I've been a mom for six years now. In that time, I've learned so much about parenting. I've learned to pick my battles and savor each moment of this rewarding but difficult roller-coaster ride. I've learned just how much I love co-sleeping with my kids. I've learned just how much I love having them with me all day long. Most of all though, I've learned that parenting is really hard. As wonderful as it is, nothing quite prepares you for the tough stuff. The biggest shock to my system for me was the lack of sleep involved. Without sleep, I become a different version of myself. I'm grumpy, forgetful, and cannot make a decision to save my life. Sleep is something I need to function and when I became a mom, I thought I had to kiss it goodbye forever. But thankfully, I was wrong.
When my first baby was about 6 months old, we transitioned him from the bassinet in our bedroom to his crib. For about a week he slept great and he only woke up a couple times a night. Then, something way more dreadful than it sounds started: he began teething. Teething brought on lots of pain, tears, and sleepless nights — for our whole house. I went from a confident, well-rested new mom to a panicky sleep-deprived one in a matter of days. I was so tired everyday I'd honestly walk into walls. The lack of sleep was getting to me and my husband and I made the decision to try co-sleeping, or as we like to call it "survival mode" sleeping. And I was surprised to find out just how much I actually loved co-sleeping.
The very first night he slept in our bed was magical. I removed any loose blankets or pillows that could cause an unsafe sleeping situation, set him in the middle of my husband and me, and went to sleep. The next morning, my husband and I woke up and looked at each other in disbelief. After a full night of peaceful sleep, I could see the world in color again. I felt like myself, and our son had slept almost 10 hours without waking at all. It was amazing. From that night on, we decided to co-sleep.
Looking back on it that moment six years later, I'm so thankful we tried co-sleeping. I loved it. It was easy, comforting, and honestly, kind of fun. Rolling over in the middle of the night to see my sweet little toddler's angelic sleeping face gave me a joy that I can't describe. Even on mornings when I woke up to a chubby little foot in my face, I still somehow enjoyed it. At the time, my husband worked long hours during the day. But he actually loved having him in our bed, too. Even though our son was asleep, he enjoyed the additional time he got to spend with him.
I saw Facebook posts criticizing people who co-sleep, calling them "unsafe" or "weird." My husband even had people tell him that, "Co-sleeping is dangerous," as well as, "You'll never get them out of your bed now."
And when our second son was born, we decided to continue the arrangement since it was working so well.
At the time we had our second baby, our son was 1 year old and still in our bed. We kept our newborn in a bassinet for the first five months until he was able to sleep in our bed. Then all four of us slept soundly in our "family" bed. It was working beautifully and we loved the amount of sleep we were getting.
However, our family sleeping arrangement definitely brought on certain judgmental comments that were hard to ignore. I saw Facebook posts criticizing people who co-sleep, calling them "unsafe" or "weird." (But if you follow the precautions laid out by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), co-sleeping is sleep if you make sure your baby is on its back, not in danger of falling off the bed, and is away from any pillows. My husband even had people tell him that, "Co-sleeping is dangerous," as well as, "You'll never get them out of your bed now." Even people without kids had the nerve to comment on our choice to co-sleep, as if it was affecting their sleep or sanity. The opinions definitely annoyed me, but I felt a peace about our decision and learned to ignore the negativity.
Thankfully, my parents and in-laws were very supportive of our bed sharing. "Oprah did a show on the benefits of co-sleeping and said it makes for more secure children," my mother-in-law kindly told me on one occasion. My mom used to co-sleep with me when I was little, so she was the most supportive of all. Their support helped me ignore the negative comments, and to this day I'm grateful for it.
Co-sleeping seemed to work perfectly for so long, but unfortunately we just weren't getting restful sleep anymore. Once we made the decision to move them to their beds, I knew I had to be consistent and stick to it. But that didn't make it easy.
But I will say that the one thing people "warned" me about when it came to co-sleeping was actually true. Everyone said it's a really hard habit to break, and they were right. Like I said, I wouldn't change it for the world, but eventually it stopped working for us. As our kids grew and sleep habits changed, we started to wonder if it was time to move them to their own beds. Our oldest, who was about 3 at the time, slept in a straight line down the middle of our bed, but our youngest slept like a starfish. I'd wake up every morning with a head in my back or a tiny elbow in my face. So, sadly, we knew it was time to end our family bed for good.
We started decided to start the process of transitioning them to their own room, and each night we followed our normal bedtime routine: stories, bathroom, teeth-brushing, and then prayers. For awhile, we'd even let them fall asleep in our bed and then carry them to their beds. We did for a long time, but since they always ended up back in our bed by morning, we realized it wasn't quite working. Co-sleeping seemed to work perfectly for so long, but unfortunately we just weren't getting restful sleep anymore. Once we made the decision to move them to their beds, I knew I had to be consistent and stick to it. But that didn't make it easy.
After watching a very helpful episode of Supernanny, I decided to follow her stay-in-bed sleep technique. Basically, you calmly keep taking them back to bed 1,000 times until your kid just stops getting out of bed. For weeks, I walked my boys back to their beds multiple times a night. Then as soon as I'd lay back down, I'd be awakened by a little night-time visitor staring at me like a ghost. The first night I got up close to 20 times to take kids back to their own beds. The next night I got up about 10 times — until one night, the boys (and my husband and I) miraculously slept through the night. I woke up in the morning to find both boys peacefully sleeping in their own beds. The technique worked, and I felt like a star.
In November, we welcomed our third child. She's such a different sleeper and mainly sleeps through the night in her crib. I rock her to sleep, just like I did with our boys, and put her down in her crib where she somehow stays for about nine hours straight. I tried letting her co-sleep, but she seems to prefer her own space for the most part. She's taught me that what works for one child may not work for another. My 6 year old wants constant comfort at bedtime, my 4 year old plays like a maniac until he passes out upside down in his bed, and my 10 month old cuddles in my arms until I put her down in her crib where she magically stays until morning.
Co-sleeping was a lifesaver in my early parenting years. It helped me survive the sleep deprivation and I loved it for a long time. It also taught me a lot about motherhood. I've learned that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. Kids are all different and need different things to thrive. I wouldn't change any part of our co-sleeping journey, but I know it's not for everyone. Still, I'm glad it worked for us.
I'm very proud of the fact that my children are all in their own beds now. After I tuck them all in, I get to spend some much needed alone time reading and relaxing while they sleep soundly in their own rooms. After all the struggles that it took to get my children to sleep in their own beds, you'd think I'd regret co-sleeping, but I don't. It was a wonderful time in my life that led me to feel closer to each of my babies. Now that it's behind me, I miss the cuddles, the extra time with my children and, yes, even the tiny elbows in my face.