Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Co-Sleeping Family

Clearly these two beauties were made for snuggling.

Honestly, we never meant to co-sleep with our kids. Our babies, definitely. But I envisioned toddler years when we would lovingly move our child into a toddler bed, reclaiming our bedroom for our adult lives. I envisioned a preschooler joining us in bed in the mornings, cuddling down between us for a quick connection before we got up.

And when I was pregnant with Sister-Bug we made all attempts to move Brother-Bug into his own bed. It lasted about... 3 months and then he was right back in with us, limbs wrapped around the nearest parent. Now, at 5 1/2, he has no more notion of sleeping in his own bed than he did as an infant.

This works for our family.

Co-sleeping might not work for all families. I am blessed with a co-sleeping history (me, 2 parents, 3 siblings, one bed...cuddles which lasted into my early teens) and value the physical comfort I still have with my siblings, a comfort that I attribute partially to co-sleeping. Papa-Bug and I both love to snuggle, and neither kid is given to overmuch kicking and flailing. We have a big bed.

This picture might not work for your family, and the idea of sleeping with your child (or even teenager!) makes a lot of people uncomfortable. That's okay. I don't need anyone to be comfortable with our sleeping arrangements except for us in this bed.

There are drawbacks, but they are few and far-between. My co-sleeping toddler still wants and needs me when she goes to sleep - nap or otherwise - and so I find myself laying down in bed when I might be doing other things. It forces my sweetheart and I to get creative about intimacy - and this is something that worries lots of people. But hey - it's my romance and not your business. We will leave it there. But the drawbacks are far outweighed by the benefits...

There are lots of reasons we love co-sleeping, and I thought I would share some of the reasons I didn't fully think about when we started our snuggling adventure.
Tired Papa and his Little Fairy

*Its easy with a newborn. Tiny babies are notorious for keeping their parents going around the clock. But if I am curled up in bed with my baby in the crook of my arm, I can doze while they nurse, contemplate the heavens, or whatever else it is they do in the night. I firmly believe that my newborn is safer next to me than in a crib. I can feel and respond to sleep changes at a moments notice. Baby can hear my heartbeat and my breathing, and continue to learn these things from me if reminders are needed. I am aware of this person, even in my deepest sleep.

But what about rolling onto the baby? someone always asks. Well, I did that. We were visiting my Dad with 9-week old Brother-Bug. The bed was on a slight angle toward the baby's side. I was exhausted and on a three hour jet-lag, which changed how deeply I was asleep. Gravity pulled me over onto the baby. As it turns out, even a sleeping baby doesn't like to be squished! It turns out that I wake up when I roll into a squirming 9 pound bump in the bed. No harm done. Lesson learned.

(Of course, if you or someone in your bed is under a sedative influence - alcohol, sleep medication, etcetera, this is a different equation and the baby should not be near that person. The other side of the non-influenced parent or it's own bed near the adult bed is safe.)

After a few months of Brother-Bug sleeping and nursing through the nights I stopped fully waking to nurse him. We would switch sides, adjust, comfortably latch, and fall back asleep. Same deal with changing diapers, and later helping Sister-Bug pee in the potty during the night - all things I did in a state of semi-slumber, hardly breaking my sleep cycle.

*Babies sleep through the night sooner I believe, because they aren't getting woken up and removed from their bed to eat at various intervals. While they are learning their circadian rhythm, they don't know that it's time to sleep when it is dark. So once you get them out of bed they are ready to play. If they stir, and go right back to nursing, they learn quickly to sleep when it is dark.

*It's easier and safer when a baby or child is sick. If I sleep skin-to-skin with a feverish baby, I can
Me and the fat Sister-Bug - newborn napping.
monitor their fever while I doze (I never sleep fully if my baby or kid is sick). I can keep them comfortable. They don't choke on their vomit because I am right there to help them with Mt. Vesuvius. I've been known to get a toddler pointing off the bed to barf on the floor when both of us were asleep at first gurgle - so honed are my Mama-reflexes from sleeping with my babies. If my kids were in their own beds we would be up and down all night while we checked on them. I wouldn't always be there to catch the vomit and reassure a scared and uncomfortable little person immediately. I wouldn't know if a fever suddenly spiked. And I wouldn't get nearly as much rest, which keeps me healthy and makes me less likely to get sick.

*Likewise, we are there for immediate nightmare relief. No wailing child in the night - we are able to gently guide them back to reality and settle them safe in our arms where all is cozy.

*We have less night-time potty accidents because we can respond to the movements our kids make when they need to pee. They learn from our awareness and they quickly get to a point of meeting that need for themselves (often with a parent to go with) in the night.

And the most important thing.

*They are little, ours to snuggle close, for such a precious and short time. We watch them sleep, we hold them safe and close, we listen to their dreams, and marvel at how long their limbs have grown. I spend about a third of the hours in a day cuddled with my children in our big bed. We rest out bodies and brains and re-connect our spirits. We reach out for one another in our sleep, trusting that Love is right there.

Someday I will revel in a bed of just me and my husband, or even (!) just me. But right now I am laying down nursing my daughter, looking forward to a warm little boy who will snuggle me up while I read the next chapter of The Wind In The Willows to us. And I can't imagine anywhere else I would rather be.


Read my recent Cowbird Story about the Magical Giggle - the story that inspired this post. 

And there he will cuddle all night.


  1. Love this post! Thanks for writing it.
    I adore the top picture with your two sleeping angels.
    We co-sleep and I can't imagine it any other way. We all love it.

  2. Perfect!I love it!
    Thank you for sharing your sweet family co-sleeping pictures with us.

    On Ced's 11th birthday we asked him,
    "What do you want to do tonight?"
    We thought it would be a request for his favourite treat (caramel corn with powdered kelp) and a movie. Oh no! He had other plans.
    Ced's request,"Can I sleep with you guys tonight?"
    I teared up, Dad laughed and said,
    "Yes! That's really what you want with your special night?"
    Ced's response, while doing the boingy hand flap thing he does,"Yes!!! I like smelling you guys in my sleep."

  3. We have a co-sleeper. We didn't set out to do it, but here it is. He is almost 8 now, and still right there in between my husband and me. It is what it is. It's when I get cuddle time out of my last child.

  4. Love your post. Thanks for writing about this and sharing your lovely photos. Unplanned cosleeper here. I'm not sure where this is going, but it's been about 15 months now. My daughter is 19 months, and she began to not sleep at all without me at night. As soon as I had the light bulb moment one night after being awake 15 weeks later, and later, and not getting to bed until 6 am several days in a row, she sleeps like a champ. 10 hours straight every night without a peep. She does now take the bed over though, and has begun kicking (thought she broke my nose the other day). My husband left the bed two weeks ago because he could no longer sleep. Now what to do, I'm really not sure...

  5. Oh, I DID, however, once prior to co-sleeping officially, have one awful night where I slept and DID roll somewhat onto her! I was terrified in the morning when I woke. However, it was a night when my husband was traveling and my baby did not sleep at all. I was up doing the every two hours thing, and the night my husband was gone, I was up until 4:30 am. I was so exhausted, I actually began to cry, and I, sitting on my bed, holding her started quietly begging the baby, "Please, go to sleep, honey, please go to sleep." It was the last thing I remember. At 6 am, I woke up leaning heavily on her arm! I was so scared. So, that may sound like an anti-cosleeping story, but it isn't. If I was well-rested, the way I am now (spoiled rotten) that likely would not have happened. I've not since that exhaustion episode, ever rolled onto her.