Why I’m Glad I Co-Sleep Despite What the Doctors Say

Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump
Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump

It’s 6:30 a.m. I’ve been lying awake since 5:00 a.m. I have an 18-month old. You may be asking why I’m up so early, right? Let me start off by saying that for my family of three (and one dog who is not in this crazy sleeping equation, thank goodness), co-sleeping has really had its amazing moments. Many of them. We have no regrets — err —  I have no regrets. I can’t speak for my husband, but I think he’d say the same.

But lately, we’ve been having a conversation that goes something like: “So, do you think we’ll co-sleep with the next one?” “Um. Hell, no.”

We didn’t start out with the intention to co-sleep. We tried the pediatrician-recommended sleep routine. But our little dude had other plans. He just would not sleep well in a crib, if at all. We tried the usual tricks (swaddling, patting, pacifier, soft music, no music, humming, shushing, etc…) but he just wasn’t a good sleeper, and it wasn’t gas or any other health-related issue. It just so happens that, when mommy and daddy were desperate for good sleep, he was more than willing to sleep like an angel right next to us in bed (or on us). And so it began.

In the beginning it was great; I did mega-research on safe co-sleeping (and before the nay-sayers get their groove on, yes, there is such a thing, and it’s supported by compelling research) and we decided to just go for it. Immediately, I wondered why everyone didn’t do it. Our son slept pretty much all night. He’d wake to nurse often in the beginning, but eventually his nursing needs weaned a bit, and he’d fall right back asleep. And I think that I slept better too — and in those morning snuggles didn’t hurt either! But, there is a downside.

Right about the 11-month mark, our son started doing this weird thing where he’d, oh I dunno, take up the entire bed somehow with his tiny body. I found myself squeezed into odd positions in the middle of the night, trying to somehow will myself into a tiny mommy-roll-up so I could find one piece of bed I could call my own. Around 13 months, his teeth really started to come in and, in addition to his usual bed high-jacking, he was also restless at night. Our long nights of blissful sleep were reverting to those of a newborn. Next came weaning. My son had stopped nursing for nutritional need and started nursing out of comfort. And that’s when my partner and I realized that our son never learned to sleep on his own. (Proponents of co-sleeping will tell you that self-soothing will eventually happen when your child is ready to sleep on his own. I can’t speak to that because we simply aren’t there yet.) Despite the cons, I’d still say I’m definitely on team co-sleeping.

Co-sleeping is amazing. It really is. But full disclosure: Expect to nurse past that ideal point you probably have in your pretty little head right now. Expect to give up (at least to some degree) spooning and snuggling with your partner whenever you want. Expect to have restless nights as your toddler flips and flops to make himself comfortable, or wakes and needs help being soothed back to sleep. Expect to be in it for the long haul. You can’t just co-sleep for a couple of months and then decide you’re over it. But also expect to enjoy all the little moments you’ll get — waking to bright eyes shining expectantly over you; sleepy smiles and snuggles, and the most adorable bed-head you’ll ever see first thing in the morning; kisses and little warm arms trying to wiggle their way around your neck for a hug to start the day. And, often times, a good night’s rest.

Every child is different and comes with different sleeping tendencies. You’re the parent. Make the choice that is right for you, but only after considering everything and knowing you can’t really flip-flop on the issue easily. I spent so much time researching the safety and development stuff that I ignored the practical stuff.

*Editor’s Note: The American Association of Pediatrics advises against bed sharing because studies show it increases risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If you do sleep share, the AAP cautions against doing so when you’ve been drinking or are “excessively tired”… ruling out, oh, every single night for most new parents. The AAP does recommend, though, keeping baby in your bedroom (but in a separate crib or bassinet) for the first few months. Close proximity has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. If even a crib on the other side of the room seems too far, try a co-sleeper, which is a three-sided crib that attaches right to your bed for easy access.

Would you ever co-sleep with your baby?

Plus, more from The Bump:

Myths and Truths About Co-Sleeping

Co-Sleeping With Baby?

Should You Co-Sleep With Baby? Yes, and No, Says Study