freaked out by the SIDs risk that I promised to stop- and it's been nonstop misery in the last month. It's not like I'm even that far away! Being in a cosleeper attached to the bed is still too far away for this baby. I don't blame the little guy; to his brain he probably thinks he'll be eaten by a saber tooth tiger at night if he can't reach out and touch mama.

    It's frustrating to the point of tears because I know I could just get SLEEP if I could just sleep with him, but I promised I wouldn't. I actually had a panic attack yesterday because I'm so freaked out by constanly trying to transition him to sleeping on his own and failing, or having him wake up crying in 15 minutes.

    Why hasn't someone invented a crib that is warm like mom's body heat, and has a heartbeat coming from the mattress, and gentle movement like breathing? There are sort of half-ass mechanical aids like noise machines, but nothing that seems to really strive to imitate sleeping with mom.

    I'll bet that 20 years from now moms are going to look back on this whole empty, lonely crib SIDs obsession and think we were living in the dark ages.

    1 agrees
    • I did not co-sleep for the first 3 months (against my own very strong instincts to do so) out of the fear perpetuated in our society about co-sleeping. Instead our baby slept in a moses basket next to my side of the bed. However, all during that time I wanted her to sleep with me so badly. My husband was against it because he was under the impression (without doing any research) that our baby would be safer in her own space and that he could not trust himself not to roll on top of her in his sleep. I think many men feel this way. However, it is VERY unlikely that a mama will roll on her baby as she is much more in tune with her baby, even when she's asleep. After 3 months when our baby outgrew her basket, it was time to transition her to her crib which was all set up in her lovely little nursery we created before her birth. Well, let me tell you the thought of her sleeping alone in her crib in a separate (albeit very close) room, hurt my heart so much that I knew I couldn't do it. So we took apart the nursery,'side-cared' the crib to our bed and that's where she has slept ever since (she is now 7 months). She spends parts of the night in the crib area where I can reach out and touch her at any time, and parts of the night cuddled up against me. She never sleeps between my husband and I so he is finally ok with it. I have read that babies are more at risk of SIDS sleeping alone in their cribs than they are when sleeping with their mamas. There are of course also risks associated with co-sleeping when it is done unsafely. But when it's done right, it can be a wonderful time for bonding and can make breastfeeding in the night easier. I just wish I hadn't been afraid to do it in the beginning.

      Personally I think you should follow your instincts as a mama. There is no substitute for your warm body and beating heart. Maybe your baby can sleep on your side of the bed with a bedrail for safety, get rid of all your blankets etc. You might all get a better night's sleep. Just my two cents…

      1 agrees
    • Kaete, my heart is hurting, reading your comment. If what you're doing is so detrimental that you're having panic attacks, PLEASE try to get some help! Your baby needs you to be healthy.

      If you think co-sleeping will help, get your spouse to do some research on the risks involved with having an infant in your bed vs. the risks caused by chronic exhaustion… my husband worked for a health policy research department, and most of women in charge told him that it was better to let me co-sleep our baby than to risk being so tired that I dropped or otherwise harmed him!

      I am crossing my fingers that things will get better for you.

    • I'm the author of this post, and this is what my baby was like too– I tried to use this little cot that I put RIGHT IN bed with me, and even a thin layer of mesh between us meant that she refused to sleep. Once I stopped fighting it and attempting to transition her to the crib (ha, despite the content of my post!) life got much better. If you're breastfeeding, you are extremely unlikely to contribute to SIDS by co-sleeping. Look up info on co-sleeping safely and see if it will work for you!

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  11. I know this post is from a few weeks ago, but I wanted to chime in on the issue of co-sleeping for mamas who feel like they want to do it but they, or their partner, are worried about the risks. If you google "James McKenna" and "co-sleeping" (he's with the University of Notre Dame Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab–how cool that that exists!) you can find some great research about co-sleeping. The article that I found most compelling is called "Why babies should never sleep alone." I haven't been able to figure out how to post a link directly to the pdf, but it's on this list of articles:

    http://cosleeping.nd.edu/articles-and-presentations/articles-and-essays/

    Co-sleeping might not work for all families (it didn't for mine because it turns out we're all insanely light sleepers), but it's helpful to have some evidence alongside your instincts when making decisions. And sometimes partners (and grandparents and in-laws, etc) need to see that research also to be supportive of your decisions.

  12. I was exactly where you were at 4 months. Avi outgrew our borrowed bassinet before using it more than a few brief times. We finally bought another crib. But with two cribs and a bunk bed in one room, neither sleep-overs or C-i-O are great options. So now we're stuck, not wanting to invest in long-term co-sleeping solutions (like a bed rail), but with an increasingly mobile bundle of love with a need to sleep attached to or very close by my breast.

  13. i highly recommend the Baby Sleep Site consultants — amazing results and they will work with whatever your own desires are, not force you into co-sleeping or Ferberizing.

    we've done many combinations of co-sleeping, crib sleeping, family bed, and mama-close-by-in-the-daybed. over the months, it became clear that even if he and i both loved the cuddly part of co-sleeping (i still do), if we co-sleep at all consistently for very many days in a row, my son will start sleeping badly and being tired. he's 2 now.

    if i start sleeping in a bed in his room regularly, which i did for many months and now do when my back hurts because his day bed is firmer than my and my partner's mattress… after about a week, my son starts waking up throughout the night and crying for me. then we have some adorable cuddly co-sleeping… for half an hour. then he flops all over the place, flops onto me, flops back onto the bed.

    it's weird. knowing i'm there somehow makes him sleep worse. i think he might be conflicted between "let's go cuddle with mama, she's right over there" and "i just want to sleep."

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