Shhh we're sleeping...
There are a lot of things I swore I wouldn’t do when I became a parent. I wouldn’t let the tv babysit my kids. I wouldn’t feed my kids fast food because it’s not healthy. And I definitely wouldn’t let my kids sleep in bed with me. Screen time is how I get things done now and we eat out multiple times a week because who has time to cook. And I co-sleep. There I said it. That is a very hard thing to admit because it has become so controversial. It has divided parents into two camps and there can be no in between. Many people will judge me just based on that fact alone. Oh, she’s a co-sleeper…
I guess I need to start at the beginning. Some of you may not know what that means. Co-sleeping is sleeping in close proximity to your kids in the same room or the same bed. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 24% of parents have their children sleep in their beds for at least part of the night. Many proponents for co-sleeping argue that as mammals we have been co-sleeping for thousands of years, its nature’s intention. A gorilla doesn’t make a nest for itself and then one for its young, they sleep together. Many cultures around the world co-sleep and find it odd that some people put their babies in a separate room. A 2006 study in Singapore found over 70% of children slept with a parent or other adult and the mean age of the children was age 9. If so many people globally are co-sleeping then why is it so taboo?
When I was a teen, I babysat for a family that co-slept and this was before it had become as mainstream as it is now. I thought it was the most ridiculous thing ever. Are you such a helicopter parent that your kid must be with you every second? The idea was so foreign to me. Then I became a mom and I wanted to be with my kids every second that I could. Especially when they were babies. Both my babies slept in a rock n’ play next to our bed for about 4 months (I know don’t even start with the rock n’ play drama) and then they went to their crib in their room. I never co-slept with my infant babies. I had given so much of myself as a mother and my bed was just a place I could share with Jim and no one else. So what changed?
Many parents claim to not know how they got to this point of co-sleeping or bed sharing. I know exactly how it happened. Charlie was going to be a big brother, so he needed a big boy bed. Since his bed was a new thing, we started laying with him until he fell asleep. That worked for a while and then he would call for us when he woke up in the middle of the night to come back to his bed. He started doing that so much that we would spend a majority of the night in his twin bed…no thanks. Then Charlie was sick so I let him sleep in our bed so I could keep an eye on him and he stayed. And it was easier to have him with us then to sleep in his room and it was more comfortable for us parents. So that’s how it happened and he has slept with me ever since. Did you catch the me?
The next part of the co-sleeping saga is the displacement of daddy. Daddy worked nights until Cora was born and then he switched to days which was a big adjustment since he had to start getting up at 4:30 am to get to work. This time change coupled with the fact that sleeping with a kid in your bed can be uncomfortable led to poor sleep for daddy. So, one day daddy went to Charlie’s room and got some good sleep. He sleeps there on nights before he works and tries to join us most other nights. I asked Jim his thoughts on co-sleeping and he said that he misses sleeping with me, but since he’s an early riser and a loud snorer, everyone is getting the sleep they need from this arrangement. We also both agreed that we feel it hasn’t negatively affected our relationship.
There are many articles out there stating the reasons why you should not co-sleep: effects on emotional and independence development, insufficient sleep, poor performance in school, safety for infants and many other reasons. But there are just as many articles that say there are benefits to co-sleeping from better sleep and easier breastfeeding to less anxiety and fewer psychological problems for kids. Dr. Michel Cohen says “what you do when your kids are awake matters much more than what you do when they’re asleep.” So which side is right?
I polled the moms in a Facebook mom’s group I am apart of and everyone had their opinion on the topic. Some moms were pro co-sleeping and some were definitely against. Most moms brought up safety and infants as a concern, but all and all most moms supported each other however they slept. I was surprised at the number of moms that did co-sleep. And the number of moms that private messaged me because they didn’t want other moms to know they co-slept. Many co-sleepers are not comfortable admitting the practice because of how others will react. I am afraid of what people will think after they read this, but I wanted other parents to feel comfortable with how they sleep.
I started to think back to when I was a kid and how I slept. I remember falling asleep in the living room at age 7 in the bean bag with my parents watching tv. I also remember being too scared to sleep in my own room and bunking in with my brother for many years. I even slept at the foot of my parents’ bed some nights and in the hallway. I would say my sleep situations as a child were as non-traditional as co-sleeping. But it worked for my family. I think what it boils down to is that only you know what is right for your family and it depends on your season of life. Charlie won’t want to lay down with me holding hands as we fall asleep when he’s 13. It is just this season of life we are in, and I will cherish the time we have together.
You may not agree with our arrangement, but it works for us. Will Charlie sleep with me forever? No. Will Cora start co-sleeping? Maybe. Will Jim and I sleep in the same bed? Yes. It is all just a season of life that we are living and when the next season comes things will be different. I look forward to the next season of life and I will look back fondly on this one. Co-sleeping is not for everyone, but we should be open to everyone having the right to choose how they live their lives. If I am being honest, I would prefer to solo sleep where I get a big bed all to myself and no one bothers me. Maybe next season.