It usually starts with 3-year-old Sunny, my youngest. I nurse him to sleep in our bed, which is queen-size with a twin bed right next to it. He goes on the far side, and I hold him for a little while after he falls asleep. Next, my husband and I go to bed. He sleeps on the opposite end of the 3-year-old, on the twin; I sleep next to him on the crack between the beds.
Then my other two sons creep into bed. Usually, it’s 5-year-old August first. But 7-year-old Blaise comes in most nights as well, and they fight over who gets to sleep closest to Daddy. I scoot closer to the little one, who is lying horizontally with his feet in my face. By 1:00 in the morning, all five of us are sleeping in one bed. We've been doing this for years.
The fact that we all co-sleep isn't exactly a secret: My husband and I practice attachment parenting, and co-sleeping, or sharing a sleeping space with your children, is one of the major tenets of that parenting philosophy. When we had our middle son, we moved our oldest into his own bed. He liked it, but he also liked to come into our bed in the middle of the night. We decided that as long as Blaise started the night in his own bed, we didn’t care where he ended up. When I got pregnant with our youngest, Sunny, we moved August into Blaise’s bed as well, but they both just kept coming into our bed.
We kept letting them sleep with us, because we believe, as attachment parents, that children aren’t meant to sleep alone, that sleeping with their parents makes them feel secure, and that they’ll quit when they’re ready. So we're going to continue sleeping in the same bed, regardless of whether other people think it's weird or overly intimate.
Our relatives all know that we co-sleep. My mother-in-law has kindly set up two side-carred twins, the equivalent to a California king, in one of the guest bedrooms. Sunny sleeps there with us all night. Some nights, the older two boys stay in bed with us; other nights, my husband Bear feels crowded and takes them both back to their beds, where they snore the night away.
When they're not able to sleep in the same bed as us, they don’t freak out, or have nightmares, or seem unable to function. They just prefer to sleep with us.
But at my mother’s house, we sleep in a double bed, with Sunny on a blow-up. I go to him in the middle of the night if he needs me. The other two boys sleep in a single bed across the house. They don’t get out of bed and into ours. Maybe the walk’s too far. Maybe they know there’s no room. But for whatever reason, they stay in their beds all night. When they're not able to sleep in the same bed as us, they don’t freak out, or have nightmares, or seem unable to function. They just prefer to sleep with us.
For the most part, we prefer to sleep with them as well. But that doesn't mean we don't experience occasional technical difficulties. Sometimes, Bear gets crowded by the two older boys and crawls over to sleep near Sunny, who kicks him in the kidneys all night. When that happens, August seeks me out. But other times, I get crowded between Bear and Sunny. I try to move Sunny. Sunny wakes up squawking, and nothing will shut him up but “mama milk.” And I have to shut him up, or I risk waking up the other two kids. So then I’m back to night nursing, and none too happy about it.
I figure that if we didn’t co-sleep, he’d be wetting his own bed anyway, so it doesn’t much matter in the end.
Other times, someone (I won’t say who) wets the bed. Then we have to throw a towel down until the morning, when we strip and wash the sheets. That’s a huge pain, but I figure that if we didn’t co-sleep, he’d be wetting his own bed anyway, so it doesn’t much matter in the end.
All five of us sleep in the same bed together, and if we didn’t have as much room, it wouldn’t work. But we’re lucky enough to have the resources to have a queen and a single bed for the kids to roll around in.
Usually the 3-year-old monopolizes the queen bed, and occasionally someone pees. But we’re happy. The kids are happy. And in the end, that’s all that matters to us.
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against bed-sharing for safety reasons, I don’t worry about anyone suffocating or entrapping themselves or any horror stories like that. When we had a small baby in the bed, we took serious precautions; now, we have six million pillows and two sets of blankets (one for Sunny, one for the rest of us). Usually the 3-year-old monopolizes the queen bed, and occasionally someone pees. But we’re happy. The kids are happy. And in the end, that’s all that matters to us.