As a new mother, I'm always up for well-intentioned suggestions, genuine words of wisdom and pieces of beneficial advice. Honestly, I'll even sit through some unsolicited guidance if it's on a subject I feel I don't know much about, or could improve on. However, along with all that information comes "tips" that, really and truly, aren't that helpful. After all, there is no one-size-fits-all way to parent. This was never more obvious than when it came to sleep, and I realized there were things I didn't have to do when co-sleeping, even though everyone said I had to. It wasn't really anyone's fault, honestly; I was asking for all the help I could get. In the end, though, what proved to help the most was that dreaded thing called experience. I had to live those situations for myself in order to find out what really and truly worked best for me and my family. Ugh.
My son and I have been co-sleeping since the day he was born, and he's now a two-year-old, wild and crazy toddler. We have transitioned him to his own toddler bed, which he loves, but like clockwork he comes meandering into our bed around two or three in the morning. I don't mind, as it gives me time to fall asleep without tiny fists of fury going every which way, but allows me to continue waking up next to my sweet little toddler (who has learned how happy he can make mom if he gives her sweet morning kisses and "get up, mommy" declarations). So, I've had two years to hear all the judgment, all the shame, all the endless suggestions and all the "me too" stories that come along with co-sleeping. Some of it was awesome and I have had the most wonderful, helpful conversations because I chose to let someone know I co-slept with my kid. Other times, well, I could have done without the commentary.
Either way, I have learned a lot in two years of sharing my bed with a mini-human, and in that time I have realized that there are certain things you really just don't have to do. Of course, everyone is different so what didn't work for me, may very well work for you. In the end, and like I previously mentioned, the only way you'll truly figure out what works for you is if you get your hands dirty and experience specific situations on your own. So, you know, happy sleeping, mama.
There's so much misinformation (and so many prevailing myths) about co-sleeping that leave parents feeling afraid of the sleeping practice, when they really don't have to be. Honestly, if you co-sleep responsibly and prepare your bed the correct, safe way, ,co-sleeping is safe.
Don't use a super soft mattress (or waterbed, if you're stuck in the '70s), don't use blankets or stuffed animals, don't drink or take narcotics, don't smoke, and make sure your bed is pushed up against a wall so your baby doesn't roll off the bed and fall. If you have that covered and you've done your research and you're responsibly and safely co-sleeping, there's nothing to be afraid of. In fact, co-sleeping will actually do wonders in curbing your new parent fears (especially the one that leaves you staring at your kid's chest at all hours of the night, on the off-chance they stop breathing).
Defend Your Decision...
This goes for all parenting choices (unless they're abusive, of course), but you're under no obligation to use your time and precious energy to explain to someone else why you're choosing to co-sleep. If you want to get into the details of your parenting practices (especially if you think it will be beneficial and the person asking you questions genuinely wants to learn) have at it. However, if someone is "grilling you," for lack of a better word, you don't owe them an explanation. You know what is best for you and your baby and your family, and that's that.
...Or Give Reasons Why This Sleeping Arrangement Works Best For Your Family
I'm pretty open about co-sleeping and why I choose to use that sleep method. My son struggled to regulate his own body temperature after he was born, so my team of doctors and nurses suggested co-sleeping skin-to-skin, so that my body could assist his and stabilize his temperature. My son and I shared a bed the first night of his life, and we have been doing so ever since.
However, if I didn't want to share that story, I wouldn't. I don't need to justify my choice to co-sleep with some "this was a necessity" story, as most parents decide to co-sleep or bed share sans a medical necessity.
Listen To Horror Stories
Without fail, whenever I decide to tell someone I co-slept with my kid, that someone shares this one horrific horror story about a baby dying because a parent decided to co-sleep.
Do these stories exist? Of course, however, I don't need to force myself to listen to them simply because I am using the same tactics. It's not like we tell parents who have their kid sleep in a crib in another room, that they need to listen to every horrible, devastating and heartbreaking story of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) because some babies are found unresponsive. Nope. That's not a thing, so I don't need to listen to stories of babies dying. Seriously, that's nothing short of emotional terrorism, in my opinion.
Only Let One Adult In The Bed With The Baby
For a while, I'll admit, I was worried about sharing a bed with my baby and my partner. A part of me thought there simply was no room (there was, trust me) and that unless we had a freakin' California King, we were never going to fit (not true, we would have fit just fine). So, my partner and I took turns sleeping on the couch for far too long, all because we were afraid when we didn't need to be.
Of course, you should do what makes you feel the most comfortable and if that means a sleep rotation where someone takes the bed and the baby, and someone takes a mattress on the floor or a couch, so be it. However, if you do have enough room you really can fit in one bed, together. After a while, my partner and I got over our irrational fears and the three of us all piled into our bed and those mornings and nights are some of my absolute favorites. I mean, I was able to start my days and wend my days directly next to my family.
You Have To Absolutely Have Your Kid In The Bed With You
There are actually a few ways you can co-sleep with your kid, and they don't necessarily have to involve bed sharing. Yes, you can bring your baby in bed with you, but you can also have them sleep next to you in a sidecar arrangement, have them in different beds but in the same room and/or just let them into their bed when they need to be, but not necessarily all the time. You can find the best co-sleeping situation for you and your baby and, in the end, there's no "one way" to co-sleep.
Kick Your Kid Out Of Your Bed At A Specific Age
Eventually, your kid will make the transition. Trust me: you won't have a high schooler sleeping in your bed. When it's time to help your kid sleep in their own bed is going to be up to you and your kid and a variety of other situations that will help your kid feel comfortable, empowered and able to sleep in their own bed, in their own room.
What you do during the day, whether or not your kid is healthy, if they're going through any big life changes and what their eating habits all will all contribute to how easy (or not so easy) that transition will be. However, there's no "deadline," so don't let someone tell you otherwise. If your toddler is still sleeping in your bed with you, you haven't "failed" at that whole sleeping thing.
Absolutely Love It...
I'm a big fan of co-sleeping, but that doesn't mean I absolutely love it. Sometimes, it's the worst. My kid kicks and hits and thrashes his little body around; he pees the bed (sometimes) and hogs the bed (always) and I miss having my personal space. I can be a fan of co-sleeping and still criticize it because, well, it's not always the greatest.
...Or Absolutely Hate It
Still, even though there are some pretty crappy parts of co-sleeping, there are some wonderful parts, too. Sharing a bed with my kid definitely made breastfeeding easier, definitely helped with my postpartum anxiety (I was able to physically feel and easily see that my son was still breathing) and actually attributed to numerous, wonderful nights of uninterrupted sleep.
Like anything else in parenting, you can have juxtaposing feelings about the same situation. I love and hate co-sleeping, and that doesn't mean I'm "doing it wrong," or that it's the wrong decision for my baby or my family. It just means motherhood is complicated, and so are the situations that come along with it.