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Family Beds

Jenny Feldon

There’s a new baby coming. The new baby will have to sleep somewhere. This should not be a difficult task to accomplish. Yet I’m—literally, no pun intended—losing sleep over it. Sleep is a delicate, precious commodity in any family with children. Everything needs to be perfect to maximize the likelihood that the household will be quiet, at least for a few hours each night.

Right now things work fine. E sleeps in her crib. J, Tucker and I sleep in a bed. Everyone seems to like this arrangement. It’s been like that since the day E came home from the hospital. But now E is reaching the age where a toddler bed might be appropriate, and somewhere inside me #2 is pointing to the invisible watch on his wrist and tapping his tiny little foot. He has his eye on her crib. So do I buy another crib, or evict E and force an early transition to a “big girl” bed? And then do I go toddler bed (which seems like an unnecessary step), or straight to a real bed with rails?

I’ve been asking everyone I know with second babies at home how this all supposed to work. One friend, spouting the wisdom of a local parenting guru, says under no circumstances should I take E’s crib away. “It’s like coming home with a new boyfriend, and telling your husband you’ll be giving his bed to the new guy.” Um…huh? Somewhere buried in that bizarre example there is a logical premise—I don’t want to E to feel like anything is being taken away from her. Getting a new brother who will steal a lot of her attention is going to be hard as it is. But if we do it earlier enough (and when is that?) will she forget all about the crib and be satisfied to join the ranks of people who sleep with blankets and pillows?

Another friend said she transitioned her son to a toddler bed just days before she delivered her #2. The issue was rushed because little N was escaping from his crib and stumbling down the hall to his parents’ room six, seven, sometimes ten times a night.

“How did it go?” I asked, eyeing the sleepy newborn snuggled into her shoulder.

“It didn’t. We all sleep together now.”

“ALL?”

And yes, she meant all—Mom, Dad, a two-year-old who sleeps “like a starfish,” a four-week-old infant, and Bullet the dog, who’s about twelve times the size of Tucker.

I’ve got nothing against co-sleeping. It was the only attachment parenting recommendation I didn’t follow (sorry, Dr. Sears.) It didn’t work for us for a variety of reasons—E was so tiny I couldn’t sleep for fear I’d inadvertently roll over on her, breastfeeding in bed was uncomfortable, Tucker got there first and I felt too guilty about reducing him to second-class citizen status to kick him out of bed. And most importantly, after long days and nights of full time mommy duty, I needed a space that was just for me. So E slept in her crib. And #2 needs to have his own place to snooze, too. Or I might go insane.

A third friend had to take action when her daughter started climbing out of her crib and onto her changing table. “Picture the Karate Kid on the top of the Empire State Building,” she said. So she went to work disassembling the crib to transform it into a toddler bed, when little C burst into tears and said “Please Mommy, don’t break my crib! I promise I’ll stay in it. Please!”

None of the scenarios please me. E’s never tried to escape from her crib; in fact, she seems to like it just fine in there. And as J pointed out, with her limited athletic abilities (sorry, kiddo, you got that from me) it’s unlikely she’ll be able to escape until she’s, say, eight years old. And the biggest pro for letting her stay behind bars is that it makes my life easier. She’s safe, she’s contained, and I don’t have to worry about her stumbling around in the dark at night or writing on the walls with crayon when she wakes up bored. Sometimes—don’t tell anyone—I even shut off the monitor and stay in bed an extra ten minutes. She’s not going anywhere, right?

On the other hand, it seems silly and wasteful to buy a second crib when E could decide anytime she’s ready to move on to real furniture. She loves to play in my bed, pulling the sheets over her head, nestling into the pillow and saying “Goodnight, Bert.” (Apparently, in her world, the only people that sleep in beds other than Mommy and Daddy are on Sesame Street.) It’s not like she knows she has an option—maybe the sleepless nights I envision during the transition are purely fictional, and she’d sleep an extra hour with a little more room to spread out?

I’m not the kind of person who can stick #2 in a travel crib and wait for the whole thing to sort itself out. He needs a bed. Of his own. Either E’s beautiful hand-crafted birch crib, or the cheap laminate one we’ve selected in the event we’re buying a duplicate. How am I supposed to decide? And when? My nights of decent sleep are numbered—soon I’ll be too pregnant, and after that I’ve got months and months of sleep deprivation ahead of me. I need to make a decision so we can all sleep better—help, please!

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