I should probably disclaim this post (and future posts) by saying that I am in no way claiming to be an expert on these topics; rather, this information is gleaned by what reading I have done, conversations I've had with other parents and my own experiences rearing my son.
Man, we had kind of a rough night last night. We have had the baby in bed with us since his birth. At first, we did it out of convenience for me, since he was up every hour or two for the first month or 6 weeks of his life and having him in bed with me allowed me to actually get some sleep through all the feedings and changings. He does sleep for longer stretches now, but, at almost 10 months old, is still in bed with us. I do love having him there. After having gone back to work when he was 6 weeks old, it seemed a simple and effective way of keeping my close bond with him firmly intact. But now that's he's a bit older and biologically (theoretically, anyway) capable of sleeping through the night on his own, I am yearning for a bit more personal sleeping space and a bit fewer nighttime interruptions, even though I literally sleep through most of our feedings.
At about 6 months old, I decided it was time for a bedtime routine. We chose 8 pm for bedtime, and at around 6 pm I would feed him a little solid food, maybe play or read a book for a while as time allowed, bathe him and then nurse him to sleep by 8 pm. At that time we had the crib on the other side of the room, but it hadn't been used much since he'd been napping mostly with me or on the couch (not exactly safe, I know!). He had gotten to an age where he was much more active and it just really wasn't working to have him napping and going to sleep at night with us doing whatever right there. He needed some quiet time for these things. He took right to the routine; it was great! All of a sudden his father and I had a couple of hours in the evenings to ourselves. The downside was that he wouldn't stay asleep for very long...sometimes (ok, almost all the time) within less than an hour he was awake and fussing. I would quickly go to his bedside and comfort him, offer him a binky or a little rocking, and back to sleep he would go for another hour or sometimes even two. When I was ready for bed, sometimes I would just go ahead and bring him with me, and other times I would wait until he woke up and then bring him in.
Somewhere down the line, I thought that if I brought the crib right next to my side of the bed, and removed the rail, he would surely sleep in his own space, all the while remaining close enough to me for comforting or easy night nursing. This is generally called a "side-car" arrangement with the crib. They even sell "co-sleepers" for this purpose, but I think those are best for a less-mobile child.
Yeah, the sidecar thing is just not really working. We left the rail up on the crib when we initially moved it next to our bed, since he is quite mobile now and we needed to know he wouldn't be crawling out of bed when he was put down at 8 pm. The major challenge with that is actually getting him laid down after nursing him to sleep. It's an acrobatic feat, to go from nursing with a 20 lb child on your lap, to standing on your knees so you can lean over the rail and ever-so-gently lay the child down in the crib. I'm usually able to accomplish this only once a night; after his first waking, he just ain't havin' it, and I end up having to lay him down in our bed, which just defeats the whole purpose of the sidecar and causes me to worry that's he's going to crawl off the bed and break his little neck. Doesn't exactly make for a stress-free evening.
So yesterday I requested that the 4th rail be removed. We have one small bed rail, a bunch of pillows and a monitor, so I figured that would probably be enough to alert us of his waking before he could get to the edge of the bed. I nursed him to sleep and laid him in his crib; he was out. 30 minutes later, he's awake again (grr)! It has become more and more frequent that he will have no part of going back down in that crib, and it was apparent last night that even without the rail, he's not happy about it. After a crying session of about 30 minutes, I finally got him to lay down in his crib and go back to sleep. I went to bed at about 10:30 pm. He woke up pretty much as soon as I laid down, so I nursed him back to sleep and moved him over into the crib again. Almost fell asleep by about 11:30 pm, then he woke up and crawled over to me, crying and wanting to nurse, again. So, we repeat the process, again. He was rather fitfully staying put at this point, so I'm having no luck getting to sleep. Almost fell asleep again at around 12:30 am, but the stupid freaking cat decided she wanted to go sleep in the crib (which, in her defense, was her bed for the first 6 months of my son's life), so I'm up kicking her off the bed, so as not to wake the baby. I remember being awakened at about 1:30 am, Derek crying and wanting to nurse again. At this point I give up on the crib thing, since I'm exhausted and sick of messing with it. I bring him next to me and we sleep. He was pretty pissed the rest of the night though, tossing and turning; pouting and crying in his sleep. I had to nurse him back to sleep about 4 or 5 times because he was so restless and upset. On a more normal night, he might nurse 2 or 3 times tops after he's in bed with me.
I think it was working better when the crib was across the room. Starting to feel like a failure! Today, I'm just tired, and I don't know what we are going to do tonight. Is it worth it to give it a few nights without the rail and see if maybe he's able to adjust? We'll see, I guess.