I never wanted to bed share with my children. I wasn’t against it, but I also wanted to have our own space too. I wanted them close by, in the pack and play when they were newborns and when they were about six months old, we transitioned them to their own rooms. I was proud that my son was able to put himself to sleep after we said goodnight to him, and we had a very established bedtime routine for the first two years of his life. And then we had another baby.
It’s not that we got lazy per se, but more that we were in survival mode. I had been the primary one to put him to bed, and then I had to nurse his sister and put her to bed, and Dad was in charge. He began to struggle with the change. So out of convenience, the two of them would watch movies in bed, while I put my daughter to bed. Inevitably, one or both of them would fall asleep, and we would be moving him into his bed. This is when it all went downhill.
He began having night terrors, where he would wake up, yelling or screaming, and when you would go to him, he wouldn’t acknowledge that you were there. It was as if you were invisible to him, he couldn’t communicate what was wrong, would just mumble gibberish and eventually lie back down. Night terrors turned into sleep walking into our room after a night terror episode, and after three or four times of bringing him back to his bed, we would give up and let him sleep with us. The number of times we brought him back to bed began to decrease, until he was able to stay after his first visit.
Then his sister started to do the same. She had been sleeping in her own room, falling asleep on her own. When we switched her to a toddler bed, she began to wander in and the process started all over again, until we would wake up with feet in our stomachs and hands on our faces. For such small children, they sure take up an enormous amount of real estate in the bed. Then we got lazy. We would have a few movie nights in a row, where they were able to watch movies until they fell asleep and being exhausted parents, we just let them stay in our bed… and now we can’t get them out! It’s back to the drawing boards, back to the sleep shuffle that had started our bedtime routine (which entails each night moving further and further across the room towards the door, until a few weeks later and you’re outside the room). It worked once, and hopefully will again!
Speaking to other mothers, I know that we are not alone. Many parents allow their kids to sleep in their beds when they wake up in the middle of the night. Studies show that up to 45% of parents with older children (i.e. 8-12 years old) still let their children sleep in their beds with them on occasion. There are many advantages to co-sleeping (which is the all-inclusive term for sleeping near your child): parents get more sleep, children get more sleep, breastfeeding is easier and sleeping near your baby reduces the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%. Sounds great, right? But there are also very many disadvantages: parents do not sleep as well with squirming children in their bed, kids wake up earlier once they realize that mom and dad are nearby; and it can definitely put a damper on your relationship with your partner (read: sex life). It can also increase their risk of SIDS if you sleep in the same bed as your baby and it may be difficult to transition into their own beds.
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I never wanted to co-sleep and we are actively trying to move the kids back into their own beds so that we can get a decent night’s sleep without ever moving toddler’s bodies beneath our sheets. To each their own though, I know that co-sleeping can work for a range of families, but I’ve had enough of it. I need my uninterrupted sleep as a working mom who maintains about a six hour average of sleep each night. So wish us luck, and may the odds ever be in our favor.