by Christa (Quispamsis, New Brunswick, Canada)
I have read a couple of books and also done the online reading, but I still don't have what I think is a good plan to keep my family safe and well rested when my next baby arrives in June.
My first ‘baby' (Seth) is now 2 1/2 and sleeps in a toddler bed next to me in our queen sized bed – with frequent visits to our bed I'm afraid for cuddles & sometimes ‘boobie' (though I am trying to limit that at night in prep for #2).
When our new baby comes I don't really know where to put him/her. They say not to have him/her next to the father or a toddler – so where? I have a small, soft travel bed that will fit between myself and my husband that the babe can sleep safely in, in the beginning, but then how do I make room for nursing in bed and what if my toddler wants to nurse or cuddle while baby is nursing? Or what if I fall asleep with baby between me and Dad or me and Toddler by mistake?
I really have no idea how to handle this to be gentle to my toddler, but safe for my baby despite my reading. We do also have a crib which we set up as a side car bed for baby #1. I was thinking that perhaps I could move Seth's toddler bed to my husbands side of the bed (for Seth) and put the crib on my side – that would work until Seth wanted me though- something that generally occurs nightly.
I was hoping to let him self wean and to not force the issue, but I'm thinking that perhaps I should at least night wean…..I don't know what else to do. Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks in advance,
Trying to decide how to balance things between family members can often be challenging. The desire is to be fair and balanced for everyone – but that can sometimes leave you confused and unsure if you're doing the right thing.
I do think it sounds like you're at a good starting place. Having Seth in the toddler bed is a good way to help him start to enjoy some more independence. I also think it's great that you're thinking through this now.
First, I do need to say that I have never had a problem with my babies being between me and Dad – I know some official guidelines say that baby should only be beside Mom, but for me that just hasn't worked out. Since I mostly share thoughts from my own experiences and from what I've learned from other moms, I just wanted to point that out.
If Dad is a heavy sleeper that might be concern – it's up to you to decide what you feel comfortable with.
I think your idea of moving Seth's bed to your husband's side of the big bed is a great idea. It would get him used to being on that side of the bed, and if your husband is up for it, he could start to take on some of the nighttime comforting that you do. This would be easier since he'd be right beside Seth.
I have always chosen to night wean the older nursling when I had a new baby on the way, just because it made life simpler for me. We also had a toddler bed in our room and I found the older child accepted being close in the toddler bed. If you do decide to night wean there is other comfort to offer – you can offer a sip of water, a back rub, a song, a cuddle etc. These are all things your husband can do, too.
It's also understandable if you decide you don't want to night wean, though. I know moms who choose to keep both nursing at night often have the toddler on one side and the baby on the other – they just switch back and forth through the night as needed. You could still put Seth's bed by your husband, and if he needed to nurse your husband could just put him between the two of you. The new baby could go on your other side – maybe with the crib side car like you were thinking (if you have room for a toddler bed on one side and a sidecar on the other!)
Baby could sleep in the sidecar until he or she needed to nurse, then come to bed with you. Or have your husband move Seth back to the toddler bed after nursing.
Another possibility would be limit Seth's nursing – many moms have done something like sing the “ABC” song then say “ok, nursing is done” (or going bye-bye, night-night, etc.) This is a gentle way to encourage a child toward weaning, and it sets a gentle limit on nursing. Then your husband could take over by tucking Seth back into bed (or maybe cuddling him on his side of the bed), giving a back rub, etc.
I have found that changing night sleeping/nursing habits always take some real effort and it's toughest during the first 2-3 weeks. The child needs time to adjust. Usually it's not too hard on you or the child, but sometimes you do need to be gentle but firm. If you want to limit nursing or wean completely you may have to firmly say “It's time for nursing to go night-night.” then let your husband take over with a back rub, or a cuddle. If you don't usually wear a shirt at night, or wear a nursing gown, it may be a good time to wear a t-shirt. Then if you want you can hold Seth but tell him that the milk is tucked in and gone to sleep (I use our pet name for nursing – you can say whatever you wish).
I've had some crying with night weaning/limiting night nursing, but was always right there to hold and reassure the child. I felt like this was an OK situation for my family, but again, you have to decide what feels right for you, Seth, and your husband.
It's always a challenge figuring out how balance things for the whole family. But remember that being part of a family is a wonderful experience for a child – learning how much the family gives, and learning that sometimes we need to make changes for the good of others in the family – and that's very nourishing for children to learn too.
Best of luck to you Christa – I hope everybody enjoys the newest addition to your family!