I never thought I would co-sleep with one child, let alone two. I had a lot of preconceived notions about the kind of people who shared a sleep space with their child, and incorrect assumptions of how it affects little ones, that had me dead set against the practice. But rarely does a battle plan survive contact with the enemy, as they say, and actually having children showed me that, no, co-sleeping isn't for everyone but it was definitely for me. If you're anything like me, co-sleeping with your first kid vs. your second demonstrates a stark difference in attitude, practice, and your desire to give literally any f*cks whatsoever.
I started off co-sleeping by accident. We shared a room with my first child, which is one kind of co-sleeping, but I was determined not to cross the line into bed-sharing. But one night, after I'd already woken up about three times in five hours to feed my son, I was so tired I just brought him into bed with me. "I'll just feed him here instead of in the chair and then put him back," I thought. Before I knew it, though, I opened my eyes and it was morning. My baby slept longer next to me than he ever had in his life. I was awestruck and, more importantly, rested.
As you can imagine, waving the possibility of sleep in front of a new mother can have the power to change her mind about even her strongest opinions. Within a week, it became clear that this was not a temporary fluke: we were officially bed-sharing co-sleepers. By the time my second baby came around, there was no question that she would stay in our bed her first night home.
But it's not just the decision itself that's difference. Turns out, experience can mark a lot of significant changes overall as well.
Your Attitude Toward Co-Sleeping Before Birth
First Baby: "I will never, ever, in a million years co-sleep. Co-sleeping is for co-dependent hippies who want to raise needy children who are in a perpetual state of arrested development. Besides, there's absolutely no way to do it safely. Worst. Idea. Ever. Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope."
Second Baby: "Did I get a what? A cr-... crib? Am I pronouncing that right? Oh! The baby sleep thing. Ha! Why on Earth would I do that? They're just going to wind up sleeping next to me anyway. Seems like a waste of money, no?"
Your Preparations For Co-Sleeping
First Baby: Read everything you can about creating a safe co-sleeping space, down to articles in scientific journals. Fret about the breathability of your bed sheets. Perfectly position your bed to be in the most structurally sound position possible. Read some more. Talk about it endlessly with your partner. Visit co-sleeping message boards.
Second Baby: *strips bed of all extra pillows and blankets in one swift movement* Aaaaand we're ready. *walk away whistling*
How You Co-Sleep
First Baby: Zzzz... OMG! WAS THAT THE BABY'S HEAD?! AM I ROLLING OVER ON THEM?! Zzzzzzz *wake up to feed baby* Zzzzzzzzzzzz... HONEY ARE YOU ROLLING OVER ON THE BABY! No? OK, just remember they're in here with us... Zzzzzzz *wake up to feed the baby* Zzzzzz... ARE THEY BREATHING?! I CAN'T HEAR THEM LET ME CHECK!
Second Baby: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... *wake up to feed baby* Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz *wake up to feed baby* Zzzzzzzzzzzz *don't even bother waking up to feed baby because you're basically on autopilot at this point*
[Just as an FYI: the paranoia eventually gets better with your first baby. If it doesn't, co-sleeping probably isn't for you. That's cool! It's not for everyone. If you and your baby are not getting a better night's sleep because of co-sleeping then it's not worth it.]
How You Assert Your Space
First Baby: You don't. You just sleep on approximately three centimeters of mattress on the very edge and spend half the night praying you don't fall off and the other half feeding your ever-encroaching child, who will, I promise, at some point sleep diagonally in the center of the bed in order to take up as much room as possible. Why? Because babies are jerks, dudes. They're jerks.
Second Baby: You wake up on the edge of the bed, groan, shove your baby over like they're a bag of flour and scootch back in place. You would never have dared risked moving your first child this much, but you've learned a few things since then. You've mastered the art of moving a child expertly by learning how light or heavy a sleeper they are, and you've learned that you will never get a wink of sleep if you allow this to go unchecked.
Your Plan For Co-Sleeping
First Baby: "OK, it's bad enough I have gone down this dark co-sleeping path, so I have to have a plan to end this. In four months the baby will sleep in their crib. *6 months later* 10 months. 10 months is plenty old enough to sleep on their own. They're just going to have to learn... *4 months later* A year! That's a whole year old. You can reason with a 1 year old, right? Kind of?"
Second Baby: "Meh. Whatever. When it's the right time we'll move them. Until then we'll just stay cozied up together because why the hell not?"
How You Talk To Others About Co-Sleeping
First Baby: "Actually, most nights they sleep with us. I know, I know: it's a terrible habit. But we were just so tired and it was the only way any of us could get any sleep. We have a plan, though! We're giving them until four months and then they are out of there! No ifs, ands, or buts about it! And, yes, we've heard it can be dangerous, but let me give you a printed out copy of all the safety precautions we have taken to be as safe as possible. Now, please allow me to continue to apologize to you for this personal decision I have made as I attempt to justify myself so that you won't judge me."
Second Baby: "We co-sleep. If you don't like it, f*ck you."