Jamie and Krista agree on many things, but sometimes they have different opinions on parenting. This is the first post in a two-part series on co-sleeping. Be sure to read Jamie’s take on this issue, Resting Easier Rooming In
I never intended to allow my children to sleep in my bed.
It was never something I gave a lot of thought to, but I knew it was a touchy subject in the world of parenting. People say it’s dangerous, others say it’s vital to your maternal bonding, and others have a more go with the flow attitude. I’ve never been one for extreme opinions, but I have to say that co-sleeping has been a lifesaver for our family.
I’ll back up and share our experience with our first child, Miles. Obviously, he was our first child so we had no idea what we were doing being parents. (Do we have a clue now? Nah, not really.) He had trouble gaining weight for his entire first year, struggled hard with jaundice, and was considered “failure to thrive” when he was three months old, which meant for us that he spent three agonizing days in the hospital being subjected to all kinds of medical tests. It was a really stressful time in our lives, as we were in the middle of a move and were separated during the week from my husband. All of the stress came together to affect my milk supply. Because of this, we fell into full-time co-sleeping (bed sharing) so that Miles could nurse any time he wanted to and I could get a full night’s sleep.
I’m aware that many parenting and sleep experts call this “accidental parenting” and say that you’re just giving in to bad sleep habits. I understand this line of thinking, but for us, it worked until it didn’t anymore. In Miles’s case, I kept it up longer than I should have, more out of fear and guilt than anything; fear that my milk wouldn’t keep up if we broke our habit and guilt because I knew it would be a hard transition for all of us.
During Miles’s first year we went through a lot – a separation before selling our house, Miles’s hospitalization and health fears, moving and living in someone’s basement, the sudden death of my mother-in-law, and a second move to a rental home. In many ways, I believe co-sleeping helped to heal some of the wounds from that year. It was a comfort for us all and allowed us to sleep when we so desperately needed it. But at the worst of our bed-sharing experience, my husband was sleeping on an air mattress in the guest room while Miles bunked with me. We eventually moved Miles to his own room after he turned one and I stopped nursing him. Now with Spencer, we are slowly making the transition for him at nine months. It worked for us until it didn’t anymore.
We got some negative comments from people when they heard Miles was sleeping with us, which is why I rarely mentioned that Spencer was sleeping in our bed. We knew the boys would eventually learn to love sleeping in their own beds, which is important to us. As it turns out, getting them to love sleeping in their beds as toddlers and preschoolers is more important to us than getting them to sleep in their beds as babies.
As I look back at the time I have shared a bed with my boys, I have no regrets. Did I ever worry that they would fall off the bed or get trapped in the sheets? Yes. (For more information on how to safely share a bed, check out this great article!) Did I know that moving them out of our bed would be difficult? Sure. But those middle of the night snuggles with my boys are precious, and I miss it. There’s something very special about being the only one awake in the middle of the night with a newborn who needs and craves being near you. I loved feeling, hearing, and smelling my boys sleeping quietly next to me while nursing. It was very comforting to be able to immediately soothe them when they needed me. Even my husband misses having Miles sleep in our bed, so much that when Miles wakes up very early on rare occasions, he doesn’t mind bringing him in to cuddle.
For me, the bottom line was that co-sleeping was what we needed to survive the early days and make nighttime parenting work for us. We always exercised the recommended precautions and when it wasn’t safe and working for us anymore, we did what had to be done. It worked for us and it might work for your family as well. Babies are only babies once and I miss the tenderness of sharing a bed with mine.