When I wake up each morning, the face that stares back at me is one I love beyond words. He fills my heart with happiness and his smile can immediately banish any sadness that clouds my mind.
I admit, sometimes he kicks me in the face or smacks me with his hand in the middle of the night, so he’s not always the best person to sleep next to, but sharing the bed with my young son – well, it works.
When I tell people I co-sleep with my child, the first reaction is always related to the misconceptions about the safety of co-sleeping. Once that’s out of the way, their attention always turns to my marriage. Questions like, “Where does your husband sleep?” and statements like, “Oh, that would never work in my marriage,” are inevitably addressed out loud.
Most people assume that co-sleeping with your baby causes a rift between parents. They also always seem to assume that it’s a one-sided parenting decision: a mother choosing to sleep with her child and, subsequently, causing her partner to sleep somewhere else.
But it’s not always like that. For my husband and I, co-sleeping and bed-sharing with our child was a joint decision and one that we feel has made our marriage stronger.
Navigating new parenthood is not easy. You have new routines, emotions, and hormones – and being very tired doesn’t help either. The stress of caring for a new baby is not easy, even for seasoned parents.
We’ve been married for 10 years, partnered for 15, and we have four children, so it’s safe to say we’ve been through a lot together. And the hardest times, hands-down, were the first six months of bringing a new baby home — this time can be hard on any partnership as you navigate the unknown.
Before we brought our youngest child into the world, we made the decision that co-sleeping was going to help ease the transition. We thought it would be the best thing for our relationship. While the first half of our baby’s first year was still challenging, we believe co-sleeping did the opposite of what people assume sharing a bed with a baby will do for a marriage – it strengthened us.
We Get More Sleep
I don’t know about you, but when I am tired, which is a guarantee when you’ve got a brand new baby, I get really grumpy. I’m normally a patient person, but when I’m running on 3 hours of sleep a night for weeks at a time, I’m not the easiest to deal with. Put two people together who have had little to no sleep and it’s a recipe for relationship disaster, at least for us.
Except, that’s not what happens at our house. Instead, the three of us crawl into bed at night, the baby on my right and my husband to my left … and we sleep. Since I’m breastfeeding, my baby can just latch when he wakes up in the middle of the night and he eats while I sleep — my husband still undisturbed.
While the sleep isn’t the best it’s ever been, by co-sleeping we’re able to get more than if we had to fight over whose turn it was to get up, walk down the hall, and feed the baby for the third time that night. We’re better rested, and when we’ve had the chance to catch more “Z’s”, we spend less time bickering and fighting with each other.
We Spend More Time Together
My husband is right there with the baby and I and since we aren’t sleeping in different beds, it’s had a hugely positive impact on our relationship. We’re able to spend time with each other each night, and even if we have to get creative with our intimacy, we’re still together and stronger.
When you’re raising children, your partnership can take a real hit for multiple reasons and some of that is to be expected — caring for a baby and raising a family is a lot of pressure and work. But if you’re not taking care of your relationship needs, which for us includes getting enough sleep and being together both in terms of intimacy and proximity, it’s not hard to see why relationships can falter when new children are brought in.
Because of co-sleeping, all our needs are met — mine, my husband, and our baby’s. It’s helped us stay connected to each other and ultimately strengthened our love for one another.