When you become a parent sleep takes on a whole new meaning. You are now looking after this little person with no sleep rhythm or experience with sleep, plus you need to manage your own rest and sleep to ensure you look after yourself, and particularly your mental wellbeing, during this huge transition in life.
I definitely hit some stumbling blocks along the way, but these generally happened when I was either plain tired with all things life and parenthood, or when I listened too much to the opinions of others rather than trusting myself.
Lachie spent the first 9 nights of his life alone in NICU. At the time I didn't really think much about it. I didn't cry on the way home from hospital because I was leaving my baby behind. Through the whole process of his birth and coming home I was in a very logical practical state of mind, focused on the end goal of us all being home to start life together. Now when I think about it, it makes me sad to think about those nights he spent without me there to sooth and cuddle him, but I also know I can't dwell on it too much, it was what it was right.
The first couple of weeks after Lachie came home were like a dream. I'm not sure if it was because he was slightly prem, but he went to sleep easily and slept a lot - this isn't so bad I thought. Then at about a month old it all changed and he hated being laid down flat or basically being off his dad or I. He craved that constant contact.
So for roughly the next three months, until he was around 4 months old, we slept together, on the couch with my pregnancy pillow as support. We slept chest to chest, with him snuggled in under my chin, feeding on demand, and I slept propped up in a sitting position.
We then tried to transition Lachie to sleeping in his bassinet at the end of our bed, which most nights meant me sleeping with my head at the foot end of the bed with my hand on his chest to help him feel safe through the night.
We muddled through the next few months, and then at about 6 months old I felt it was time to put his cot together and to look at whether he would transition into it.
This part of our journey started with me rocking and breastfeeding Lachie to sleep in the rocking chair in his room until he dozed off enough that I could transfer him to his cot without him waking - most times he woke and I had to go through the process again, and once I did manage to get him down in his cot, most nights he woke after 45mins and would only settle back in my arms.
Many sleep professionals recommend that you put your baby down tired but awake, but this never worked for us, Lachie would just scream and I wasn't ok with letting him cry. We tried the 'Cry it out' method for 3 nights, and by the 4th night I couldn't keep doing it, and I was miserable sitting in his dark room with him in my arms mentally pleading for him to go to sleep, so we switched it up to Lachie laying in our bed with me to go to sleep, and then I would transfer him to his cot. Then when he woke during the night I would often bring him into our bed to feed him back to sleep. So part co-sleeping part independent sleeping I guess, and this went on until he was about 20 months old.
Then at around 20 months I started to decrease the feeding back to sleep during the night, which happened pretty naturally with him seeming to need feeding back to sleep less as he started to sleep for longer stretches. This then lead to us moving away from feeding to sleep, and swapping breastfeeding out for his cup with milk at bedtime. At the same time he started to sleep through the night more often, initially 1-2 times a week.
We did this for a few months to give him time to adjust, then it felt right to move him from his cot into a single bed.
So at about 26 months old we moved Lachie into a single bed, which is part of a bunk bed set, so it has guards on the sides which made me feel a lot more relaxed. He is now spending more time in his room, knows what is his bed and what is mum and dads bed, and some nights will happily walk into his room at bedtime ready for a book and cuddles. Either Shaun or I take him to bed and read him 1-2 books, then lay with him until he falls asleep. He's now 27 months old and sleeping through around 4-6 nights a week.
There are still some nights where he comes and snuggles in our bed with me until he goes to sleep, and I'd say we're pretty relaxed about bedtimes as long as we're all getting the sleep we need.
I deeply believe each family and each child is different, and the key is to listen to your intuition and do what works for you and your family. There is so much noise and opinions out there, and it's easy to get caught up in it and do things that don't feel right or authentic, and in my experience, that is when we experience friction.