I have shared a bed with one or both of my kids for almost a decade. My first child slept curled up beside me until I became pregnant with his little brother. At that point, we bought him a twin bed, which we smushed up against our queen. He slept in our room until his little brother was two, and now his little brother sleeps in our bed, curled up beside me.
Well, to be honest, he’s not always curled up beside me, sleeping peacefully. Sometimes I end up with a foot in my rib, or a leg draped across my stomach. And last night I ended up in the twin bed (still smushed up against our bed) while my son sprawled himself generously across the queen bed like a little prince.
I woke up cranky, with a stiff neck. (Unlike my son, who was chipper and well rested.)
I started bed sharing with my kids out of sheer necessity. When they were infants, I literally couldn’t put them down. Even if they were dead asleep, as soon as their bodies touched a surface other than mine, they woke up startled and confused. Bed sharing also made nursing easier. I’d pop them on the breast, and neither of us would have to wake very much in the middle of the night to nurse. My babies breastfed a lot at night, and there was no way I would have survived if I had to get up out of bed to nurse them.
Soon, the weeks turned into months, and the months turned into years …
Even though I complained plenty about sleeping with a baby draped across me, we continued. My kids were in my bed past their babyhoods, and into the toddler and preschool years. In fact, even though my third-grader sleeps in his own room most nights, he is always welcome in our room —and he does occasionally ask to sleep with us.
I think part of the reason our family has adopted a family bed is that my husband and I grew up having one. Neither of us remembers it too vividly, but we know we slept with our parents for at least a few years — and then later, if the need arose. And most importantly, we know we turned out fine. We are both good sleepers. Unless we are stressed, we don’t have trouble falling asleep; and we are fine sleeping alone, or sleeping with others.
I will also mention — because everyone asks this question! — that my husband and I don’t have trouble fitting sex into our lives. No, we don’t do it in our bedroom (unless the kids aren’t home). But we have other rooms in our home, and our sex life has never suffered as a result of co-sleeping.
Probably the main reason I co-sleep with my kids is that — despite how exhausting and annoying it can sometimes be — I enjoy it, most of the time. It’s snuggly and comforting to spend those hours near my kids. The nighttime hours are among the most peaceful hours of our loud, sometimes chaotic days together, and having that bonding time is special to me.
I won’t gloss over it, though: Sometimes I hate co-sleeping. There are nights that I’m pretty sure it causes both of us to sleep more poorly (or, at least me, for sure). Sometimes I feel “touched out.” Sometimes it feels like I can never get a true break from my kids. Sometimes I just really need my space.
But I think motherhood is just like that sometimes — entirely imperfect. Sometimes you feel contradictory feelings about something, and you just have to go with the feeling that feels most true to your heart. Co-sleeping can get on my nerves sometimes, but there is enough about it to love that it’s worth it to me. I can’t have it both ways: If I want to share these sleepy, bonding moments with my kids, I’m just going to have to put up with the disruptions and annoyances.
If the hard stuff began to heavily outweigh the good, I would certainly find ways to gently ease my kids out of our bed. But it’s just never gotten to that point. In fact, every time I’ve felt on the brink of despair about co-sleeping, I’ll have a blissful couple of nights to swing me over to the other side.
I guess I like to take the long view of it. I know it’s not damaging my kids; I know they will eventually be independent sleepers. I like to be there if they have nightmares. I like the idea that co-sleeping is teaching them that sleep can be a communal thing — a time to share closeness with those they love.
Even when my older son comes into our room to sleep near us, he never wants to cuddle in our bed anymore. And I’m sure the same will be true of my little guy. Before I know it, I will have my space back, my body back — and a peaceful, uninterrupted night of sleep.
And I know I will miss it all — even the 2 AM kicks in the head.More On