HOT TOPIC: Do you/did you sleep with your kids?

OK, so I’m more than a little hesitant to open the discussion toward parenting topics that tend to bring-out the nasty in people.  There are several topics that, while valuable to think about and discuss, tend to polarize parents (well, let’s be honest—moms!) who pick a side and desperately cling to it as “the ONLY and BEST way to raise children.”  In my short almost-two years as a parent, I’ve noticed the rather distinct and opposing parenting camps that indoctrinate their followers with the advice of a guru while demonizing families who swing the other way. As so eloquently posted by Andrea,

But I wonder if, as mothers, we are so rash to jump to conclusions that we alienate far more than we join up. As women, we can be so powerful! We are the central force in our childrens’ lives. So what if we parent differently. Ultimately, for the sake of our children, doesn’t it make more sense to lend sympathy, not judgment, to each other?

SO, on that note.  Rather than debating whether co-sleeping with your kids is a right or wrong issue (because that would be absolutely ridiculous, there is nothing morally right or wrong about it, despite what some would say), I’m curious about how many people out there are closet co-sleepers!!!  Especially the ones that swore you’d never in a million years allow your child in the bed with you!  I know some families intentionally sleep with their kids from Day 1, and for them it’s an expression of love and the willingness to always be available to their child.  And it seems like there are also lots of families that accidentally find themselves in the middle of a crowded bed with no idea how it got that way.  I’m sure in both situations there are those who LOVE it and those who HATE it, afterall, no parent and no child is the same, even in our sleeping preferences.  So, what has your experience been with the co-sleeping option?

For us, it hasn’t ever really happened.  I think when Evelyne was an infant I was so overly paranoid that somehow she’d end-up at the bottom of the bed under the covers (I really had nightmares about it!) that I never allowed myself to bring her into bed with me.  (other than a handful of times in the morning when she was a newborn… my arm has never been more painfully cramped in my life from holding her so carefully!)  In retrospect, I think that was pretty dumb of me to not at least nurse her in the bed in the middle of the night.  What was I thinking?!  But when it came to sleep, she was always pretty fussy and it took lots of rocking/swinging/bouncing and nursing to get her to fall asleep, and I don’t know if she would have fallen asleep just by lying down with us.  I think I did try it once or twice in desperation and she was just distracted.  When she got older, I knew it would never work, she would never fall asleep and stay asleep with us.  Now that she’s a toddler, I wonder if she might be able to drift-off next to us, but I still think that she’d probably be so distracted and want to stand-up and jump on the bed that I don’t even want to try.

Theoretically, I’m ok with it if that’s what happens with this next baby, but realistically, I probably won’t start it beyond nursing at night.  Clay has a really hard time sleeping well much of the time, and I know he wouldn’t get a wink of sleep if he knew a baby was in the bed with us.  Not to mention, I don’t think I could sleep on my side around the baby all night long, I’m always flipping and twisting around, usually ending-up on my back with my leg in the air.  (No, really.  Apparently it’s something I’ve done since I was little!)  I think I’d get way less sleep and just be sore and cranky in the morning.  So while I have no problem with the idea of it, I don’t know if it’s something I could do regularly.

That said, there have been so many nights that Clay and I lie awake and joke to each other that we should go get Evelyne from her crib and bring her into bed with us just so we could get a few extra cuddles!  I think when we move her into a big-girl bed and she comes to us in the middle of the night wanting to get in bed with us (which I’m sure is inevitable), we might be the only parents who have ever flung-back the covers and said, “Hop-in, baby!”  (And then go on to get no sleep that night and never want to do it again!)

So what does your family do?  Do you sleep together because you like it, your kids like it, or because it’s the only way anyone ever gets any sleep?  Or do you fiercely protect your sleeping space from all tiny intruders?

*Despite some SIDS warnings, there is some evidence pointing toward co-sleeping as actually lowering the risk of a baby dying of SIDS as long as the parents take smart precautions.  (firm sleeping surface, no blankets, baby sleeping on his back, etc…)  So no finger-pointing about co-sleeping parents endangering their babies or making a dangerous decision.

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12 responses to “HOT TOPIC: Do you/did you sleep with your kids?

  1. Hi Emily, I’ve thought about this a lot. My kids sleep with me a LOT… I would say more often than not. I am part of the reason for this however, mainly because I never stop them from crawling in bed with me… which they do every night they’re here. I love to cuddle with them and they are super affectionate! Often I wake in the morning to find that their little arms have wrapped around my neck, arms, or legs… which is not only sweet to my heart, but their body heat makes up for the covers they stole! 😉 My boys are getting older though, and I am wondering when I should insist they sleep in their own bed? And if I add an age limit to the question- then I have to look at myself at 27- still not really wanting to sleep alone. I can do it, and do it when they’re not here, but should each of us have our own bed? Not sure I know that answer.

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  2. Sam slept beside us in a small bassinett the first 6 wks of his life. I moved him to his crib because I could barely get any sleep! Those little boogers make a lot of noise at night! However at 6 wks, he wasn’t sleeping through the night, so when he would wake up, I’d bring him to bed, nurse him and we’d fall asleep there. So for a while, I was waking up with Sam in bed with us (although he didn’t go to bed with us)

    Of course now he sleeps in his crib. Loves it and we’d have no other way. The few times he DOES join us in bed (when he’s sick) it is HORRIBLE! DH and I can’t barely sleep because he’s all over the place!! (but it’s much better bringing him in bed than standing or trying to rock a sick baby back to bed!)

    Anyways, I digress. I think it truly is a personal decision with each family. My brother and sis in law co-slept until their LO was a year and a half. He still jumps into bed with them now and they are expecting their 2nd. I wonder how that transition will be.

    finally, I can’t help but think of the intimacy level that the marriage bed brings. I know, I know,, you don’t need the bed to get intimate, but I’m also talking about late night talks and early morning talks. I think a kid being there kind of hinders that.

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  3. nope. our kids don’t sleep with us- i have insomnia anyways- and i don’t think i’d be a good mama if i didn’t get at least some sleep! russ has always drawn the line- i love morning snuggles with the kids- but that’s as far as it goes. but i totally don’t think it would mess up a kid to sleep with mama and daddy at night. it’s just not for us!

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  4. I am WAY to selfish with my sleep to allow any disturbances…….my babies went from hospital to crib. Now, I’m not a meanie – there were a few nights in the beginning where I would do the middle-of-the-night feeding and fall asleep with them on my stomach on the couch, but for the most part mine were always crib-sleepers and they ended up LOVING their beds. Once we got over the hump, they would sleep from 9 at night until 9 in the morning. However, my husband says that I’m such a hard sleeper that they may have been crying and I just didn’t wake up……..oops!

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  5. Our kids sleep with us and we are not in the closet about it. However, I do understand why some people do hide it.

    First of all, misinformed coroners and other public health bodies decry that it is unsafe to sleep with an infant, rather than explaining how it can be made safe. I wrote about this in length: http://phdinparenting.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/faulty-logic-from-the-ontario-coroner-regarding-bed-sharing/

    Second, our Western society says that babies are meant to sleep alone, so people are ashamed when they “give in” and let their child into bed with them because they think people will perceive them as lazy or soft or spoiling the child. That is not the way I see it at all. I think I am being practical (it is easier to nurse in bed at night than to get up), I am forging a connection with my kids despite the fact that I don’t see them as much as I would like because I have to work during the day, and it allows my kids to sleep better (they both usually sleep through the night if someone is next to them, but wake up regularly if noone is next to them).

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  6. We have co-slept every night of my 21-month-old son’s life. For us putting him in a crib was like having a slumber party and not inviting him! We do miss the pre-sleep talks and the sex, but wouldn’t have it any other way!

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  7. My son slept in a bassinet next to the bed for the first 4 weeks or so because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t want to get to far out of bed every two hours to nurse him. We moved him to his crib in the next room after that because his arms were too long for the narrow bassinet and he kept wacking his hands into the sides and waking himself up. He never seemed to notice he’d been moved, plus he slept a lot more soundly without us in the room (but not so soundly that he was at risk for SIDS). He’s always been a really good sleeper. I just wish I was 🙂

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  8. i SO would’ve let charlotte sleep with us if she would’ve actually slept. we tried it many a time in that first year, but she just turns into a little monkey, steamrolling all over us and bouncing on the bed. for her, i guess she just has to be alone to not be too distracted for sleep. BUT, i am a huge believer in whatever works. if i had a baby that enjoyed sleeping with us, i would totally consider it. it sounds like an easy way to get more sleep for everyone!

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  9. Child #1: We had an exceptionally easy baby who was a great sleeper early on. We followed babywise, and I mistakenly thought if everyone would just follow the rules, they too could have fabulous sleeping babies. It worked for Shea. I breastfed her for 14 months, but she did great with a bottle when she was away from me. She slept 8 hours a night by three months, and she slept 12 hours a night at four months. She slept in the pack-n-play in our room until we moved her to her baby bed in her own room when she was 3 months old.

    Child #2: Completely different story. Tried babywise, and it didn’t work. He needs to eat about every three hours. We started out with him in the pack-n-play next to our bed. I’d nurse him and put him back down to sleep. I had to go back to work when he was 6 weeks old. I work full-time, and he doesn’t do well with a bottle. He eats what he has to eat to get by during the day, and he makes up the difference by nursing at night. After about a month of working and getting up with him three times a night, I was beyond exhausted. I started falling asleep while I nursed him sitting up in bed. I knocked my head once on our “headboard”, and I once let him roll out of my lap. That’s not really safe, so I started putting him in bed with me to nurse. It was so much better. My husband and I do, however, need time together before we go to bed to reconnect, etc. My baby is now six months old, and we start him out in his own bed. The first time he wakes up during the night to eat, which normally happens between 11pm and 1am, I bring him back to bed with me. I nurse him off and on the rest of the night. We follow most of the safety precautions. I do, nevertheless, still sleep on a pillow, but I make sure it’s not near his face. I’ve figured out how to comfortably nurse him and sleep while lying on my side. I sleep much lighter when he’s in bed with me, but I do get to sleep. I have to pump while I’m at work, and it’s very easy for your supply to dwindle when you’re mostly pumping (experienced this with my daughter). Frequent night feedings keep your supply up, so I’m thankful for that benefit. I’m away from my sweet baby so much during the day, so it’s great to cuddle with him at night. Cosleeping still scares me quite a bit, but I don’t think that I could physically do it any other way and still breastfeed.

    Bottom line: I do a variation of cosleeping out of necessity and enjoy certain aspects of it, but I’ll be glad when my child is out of my bed.

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  10. I never thought I would and we didnt with our 1st kid, but when number 2 came along, i really enjoyed getting up in the middle of the night. I knew how fast the time was going to go and i tried to hold him as long as possible. i breast fed for 15 months and i loved sleeping with him. My husbands didnt like it but he also wasnt the one getting up at night. I does depend on the kid, parents and situation. My kids shared a room and my son kept waking up my older daughter so putting him in our room in our bed helped her sleep. Lots of if’s and and’s.
    -h

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  11. I never even considered it before Eli came along because everything I read scared me into believing I was going to kill my baby if I brought him to bed with us! However, with a baby who wanted to nurse every two hours, and me being such a light sleeper that I wasn’t getting much sleep in between, I ended up bringing him to bed in the middle of the night to nurse, and he just stayed for the rest of the night. I don’t think I’d have gotten any sleep otherwise. However, once he started sleeping through the night, he was in his crib 100%. As one of the other comments mentioned, I believe a husband and wife need the sanctity of the marriage bed, so I believe that co-sleeping really has to be a united decision made by a couple together, for the sake of their marriage.

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  12. My daughter Lilli slept with us for the first 6 months of her life. She was ill as a baby and had to have surgery to repair a diaphragmatic hernia. We think that because she was in pain, and we did not find out about her hernia until she was 6 weeks old, that she needed to sleep with us because she didn’t feel well. Then those first 6 weeks set a habit of her needing to sleep with us. I remember she would only stay asleep if one of our hands was on her back. At the time I was desperate for her to sleep in her own crib, but neither my husband nor I would let her “cry it out” until she was 6 months old. When she was about 6 1/2 months we did the ferberizing method of crying it out and she’s been a champion sleeper since then. Where as previously she’d wake up 2-3 times/night, when she got in her own crib she finally slept through the night. I think we all needed her out of our bed, but there’s still times now that I wish she was still in our bed. I remember falling asleep with her, we’d be facing eachother a drift off to sleep looking at eachother. So sweet! But, now everyone gets the sleep they need! With our next baby I’ll be purchasing a co-sleeper basinet so he can sleep next to us, but not on the same surface. Hopefully allowing us all to sleep better!

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