There is a part of my parenting that, until recently, I felt terrible about: my children never slept in cribs. I’m sure some of you, possibly most of you, are horrified by this. I honestly don’t even know how it happened. They are great sleepers now, and my younger son has generally been a great sleeper since he was brand new, but cribs just…never happened somehow. Let me explain.
With both my sons, I nursed exclusively and never pumped. This was partly due to laziness; I hated pumping with a passion, and since I was in graduate school and primarily at home, I didn’t see the reason to suffer though it. A side effect of this was that I was always on-call as the food source, 24/7. My pump-hatred unfortunately meant my husband could never feed our infants. My first son was a difficult, colicky baby who wanted to nurse constantly. It wasn’t long before I gave up on the bassinet in my room and co-slept to make the nighttime feedings easier and allow everyone some sleep. When he reached 10 months or so, co-sleeping was no longer working out. He was moving more, and I was waking up constantly when he would re-settle himself. We tried the crib. And tried. And tried. I tried every trick I’d read about: letting him self-settle (which happened exactly zero times and gave me endless hours of anxiety), patting him to sleep, cry-it-out extinction method, white noise…you name it, I probably tried it. I was desperate for sleep. Finally, we figured out what worked for us: a floor bed.
We packed up the hated crib, and set up a full-sized mattress on the floor. My now one year old was a mobile, curious toddler. We childproofed his bedroom, anchored his furniture to the walls, placed toys and books at baby-level in bins, and gated his doorway. We read stories together in his “floor bed”, snuggled, and…he slept! It was like magic.
When baby #2 arrived, we hesitated to set up the crib. Why bother? It had barely been used with our first son! Our second child was a much easier baby. He slept in 4-5 hour spurts right after birth with no coaxing from me. He happily snoozed in a bassinet in our room until he finally got too big and strong and needed to move out. Enter the crib…met with the same disdain it was with our first son. To make a long story short, we again found ourselves co-sleeping until around age one, then setting up another floor bed.
The funny part about our failure to have happy babies sleeping in cribs is the guilt and shame it caused me. Everyone else’s babies slept in their cribs until at least age 2, and some even seemed sad to graduate to toddler beds! I still have no idea where I went wrong, or even if I went wrong. Apparently, this has become somewhat of a trend, with Montessori-inspired “floor-bed” popping up all over early education blogs and Pinterest pages.
So here I am, sharing my story years later in case you find yourself in a similar place, with a happy, sleeping, free-range baby or toddler who refuses to be contained. Do what works for your family, putting your baby’s safety first of course, and let go of the guilt!