Illustration of a woman and two children sleeping with a man looking sullen
Illustration: Jayde Perkin

PARENTING HONESTLY

To co-sleep, or not to co-sleep? I’m too tired to care…

There’s an impasse in the Wilder household: husband wants to sleep-train their toddler. Robyn just wants to buy him a double bed. Question is, who's going to break first?

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By Robyn Wilder on

My husband and I have been having the same argument for weeks, in the snatched moments between feeding a young baby, chasing down an errant toddler, running a house (ish), and working. We have the argument while handing each other hot drinks in the morning; over the heads of our kids during dinner; grumbling into our pillows at bedtime.

This afternoon, we are having it in the living room.

“I’m putting my foot down,” my husband tells me. “We are absolutely not buying Herbie a double bed.” “Well, I’m putting my foot down,” I retort, adding: “Don’t oppress me, the patriarchy.”

Our mutual death-glare is broken by a knock at the door – it’s some family friends, coming for a visit. As they bundle out of the cold and into the palpable marital tension, my husband greets them with a cheery: “Hello! We’re arguing about co-sleeping. Want to join in?”

And since he’s invited them, I’m inviting you.

The argument concerns our older son who, at almost three years old, still does not sleep through the night. As a baby, he was a bad sleeper, so we co-slept through necessity. For a year now he’s been in his own room and, for every single night of that year, he’s cried out for us up to five times a night.

Sometimes it’s heartbreaking (“No, no, no!” or “I’ve lost Daddy!”), sometimes it’s hammy (“Wah, wah, wah, I’m a crying baby”), sometimes it’s wildly acquisitive (“Chocolate finger?”), but it’s always solved if one of us bunks in with him.

Now all my time is taken up with a breastfeeding baby, this has been my husband’s jurisdiction. Recently he has developed a passion for sleep training, and almost every morning I’ve come downstairs to find him muttering “It was a bad, bad night,” for all the world as though he were an old man of the sea.

“That happened ONCE!” my husband explodes, then shouts, “Cup of tea?” at our guests.

Recently he has developed a passion for sleep training, and almost every morning I’ve come downstairs to find him muttering “It was a bad, bad night,” for all the world as though he were an old man of the sea

Sleep training seems to look like this: my husband starts off sleeping in our bed, then – not unheroically – nicks off to the (orthopaedically torturous) guest bed if our son is having a bad night. At which point he will EITHER allow our son to scream himself hoarse, OR go in every little while to reassure him. Either way, seven times out of 10, he will get too tired at some point and fall asleep with our son.

“...Which is co-sleeping,” I spit through a mouthful of Jammie Dodgers. “So why not just co-sleep in the first place? Twice in the last year, Herbie has come into bed with me and slept through peacefully because he knows he’s with someone. He’s only little. He needs comfort.”

“No, I’m not having him grow up with weird sleep associations,” my husband says. “He needs routine.”

“To be fair, he’s not getting much routine if you’re falling asleep in with him,” our guest points out, so my husband helps himself to the last biscuit without breaking eye contact.

“So what are your solutions?” Our guest sighs.

“Bigger beds,” I say immediately. “Everyone gets one. Stu sleeps with Herbie, I sleep with the baby. When he’s bigger they can co-sleep together, and when they’re big enough we swap them out for bunk beds.”

“Unequivocally no,” says my husband. Then he puts his fist in the air and shouts “Endurance! Perseverance! Routine!” and other military terms.

At this point, not wanting to misrepresent him too much, I ask my husband what he thinks of this column. He said the following:

"I don't sleep with him seven times out of 10. It happens for an hour once a month now, tops. And I can't do proper sleep training because you text me in tears whenever you hear him crying. Also, buying everyone double beds for a couple of years is a ridiculous expense that we can't afford. Last, this whole 'a visitor came over' framing conceit is absolute bollocks. You don’t even eat Jammie Dodgers. It didn't happen, which means that our imaginary guests didn't side with you, which means I win."

I suspect we'll be having this argument for a while

@orbyn

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Illustration: Jayde Perkin
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PARENTING HONESTLY
sleep
Robyn Wilder

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