Sleep is a tough subject for most new parents. Comparing notes on arrangements and patterns often dominates early conversations among couples. Stacy and I rarely talked about it with others, though, as it brings with it a handful of bigger hot-button issues—namely, overall parenting style. For our son, Oliver, it's always been a situation of whatever works best for him, not whatever the books say. Insert the hippie tag here.
When Oliver was born, we first placed him in a small bassinet co-sleeper next to our queen-size bed. Having an infant sleep next to you all night may sound like turmoil, but walking up and down the stairs multiple times each night seemed much more daunting. We had meticulously created a world for Oliver in his upstairs room, but he spent the first six months of his life sleeping next to us in our bedroom.
After Oliver had outgrown his co-sleeper, the next logical step seemed to be to put him in the bed with us before the final transition upstairs. It made nighttime feedings that much easier, but, due to his tosses and turns, we lost a good amount of sleep. We never seemed able to let him cry himself to sleep. Rocking a child to sleep is one of the oldest parenting skills in the book, and we've had our practice. After sleeping in our bed for a few months and a few trial nights upstairs, Oliver finally made the move to his crib, which he soon found to be too confining. We looked for a solution.
After a little thought and research, Stacy and I decided to put a futon mattress on the floor—unusual but, as we soon found, the perfect fix. Essentially, we ditched the constrictive infant crib and turned his entire room into one large crib. The doors stay opened but gated while he sleeps. When Oliver wakes up, he has room to roam and lets us know that he is up by babbling, rather than screaming. I walk upstairs some days and find him fiddling with the dials on the radio or reading a book. Just today, I found him in his closet, flipping through clothes in a drawer and trying to open his train set box. He was frustrated, but only because he couldn't open the box, not because he couldn't get out of his crib.
Noise is another sticking point. Some parents keep their infant's room very quiet at night; the days may be silent, too. Our house couldn't be more different: Between white noise machines, the local jazz station and NPR, Oliver seems to enjoy hearing while he's sleeping. He dances to music and perks up to children's albums. Again, whatever works.
Oliver is 13 months old now, and to this day his sleeping is still a challenge. Naps and bedtimes don't occur on a regular schedule, since every day has a different set of activities laid out, with the naps built between them. Stacy and I are both late-night people, so, like Oliver's, our sleeping habits are very unpredictable. I think I prefer it that way, though—not having a bedtime and not really having one for my kid, either. Life should be unpredictable, I suppose. Otherwise, the monotony might just bore us to sleep.