How They Do It In... Japan


I’ll never forget the night my husband and I gave up on co-sleeping, probably because it was the first night we brought our baby into our bed.

Our son was about four months old. Up until that point had been spending his nights in an Arms’ Reach mini-co-sleeper, a type of three-sided crib designed to attach to the side of our mattress. For four months, it had worked well. Then one day we realized he was close to outgrowing the mini and, unfortunately, our bedroom was not large enough to fit a full-sized co-sleeper.

It was at that point that we tried what I well knew parents had been doing all over the world for thousands of years. We put the baby between us. Co-sleeping, I strongly believed, was the most natural thing in the world – our culture one of the few intent on quartering newborns off in a separate nursery for them to sleep (or cry) in isolation from the rest of the family. In other words, I wanted to co-sleep, and my husband was plenty willing to give it a try.

But at some point between, say, two and four a.m., one of us turned on the light and uttered the three words that would eventually be spoken every time thereafter that we attempted what was supposed to be this very natural and nurturing act: “This isn’t working.”

Maybe it was us. Both my husband and I are light sleepers. We toss and turn. We talk in our sleep. We live with a spoiled dog that whimpers and whines if she’s not under the covers, between someone’s feet.

There was no way around it; we were bad co-sleepers. Or maybe it was the baby. He’s big. By the age of four months he’d reached the ninetieth percentile for height and weight. And, like his mama, he snores. Throughout the night he often wakes up and cries for a minute or two, then falls back asleep. Even though he was too young at that point to move himself around much, he consistently and miraculously ended up sleeping horizontally in the center of the mattress, arms and legs splayed, smacking or kicking us in the face, chest, or groin, every ten or so minutes.

It seemed to us we had two choices. We could move into another apartment with a larger bedroom and buy a California King, super-sized mattress, or we could move him into his own crib. We chose the latter. There was no way around it; we were bad co-sleepers.

I probably would have chalked this up as a personal failure, just one of the many reasons no one was going to nominate me for the attachment-parenting mama-of-the-year award. Only after talking to a number of friends who’d had similar experiences did it occur to me that something more might be going on.