Spreading her wings and leaving the nest*

My daughter Ava has slept in the same bedroom as me every night for the last nearly four years now. As a newborn she started out in an Arm’s Reach Cosleeper next to Jody’s and my bed, then transitioned into our bed around four months old. When she was two years old, we bought her her own bed, which we put next to our’s to expand our family bed in preparation for the birth of Julian and adding another person to our cosleeping arrangement.

For the most part, cosleeping (or sharing sleep) has been a great experience for our family. I’ve always loved the secure feeling of knowing my children are close by and safe. If they ever cry out or are sick in the middle of the night, I’ve been right there to comfort them. Mornings full of kisses and snuggles and goofing around in the bed are times I cherish.

For the past few weeks, Ava has been saying she’d like to move into her own bedroom. I admit I was rather surprised to hear it coming from her. We’ve talked before about her getting her own room once we move into a larger house (someday), but never pushed the issue in this house. I figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

After she mentioned it a few times, weeks apart, I thought we should take this request seriously and respect it. So last Friday we moved her mattress (not her whole bed) from our “family bedroom” to the “kids’ room,” which has always just been a room to store things – dresser of their clothes, a glider, diapering paraphernalia and some toys.

Ava is very excited about her first night in her own room - 4/4/08Ava was very excited to be moving into her own room. She declared that she was going to go to sleep all by herself and “no mama milk tonight!,” something she’s said more than once lately, but has yet to follow through on. πŸ˜‰ (I’m gently encouraging her to wean by her fourth birthday in June.) I thought that was a little much to try to tackle all in one night, but since it was at her urging I figured we’d give it a try and see how it went. She soon acquiesced and asked for mama milk and for me to lay with her while she fell asleep (which is our usual bedtime ritual). Before she went to sleep, Jody and I reassured her that we were there if she needed us in the night, and Jody put down a sleeping bag on the floor next to her mattress just in case. We slept with both bedroom doors open so if she woke up, she could easily wander into our room.

After she had some mama milk, we talked for a bit and she fell asleep. I took my time getting up that night. It was a little hard for me to think that my baby girl was growing up and taking the first of many steps towards independence. I laid in bed with her and whispered that I loved her. I gave her three extra kisses before I got up and left her sleeping contentedly in her very own room. It was bittersweet. I snuck back in there a little while later to snap a picture (had to) and cover her back up.

Soundly sleeping in her own room - 4/4/08Around 2 a.m. we awoke to Ava yelling “Mommy” and she came running down the hall towards our room. Jody met her in the hallway and carried her into our room, where she said, “I don’t want to move back in here.” So Jody took her back to her room and slept next to her on the floor.

We made a big deal about her first night in her own room the next day and told her how proud we were of her.

That night, not wanting her to feel like she had to stay in her own room if she didn’t want to, I told her we could move her mattress back into our room if she wanted, but she was adamant that she wanted to sleep in her own room again.

She’s been sleeping in her own room now for the past week. She tends to wake up and call out for one of us around 3 or 4 a.m. most nights at which point Jody goes in and sleeps next to her on a second twin mattress that we got off Freecycle this week. Other than that, the transition has gone really well. She is happy to be sleeping by herself and has no plans to move back in with us. Gulp.

I am very proud of my little girl. While this transition was a little harder on me than I think it was on her, I know that we’re doing the right thing. I feel lucky that we had such a great co-sleeping relationship for the first 3 3/4 years of her life and that she was able to move on to her own room when she was ready.

It’s hard to watch your children decide they no longer need you with this or that, but at the same time it’s also rewarding. We give them wings so they can fly.

Just don’t fly too far yet, honey, k? πŸ™‚

*Alternate title: “Proof that AP kids really will sleep in their own beds someday” πŸ˜‰

Cosleeping Resources
Kellymom: The Family Bed
Attachment Parenting International: Engage in Nighttime Parenting
The Natural Child Project: Cosleeping
Berkeley Parents Network: Co-sleeping: The Family Bed
Mothering: Sleep articles
The Natural Child Project: Articles on Sleeping

41 thoughts on “Spreading her wings and leaving the nest*”

  1. awwww what a big girl. It is bittersweet isn’t it. Glad she transitioned so well πŸ™‚
    Hugs to you on your lil girl growing up .

    DH was adamant on Alex not sleeping with us but he’s since given in and I bring him to bed with me when he wakes up for his first nursing around midnight. I love waking up to my smiling baby πŸ™‚

  2. Awww, that warms and breaks my heart at the same time… because Sara (less than a week away from 13 months) co-sleeps with us, and while we occasionally have thoughts of trying to move her into her room (very few people we know personally co-sleep) it’s working so well. As you said, if it ain’t broke.

    Kudos to you for stepping back when the little one’s taking a step forward. I hope I handle the same transition with equal grace.

  3. Wow! She did it! Yay!!

    I can never sleep that first night my kids are gone from my side. Both T and I have to get up a few times and check on them πŸ˜‰

    Although, in our house at least, the sleeping in their own bed thing comes and goes so we don’t miss them all that long :p

  4. WOW!! What a big girl!

    ((Hugs)) for you mama! I know I would need them if one of mine moved out of my room (with the exception of Michael, of course, LOL! He moved out so very long ago..)

  5. Congrats on your little one blossoming into her own little person and making her own decisions. What an exciting process! I didn’t realize you were still nursing your children… awesome! Primarily just at bedtime? I’m always curious as to how often people feed their nurslings, especially after the first year. πŸ™‚

  6. sounds like she has a seriously strong mind of her own! which i’m sure will be wonderful when she’s 16…okay, one milestone at a time, right?:-)

  7. We never intended to have a family bed, but it just happened. Now, all the kids start in their own bed, but we have at least 3 in bed with us every morning (and usually not the baby!).

    There are definitely moments when I wish for a little more space, but I wouldn’t trade those early morning snuggles for anything!

  8. What a wonderful story…brought tears to my eyes. Our little indie APer called for his own bed long before I was ready, but at 16 months, I felt like we had to give him his own space. Our narrow walk in closet was just big enough for a crib mattress (handed down from our awesome neighbor) and surrounded it will pillows, blankets, etc. Now it looks like something out of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, but he LOVES it…loves to play in there, sleep for hours in there and crawl the two steps into our bed in the morning for Mama’s milk and snuggling with Dagee (Daddy).

  9. It is interesting how when the kiddies make up their mind on something- that is it. You should be very proud that you were able to follow Ava’s cues on co-sleeping and also be able to let her spread her wings, now that she has decided she is ready for her own bed.

  10. Big girl!!! Clara, too, seems pretty much done with cosleeping in our bed, although she likes me to come to her bed around 3am… It is satisfying that attachment parenting ideals that get such disapproval end up not being a big deal in the long run (ie; indenpendence)

  11. Aww, it’s such a bittersweet feeling when kids make moves towards independence. Congrats to Ava and my condolences/congrats to you,as well πŸ™‚

    I’ve co-slept with all of my children EXCEPT the twins,who seemed to want only each other. We’re currently going though the same transition with my youngest who just turned 3.He has also declared “No nursies” (mama milk) BUT he seems to think that No Nursey equals not going to bed at all πŸ˜› Fun stuff.

  12. Thanks for sharing this, I’ve been thinking about cosleeping a lot recently especially as we had our little boy in our bed last night. We occasionally cosleep when he’s unsettled. He normally sleeps 10 – 11 hours through the night from 3 months so I find it hard to get up to him and I worry that I won’t wake when he needs me so it’s easier and more reassuring for me and his Dad if he sleeps with us. I never thought we would cosleep but I have always been curious about it and found it less scary and far easier than I expected.
    I think it shows what a confident and self-assured little girl you are raising that Ava is determined to sleep in her own room and I just hope my kids turn out same.

  13. My daughter, also 3 and 3/4, has been working on leaving me as well. We have co-slept in her twin bed since she was small. When she was tiny, I would sometimes lay her in her crib for a bit and sleep with my husband (who is afraid he’ll squish her) and when she got big enough for the bed, I would sometimes leave her for part of the night. Lately, though, Reid has told me that she doesn’t want me in her bed. Sometimes, I am allowed to stay long enough for milkies, sometimes that isn’t required either. I have long fought other people judging the extended nursing and co-sleeping as what is best for her and our family. Now I have to fight myself a bit as Reid is changing the definition of “best for her”.

  14. Aww… such a BIG move. We’ve been going through a rough spot with our 15 month old and sometimes I wonder if our sleeping choices have adversely affected her sleep. Reading stories like this gives me encouragement that we’re on the right path and that some day we’ll have to let her go on her own. Until then, I’ll enjoy our snuggles while we can have them πŸ™‚

  15. Aw. It brings a tear to my eye thinking about my son giving up co-sleeping. He is almost 16 months, and every once in a while, I put him in his own bed, but it never stays that way. We both sleep better together. Maybe in 2 more years?

  16. Oh… Bittersweet is really the word for that… I know exactly how it feels like. Lucas is almost five and he sleeps on his own (tiny!) room – just beside ours – since last year, when we moved to a new apartment. Although he doesn’t cosleep with us, I have always layd down with him to read and make him sleep, and he really feels good about it, and so do I! I know many people here in my country would criticize this habit, but I follow my guts, and that’s what matters. You must be proud of your sweet girl indeed, and she must be feeling so special now. I’m sure that the past years cosleeping helped her to be a well-centered little girl. That’s it! We just have to let that breeze run through our spine when watching them so assured and let them fly knowing you did the right thing. Wish you a great weekend with your big girl! πŸ™‚ Kisses from Nydia.

  17. Just another thing I rememberd about this feeling: I’ve planned to breastfeed Lucas until he was two (I was lucky to be rich in milk to the point of weekly donating it to a motherhood center). But he decided antcipating it in some months, and when he was one year and eight months oold, simply refused to drink my milk! He shaked his head and literally put on my bra over my breast. I was devastated! LOL “How comes?!”, I thought… It’s funny looking back, when I cried over my hubby’ shoulder because of it. But that was just right. I only think that we moms should have the right of getting an extra heart for such moments…

  18. What a good girl! Way to go Mom! It’s so hard when they start getting more independent. I remember having a hard time letting my son fix his own sandwiches! It was a little rough on me that he didn’t need me to fix his sandwiches anymore!

  19. Oh Amy! How exciting!! And yes, bittersweet πŸ™‚ I remember when Delaney moved – she was a bit younger, but the children had a difficult time sharing a room (with us) after #2 was born. But she was SO INTO HER OWN ROOM! I thought for sure I’d be sleeping with her or DH would be sleeping with her, but she was FINE – a little too fine for my tastes LOL

  20. Our transition out of co-sleeping went pretty well too. But like you said, I think it is hardest on us mamas. It is precious that she still calls out for you and that you go sleep next to her in her room. I have spent many a night on the floor with my hand up on his chest so that he could sleep. I should have thought of the twin mattress idea. πŸ™‚ Our son still comes into our bed around 5 to sleep with us a little in the mornings. But I still can’t wait until this next baby arrives so I can have some all-night-snuggles !!

  21. We must have had the same things on our mind yesterday. I wrote a co-sleeping post as well. What a big girl Ava is… I know it had to be hard on you, because I think I would be bawling my eyes out. I’m just not ready for them to leave my bed quite yet hehe. Madisyn our five year old has said several times she is going to sleep in her own bedroom but it never happens hehe and I’m cheering quietly phew thank goodness LOL.

  22. Amy,

    I admire that you could cosleep and acutally sleep and that you did it for so long. It just isn’t me.What a sweet story and wow…they really do grow up fast!

  23. This is pretty much how things work around here. Violet goes to sleep in her own bed, Finnegan in a crib, Mom and Dad in their bed. Upon Finnegan’s waking (finnegan’s wake! πŸ˜‰ he comes to bed with us, then upon Violet’s, Daddy goes to bed with her. Sounds complicated, but it’s actually a pretty smooth system. At least I still have one baby’s head in the small of my back. Who could sleep without that?

  24. I can imagine how proud you are of her and yet how bittersweet it must be that that time has come to an end. I’m sure as your relationship with Ava grows the more wonderful and fulfilling it will become. Thanks for sharing!

  25. *sniff sniff*

    Awwwwwww, mama! I know how hard those transitions are. Per hubby’s request, we move our babes to their own beds much earlier than sweet Ava decided she was ready to move out, but if it were up to me, we would TOTALLY do the family bed thing.

    Gorgeous article on a beautiful way to share sleep as a family. Love it. Great resources, too!

  26. That is a bitter sweet moment. DS, who’s much younger is now sleeping in his own room. although 4a rolls around he cries out and I get to nurse him back to sleep in a toddler bed no less.

    I didn’t know you were nursing Ava too. Way to go!

  27. Congrats to Ava! The beautiful thing is she made the transition in her own time and it resulted in a happy, secure, INDEPENDENT, beautiful child. Great codicil about her being able to sleep in her own bed.

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