Are you and your baby having trouble sleeping at night? If so, I understand because I was there. At this point, you are probably feeling exhausted and downtrodden from night after night of minimal sleep and lots of crying. What are the options for getting more sleep with a baby or toddler? One alternative to crib sleeping is co-sleeping. Co-sleeping is where your baby or toddler sleeps next to you instead of in his or her crib. It’s not recommended, but lots of people do it. Here’s why….
Reason #1: Mom and Dad are tired!
Why do most parents start co-sleeping with their kids? I would say sleep is the number one reason! Mom and Dad are tired and need sleep!
My oldest daughter was a terrible sleeper as a baby. For the first four months of her life, I was constantly up every hour and a half fighting her back in her crib after she would need to eat or startle in her sleep. It was miserable. At the end of four months, I went back to work. I no longer had the option of taking a morning or afternoon nap to help catch some shut-eye. I had to get more sleep at night.
I knew several of my co-workers slept with their kids when their kids were little. Both my husband and I also slept with our parents when we were little too. Although I didn’t really want to start the habit of her sleeping in bed with us, we really needed sleep. So, I did some research on how to co-sleep safely, made a plan, and put it into action. It worked like a charm. From the very first night, Big C only woke up one or two times to eat, and she immediately went right back to sleep. By 8 months old, she was sleeping all night long (from 8 P.M. to 5 A.M.) without waking up to eat. Everyone was sleeping. Everyone was happy.
Reason # 2: Mom and Dad can’t do cry-it-out
Another reason parents start co-sleeping with their kids is because they can’t do the cry-it-out method. What is the cry-it-out method you ask? It’s when you allow your baby or toddler to cry in their crib until they become so exhausted they fall asleep, or they realize you aren’t coming to get them. The first night of doing this method involves a lot of heartbreaking crying, and proponents of the method will tell you that it is best not to go in their room at all. It only makes them cry more and cry longer. After a few nights of doing the cry-it-out method, your baby or toddler will hopefully realize that they must stay in their crib all night. Crying will not make you come to them.
I have several relatives that are strong supporters of the cry-it-out method, and their children are champion sleepers. The kids sleep by themselves in their beds and have since they were babies. However, the children and parents all had to endure a week or so of pitiful crying to make this happen. A lot of parents—especially first time parents—can’t deal.
Reason # 3: It’s convenient for breastfeeding
I have a few friends and relatives who started co-sleeping with their children because it made breastfeeding at night more convenient. You don’t even have to get out of bed to nurse your baby! Just slide your baby down and lift up your shirt. In fact, many of them said they often fell asleep while their baby was nursing. Their baby would just unlatch when he/she was done and either root for more or go back to sleep. (Although we co-slept with our oldest daughter, I always sat up in a chair to nurse. For some reason, my daughter struggled to latch on properly when we were laying on side-by-side.)
Reason # 4: It lessens working-mommy guilt
If you work away from home, you might be away from your baby anywhere from 5 to 12 hours per day. By the time you get home, you may only have a few hours each night to spend with your child before he or she goes to bed. (Children have early bedtimes. Ours usually go to bed between 7:30 and 8:00.) That time is also spent preparing dinner, cleaning up the kitchen, getting bags ready for daycare, and doing bathtime. A friend of mine once said that she was glad she co-slept with her boys because that meant she spent more time with them than away from them even though she had to work away from home all day. It lessened her working-mommy guilt. I remember feeling the same way when I snuggled with Big C at night when she was a baby. Although I couldn’t be with her every day, I could be with her every night.
Reason # 5: It promotes bonding between you and your child
Although we chose to co-sleep with our oldest daughter because of convenience, there are some people out there that choose to co-sleep for emotional reasons. One of my friends believed it strengthened the bond between her and her children. She felt that co-sleeping helped her babies to feel safe, protected, and loved. I know that both of our children absolutely love sleeping with us whenever they can. They snuggle in and go to sleep with smiles on their faces. Both girls will sleep peacefully all night as long as my husband or I are within an arm’s reach. So in our experience, we would agree with her. Co-sleeping does promote feelings of safety and love in children.
Finally: You are not alone!
Although you will probably get harassed by your family members and friends who did not sleep with their kids, realize that you are not alone! I know many working moms and dads that co-sleep with their children. In fact, there is a whole community of co-sleeping parents out there who choose this method of sleeping for a variety of reasons. Although everything I’ve talked about in this post comes from my own experience or conversations I’ve had with friends and family, Elizabeth Pantley also discusses co-sleeping in her book, The No Cry Sleep Solution. I actually recommend that book as a resource to anyone who is interested in co-sleeping.
Q: If you co-sleep with your children, why did you start?