I never planned to co-sleep with my children. It was something that simply happened a few weeks after my first daughter was born. I was exhausted after weeks of breastfeeding my first daughter around the clock and one night I realized the only way I could manage another night of this routine was if I breastfed my child while laying on my side so I could sleep while she ate. We slowly transitioned to full-time co-sleeping after that, and soon enough it was seen as a necessity in our house. I returned to work at five weeks postpartum and I was desperate to get sleep however I could, even if that meant sharing a bed with my daughter. It meant doing whatever we could for a few more hours of shut eye, even if we didn't love co-sleeping.
I think the world has an idea about the type of parents who co-sleep with their babies. I often feel people assume parents who co-sleep with children are "hippies" who love the be near their children at all times or miss them terribly every time they're apart. And, to be honest? What parent doesn't feel that way, even if they aren't vocal about it? Though some parents may have chosen to co-sleep because they're following a more attachment-based approach to parenting, that wasn't the case for me. I love my children and I do miss them while they are away, but I don’t really miss them at all when they start sleeping in their own bed.
Honestly, co-sleeping isn’t easy. I share a queen-sized bed with my 6 foot 2 inch husband, so adding another body to the bed makes things a little crowded. Even though my husband often slept elsewhere during the first few weeks home with a newborn, once the baby is older and we feel safe with all three of us in the bed, things start to feel a little tight real quick. I've always preferred to have my own space at night. My children touch me so much throughout the day, pulling on my close or resting their head on my chest for comfort, that by the end of the day I'm touched out. I love being close to them but bedtime provides me with the break I need to feel refreshed and ready for another full day of parenting.
I don’t love co-sleeping, but I do love the extra sleep if provides me when I need it the most.
When I am co-sleeping, I don’t get that break. I know that's the nature of caring for a baby under 1. Most babes breastfeed throughout the night, so catching a break is nearly impossible during the first year of their life and I am OK with that reality. But even so, just because I've grown to accept that co-sleeping is a necessity in my life when my children are young, that doesn’t mean I love doing it.
That is why we don’t co-sleep for any longer than necessary. With my first, she slept in our bed or in a bassinet next to our bed only as long as was required. With her there, I slept so lightly, waking each time she moved her breathing shifted. I felt a little stuck, because it was impossible for me to get sleep if I put her in her crib, but my sleep also suffered with her near me in our room. When she was about 8 months old, she started finally started to sleep for hours at a time. We transitioned her to a crib in her nursery almost as soon as we could. My second daughter breastfed for longer and slept with us off and on until her first birthday. My husband and I were anxious to have our bed to ourselves again and often would put her in her bed at the beginning of the night only to move her in with us when she woke a few hours later.
I need a break and because I'm not getting that at bedtime, I need to figure out how to build those kid-free moments into my day.
I don’t love co-sleeping, but I do love the extra sleep if provides me when I need it the most. I love the benefits co-sleeping has for my breastfeeding relationship with my children, helping me to maintain a healthy supply for as long as possible.
To compensate for having a child in my bed at night, I try to find balance in other ways. I get out the house alone whenever possible, and step into the bedroom for a few minutes after my husband returns from work. I need a break and because I'm not getting that at bedtime, I need to figure out how to build those kid-free moments into my day. I know that this part of my life is short and that my children will only find their way into my bed for a short while, so I try not to get hung up on changing the way we do things at night. Co-sleeping may not be the ideal, but so much of parenting is about being flexible and realizing the best fix for a difficult phase is sometimes just accepting it instead of wearing yourself out trying to fix it.
I don’t love co-sleeping, but I'm willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make the first year of parenting a new baby go as smoothly as possible. Those first months are difficult, especially when you have children who don’t sleep well. Sometimes, that means making a choice you don’t love because it is what works best for you family at the time. I didn't love co-sleeping, but I'm glad we made the chose to do it anyway.