Sunday, February 27, 2011

Who wants to sleep alone?

Last week, my husband and I watched Paranormal Activity 2, a prequel to the first movie that documented a couple who were being harrassed by a demon (not really, it's a movie-not-a-documentary). The prequel lays the foundation for the 'why' of the original movie, the demon has come to claim a family's firstborn son, an infant. The mother catches on pretty quickly to their new houseguest, but despite her fear, junior naps and sleeps in a crib in a separate room from the parents. I mean, really? Really???? You have a demon in your house, and you're not going to at least co-sleep? After the movie ended (sorry, I won't spoil the ending for you, you'll have to rent it), I took Grace out of her bed and brought her to bed with us. Yeah, I know it's a movie, but you can never be too safe, right? Right???

When we brought our first baby home, we co-slept with her for a few weeks, setting up a basinette in our bedroom, she was moved into her crib in a separate room when she was about eight weeks old. At the time, we had never even entertained the idea of bed-sharing. We moved Maddy into her room because that's what we thought we were 'supposed' to do -- conventional wisdom dictates that babies sleep in cribs. I can still remember the panic I felt at having her sleep apart from us. I kept a monitor in her crib, close to her face, I turned the speaker as loud as possible so I could hear her breathing. When I wasn't satisfied I could hear anything, I would creep into her room and check on her. Our (my) plans for a restful night's sleep were sidelined by worry and middle-of-the-night feedings.

When our second baby was born two years later, we kept her in our bed from day one. Maddy was sleeping through the night at that point, and we were worried that having a baby crying in her crib in the middle of the night would wake Maddy up as well. Once we started bed-sharing, we never looked back. Having Hannah in bed with us was reassuring, and the middle-of-the-night feedings were much easier to deal with. Instead of getting out of my bed, walking to a separate bedroom, and picking a baby up so that I could nurse her in a rocking chair, I simply rolled over, unclipped my nursing bra, and latched her on. I would often sleep through her feedings, as long as my breast was within reach, she would simply latch on and off throughout the night as needed. I was never worried about her safety in our bed -- I kept a pillow between Hannah and my husband, he's a deep sleeper, I wanted to make sure there was a barrier keeping him away from her. When I was facing Hannah, I would curl myself around her, when I would turn away from her, she would always shimmy herself close to my back. I made sure our covers were always pushed down so that nothing covered her face. Once Hannah was mobile, we started putting her down into her crib at the start of the night, I would nurse her down in the rocking chair, then transfer her to the crib. When we went to bed, I would bring her to bed with us, as long as she was nursing through the night, she slept with us. When Hannah was old enough to sit up, we would put a basket of toys in the bed, and if she woke up early, she would play between us while we slept -- it would only buy us an extra 20-30 minutes of shut-eye, but any parent knows how valuable that can be! What about our love life, you ask? There are other rooms in the house. We managed to conceive two more babies. Clearly, it didn't take a hit.

At the time, we endured plenty of comments from concerned family members (aka my mother) who insisted we were forming poor sleeping habits. Our child would never learn to soothe herself to sleep, and she would never be comfortable sleeping by herself. In short, we were 'breaking' our child by bed-sharing with her. When Hannah was 2.5 years old, we were expecting our third child. Hannah weaned at night shortly before he was born, and we moved her into her own bed in her own room. Was it hard? Not at all! In fact, we had an easier time transtitioning Hannah from our bed to her own bed than we did transitioning Maddy from the crib to her own bed. Furthermore, Hannah was much more secure sleeping by herself -- to this day, Maddy will not sleep with the door shut (she won't even go upstairs by herself during the day!).

When Owen was born, he slept in our bed (the same place he was born!). We had a harder time transitioning him out of our bed, he was almost three years old when Grace was born. It took a little while to figure it out, but Owen was just lonely at night by himself. We managed to transition him into Hannah's bed, he bed-shared with her for a little while, then we put a second twin bed in her room, and they shared a room. Owen is just a kid who doesn't like to sleep alone. He's five now, and he shares a room with Grace -- Grace slept in our bed until she was almost 2.5 years old, moving out of our bed into her own was easy. She's always been an independent child (understatement of the century!), she wants to do what the big kids do.

So all of the kids sleep in their own beds now, they all have different sleep habits, but we never had to 'train' any of them to sleep. I'm a firm believer that kids are born with different sleep habits, there will never be a 'one size fits all' approach to getting them to sleep. All you can do is adapt to their needs, you certainly can't 'ruin' a child by sleeping with them. Even now, I still occasionally bed-share with the kids, not because they want to, but because I do. When my husband goes out of town, I usually end up bringing one of them into our bed. I'm a big fraidy-cat, and besides, who wants to sleep alone?


  1. What a lovely post! Good job showing that bed-sharing can be a normal part of raising children! We had our little one in bed with us (in a First Years close and secure sleeper) until just before she hit 5 months. She is now in her crib and doing great, but I firmly believe each family needs to find the best sleeping fit for them!

  2. Amen, sister!

    Your story is very like my own: I never planned to bedshare with my first, and had the crib and nursery all set up as it was "supposed to be". They were never really used! He slept with us till he was almost two-and-a-half and then transitioned pretty easily to his own bed in his own room. My second son is almost seventeen months and still in our bed, and will be until he is at least two as well. I am soooo much more relaxed about it now, knowing they CAN learn to sleep on their own without training or crying or nightly fights. :)

  3. Thank you for this post! I have 1 son and have been co-sleeping with him since he was born! I too have/am enduring all the comment people have about sharing sleep, but it simply work best for us!!!! I am so glad I am not alone in my beliefs! thank you again!

  4. Love your post. We are currently sharing our bed with our "almost 1 year old" and our "just turned 2 year old" has a toddler bed pushed up against our queen. When my hubby works night the boys and I all end up in the queen together :) I can't imagine spending the whole night worrying about them being in another room.
    Thankfully we haven't had many comments about our sleeping arrangements, although I did receive a look our shock from my SIL when I mentioned that DS2 had never been in a crib ;)

  5. I like this post....I firmly believe every child and family have different needs. I wanted to bed-share so badly with our first baby, but she was such a restless sleeper that both she and I got NO sleep when we slept together. She enjoys her crib and her own room. Our second lasted a little longer in our bed (4 months). I loved every moment of having them in bed with me (while it worked). I never worried that I would roll over onto either of them. My first daughter needed much more structure to her sleep to help her sleep well, and my second daughter seems to just sleep when she sleeps! Goes to show you that whatever you "plan" to do doesn't always come to fruition, because you have to consider your baby's needs as well as your needs. Different personalities require different sleep arrangements. Whatever needs to happen to get everyone in the family a decent night's sleep is what should happen!

  6. Love it, thank you!
    We get all kinds of questions about our "weird and wacky" parenting (bed-sharing, baby-wearing, infant pottying, etc.) ...all of course followed up by "she's such a good baby..." (i.e. "in spite of you two weirdos"). Nice to hear that we're not the only ones achieving restful nights by sharing our bed!