Q&A: How to START co-sleeping? (for vacation purposes)

Daylight Savings Time: So next year, could someone please remind me to remind everyone to make sure their mobile phones are set to the correct time zone? Mine was set to Bogota time, instead of East Coast USA time (I have no idea how or why), and Bogota didn't spring forward Saturday night. Nor did I. Sigh.

But now for a question from Hope (such a pretty name):

"An odd question for you and I could be completely wrong about this.  I am about to travel to the US for a 3-4 week vacation with my then 19 month old.  We are going to 3 different states to visit family/friends.  When we get back to Australia, we would like to go to a few other trips.   I could organize rental cribs for all of these locations, but I am wondering “wouldn’t be easier if the boy just slept with us?”  No worries about packing tons of stuff, crib deliveries and  death-trap cribs at b&bs (like our last trip to NZ – one crib was from the 1920s – I kid you not).  The problem – the boy has never slept with us.  He sleeps in his crib (pretty well these days – through the night most nights).  Will he suddenly be able to sleep with us or will it just turn into a big pillow fight?  If he does sleep with us  – how do we “co-sleep”?  (I know – stupid question.)  I just don’t know the logistics.  Do I give him his milk and then just lay with him until he falls asleep and then get up?  We normally have a bfeed and a book and then I carry him to his crib and walk out after one round of “twinkle twinkle”.

Curious about what you and the moms think.  Will he sleep or do I need to start the crib rental search?"

When I first read this, I thought, "What's the big deal? You just put the kid in with you and you sleep." But then I realized that to someone who's never co-slept before, the logistics must be as daunting as it is for co-sleepers to put their kids in a crib for the first time. Duh.

(Isn't it strange that we develop these labels of ourselves as co-sleepers or non-co-sleepers? I think very few families are strictly one or the other. From the emails I get and the people I talk to every day, it seems like the vast majority of us have some experience having our kids in the bed with us and also having them sleep in their own space. It just seems to be how we start out, or, more accurately, how we *think* we're going to start out, that influences how we think of ourselves.)

I remember when I started putting my older son down to sleep at night in his crib, after months and months of getting him to sleep in my bed. I was really concerned about how it was all going to work. What was I going to do? Getting him to sleep in my bed had been so simple, just lie next to him and nurse, and once he was asleep wait another 10 minutes to be sure, then roll away and crawl out of the room like a terrified ninja.

But then it turned out that what had worked for getting him to sleep before worked pretty much the same, with some modifications. I still nursed him, but now I put him down in the crib and sang to him until he fell asleep, then waited another 10 minutes, and snuck out of the room. Then my younger one would not be nursed or comforted to sleep, so he cried like a howler monkey for about 4 minutes and then fell dead asleep, whether he was in a crib or a bed.

So, my advice to Hope and to anyone needing to switch the way their kid sleeps, is to look at your nighttime routine (assuming that it does, in fact, result in your child falling asleep--if it doesn't, now might be the perfect time to try something radically different just to see what happens). Figure out what the key elements are (nursing, rocking, crying, singing, thumb-sucking, holding onto a lovey?) and how you can keep those essential elements the same as you switch venues. You might have to switch around some things, but if you can keep the essential elements the same, it should work itself out in a few days.

Also, don't forget to talk to your child during the day about how the place they sleep is going to change, but you wil be there and will help them get to sleep, and they're going to be safe and have a good sleep in the new location. A few times of that every day for a few days before you make the switch should help your child switch more easily.

Now, as for whether it's advisable for Hope to cosleep while on vacation--I'd say it's probably the best time to do it. Everything's different anyway, so she can spin it as part of being on vacation. "And while we're in the States you are going to sleep in the same bed with Daddy and me! Isn't that fun?" But then once you get back home, you're at home again in your own beds and that's that. If sleeping with you is part of The Vacation Experience, then it's just what he'll do, and then when vacation is over it'll be over.

Your little guy might sleep better in with you while in strange locations anyway, and with the time change, and all the new foods, etc. So even if you do end up with rental cribs (that thought makes me shudder, and I have a child who once drank out of a mud puddle in a public park), you still might find that he ends up in with you so you all can get some sleep.

Have a wonderful time, and let us know how the Special Vacation-Only Cosleeping goes. Everyone else, have you done this for trips?