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Co-Sleeping: Is There a Toddler in Your Bed?

We’re going through a stage at our house right now. A stage where pretty much every night, at some point during the night, our kids come down to our room and want to sleep with us.

And usually we’re too tired to care, so we let them.

When I was pregnant with our first child, my husband and I talked about the kind of parents that we wanted to be.  Co-sleeping was something that we said we would never do. Kids, even babies are supposed to sleep in their own beds, we said. Of course, we were perfect parents until we had children.

And really, everything changed when we brought our first little baby home. So tiny, and precious, and helpless. There was no way that we were putting her in her crib upstairs while we slept in our room downstairs — it seemed so far away. So, she slept in a bassinet next to our bed, and soon the exhaustion of new motherhood and continual middle of the night feedings took it’s toll on me, and pretty soon I figured out that I could get a lot more sleep if I just brought my daughter into bed with me.*

It saved my sanity, and I realized that I actually liked it. I loved to snuggle with her and wake up next to her, so precious, so sweet. And even though she would start out sleeping in her own bed, she ended up in our bed pretty much every night until she was around nine-months-old, when she night-weaned, and she was getting more and more active as she slept, making it uncomfortable for all of us. I missed having her in our bed, but I also needed my sleep.

Then my son was born about a year later, and we did pretty much the same thing with him, although I started with nursing him in bed from pretty much day one, and I was thankful that I didn’t experience the extreme exhaustion that I had in the first few weeks with my daughter.

And again, when he was around nine-months-old, we moved him to his own bed full-time, and I was sad as that season of our relationship passed.

But now we’ve entered a new season.

My kids can be really good sleepers. They can sleep through the night, in their own beds, in the room that they share. We went through a little bit of a rough phase when my son started climbing out of his crib, but we worked through that, and they were back to a good sleeping schedule. But, for some reason, over the past few weeks, they have more and more often shown up in our room in the middle of the night. So much so, that recently it’s become a nightly thing.

And you know what, I’m okay with it.

We’ve figured out how to make it work for us. My daughter is an active sleeper, so she can’t actually sleep in the bed with us because no one sleeps except for her. So we put down some thick blankets and a pillow on the floor in our room, and if she wants to sleep down there, she can. She still has the comfort and security of being close to us, without disrupting our sleep. Our son sleeps in the bed with us, and at this point is a pretty good sleeper, so we are all able to get the rest we need.

Are there times where my husband and I say that we need to start making our kids go back upstairs and sleep in their own beds, instead of in our room? Sure. We say that. But the reality is when it’s the middle of the night, and you’re woken from a deep sleep, all you really want to do is get back to sleep as fast as possible, and the easiest way to do that is to let your kid sleep with you. So, that’s what usually happens.

The thing is, co-sleeping with your toddler is not going to hurt them, and I do still enjoy the moments of snuggling with my son in bed, watching him as he sleeps, and waking up next to my kids. Just like when they were babies, I know this is just a stage, a season we are going through right now, and I don’t worry that they’ll never be able to sleep on their own, in their own beds. I already know they can do that.

I think one thing that I have learned as a parent is that things with kids change, and often change quickly. What was true for a kid yesterday, may not be true for them next week, let alone tomorrow. And realizing that can be so freeing, because you don’t have to spend so much time worrying about how something will affect your kid in the long run. You can do what is best for you, and your children, and your family right now, and when things change next week, you will do what you believe to be best then too.

So for now, I will welcome my kids when they make their nocturnal visits to our room, and I will cherish the moments, knowing that nothing lasts forever.

Does you toddler sleep in your bed with you?  Do you cherish it, or dread it? Why?

*The AAP does not recommend co-sleeping with infants under the age of 6 months, this is only a story of my personal experience with co-sleeping.

Photo source: atkinson000/Flickr

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