Best laid plans and co-sleeping
So I’m a bed-sharer, there, I said it. Co-sleeper, bed-sharer,whatever you want to call it, my kids sleep in my bed with me. I am very aware that this is a frowned upon activity in this country; trust me, I’m aware (I hear it almost daily from my neighbor). But this is a choice I have made, even if it might not have been part of my original plan when I first became a mother.
Though my life before having kids is a bit hazy, I’m pretty sure I never thought to myself “hey, wouldn’t it be grand if, in my future, I were to have three kids and they all (or at least 2 of the 3) slept with me every night until they were five or older?” I’m pretty sure that if I’d thought that I would’ve have had myself committed. Yet here I am, almost six years into this parenting thing and two out of three of my kids sleep with me every single night while the third sleeps with my husband in a different bed. No, not ideal, but it works for us, right now at least.
It didn’t start this way, it just kind of progressed to this point. When my oldest was born I had a crib in another room and a co-sleeper in my room. I used to put him down in the crib after swaddling him and nursing him to sleep and then tend to him two hours later when he woke to nurse again. The problem was, in the house we lived in at the time, my bedroom was upstairs and his bedroom was downstairs, directly off the garage. That made me uncomfortable, so I used to bring him up to my room when I retired for the night. I would nurse him back down and then lay him in the co-sleeper. When he woke in the middle of the night, I would get up with him, go downstairs, and nurse him back to sleep before attempting to put him back down in the co-sleeper. The problem was, half the time I was so tired I began to fall asleep in the rocking chair, and the other half of the time, he would wake up as soon as he was laid back down into the cold co-sleeper, and just about every time, he would wake to feed a again within thirty minutes of me finishing this whole process. So basically I was getting no sleep. After two months, I had to return to work, so I knew I needed to work something out so I could get some sleep at night. That’s when I stumbled upon a solution. I found that a lot of times during the day, I was so tired that I would pass out with the baby in bed as I nursed him and we slept much better. My concern at night was that my husband would roll on top of him. So I figured out a way to prop the baby up on a pillow with my arm around him and angle him just right so that I could plop a boob in his mouth as soon as he began to wake so that I didn’t have to fully wake up and could get maximum sleep (with a newborn that is). This worked and as he got older, I enjoyed cuddling with him. At the time I was working during the day, so co-sleeping at night gave me a chance to bond with my baby. By the time my second baby came, we had moved to a house with bedrooms all on the same floor. My oldest was starting off the night in his crib and even sleeping through the night in his crib, on occasion, and I continued my co-sleeping tactic with baby number two. Before baby number three came along, my oldest was spending most nights in his own bed and my middle child would at least start off the night in his own bed. The problem was, they often woke during the night and came looking for us. My husband was getting up with the older one and bringing him back to his room, but then my husband began falling asleep in my oldest son’s bed and not returning. By the time my third son was born, my husband had got to the point where he would just go to bed in my oldest son’s room so that he didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night, while my middle son started off the night in his room, but eventually wandered into my bed. So it all just evolved over time as something that worked for us in order to get as much sleep as possible with three small children in the house. Sure, some nights we don’t get as much sleep as we like (okay, most nights), but I figure, we are still probably getting more sleep than we would be getting if we were playing musical beds all night like we used to. When the kids are sick, or teething, or having bad dreams, it doesn’t matter whether they are in their own beds or our bed because we aren’t going to get much sleep anyway. At least this way I have my own pillow and am not hanging off the edge of a toddler bed.
My husband and I are okay with our arrangement for the time being and we know that it is only temporary. The problem is, other people don’t seem to be okay with our arrangement. Normally I’m not one to care what other people think, but when I have to listen to people constantly tell me that I “need to get those kids out of (my) bed,” I begin to get a little irked. Yes, everyone has an option and they are entitled to it, but I don’t need to hear it. You raise your kids your way and I’ll raise my kids my way. Still, people feel the need to give misguided advise. When the boys were young, it was a constant commentary on how unsafe it was to sleep with my babies or that I was “spoiling” them and that I should just let them “cry it out” or they would never learn to self-soothe. Now I hear things like they are too old to sleep with me and should be in their own rooms, or that it isn’t right that my husband and I don’t sleep together, it will ruin our marriage. So for all those people who have felt to the need to constantly share their loving, but critical options on my sleeping arrangements, let me share some information with you.
First off, co-sleeping with your baby is perfectly safe, if you take the correct precautions. Both Dr. Sears and Dr. McKenna support co-sleeping and have research to show that, when done correctly, co-sleeping can decrease the chances of SIDS and can provide many benefits to both mother and child (Dr. McKenna, Dr. Sears) . Secondly, whether people realize it or not, co-sleeping is the cultural norm in 90% of the world and is practiced by nearly 200 cultures (cosleeping ). For whatever reason, we here in the US seem to think that every child needs their own bed and their own rooms. People forget that it wasn’t that long ago that multiple generations lived under the same humble roof, sharing both living and sleeping space. It is really only in the past 20 or so years that people have begun building these McMansions to live in, banishing children to their own wings. As far as spoiling a baby, their is no such thing. For nine months that baby is cuddled, comforted, and soothed inside the mother. On they day the child is born, they don’t just suddenly adjust to all the bright, harsh sounds and lights of the outside world and no longer need to be comforted. If that were the case, we would be born like other animals and walk out of the womb. For this reason, I refused to let my children “cry it out” (I won’t even go into the psychological effects I believe it has). That’s great that my neighbor kicked her kids out of her room when they were four days old or that a former co-work of my husband started to let his four week old “cry it out”, they have to live with those decisions just like I have to live with mine. Children are really only little for such a small amount of time in the grand scheme of things (despite what it might feel like at 2:30 am for the third night in a row of tearful teething). I want to cuddle my boys as much as possible while they will still let me. They aren’t going to be still sleeping in my bed when they are 18 (I’ll probably be lucky to get a hug from them by that age). When my boys are ready, they will begin to sleep on their own, in their own beds; after all, they do have them. As for my husband and I, people shouldn’t worry about our relationship, I mean we did manage to have three kids. Plus, I’m not sure my husband really wants to sleep with me. On the few occasions in which we have shared a bed recently, he usually moves to a different bed by 1:00 am because he says I’m too restless of a sleeper; I’m not sure he ever wants to share a bed with me again.
Each family needs to figure out what works best for their own family and what works for some might not work for others. I’m a bed sharer and I like it. For those of you who aren’t, don’t judge; after all, I’m not judging you for isolating your kid in a dark room each night.