We co-sleep with our kids. This is not something I often admit to others, even close friends or family. I have even gone to certain lengths to hide it when family has stayed over. It’s a taboo topic and something a lot of people choose to judge others about rather than try to understand, but I’m going to unpack the benefits of co-sleeping — and why you shouldn’t judge those who do.
Gentle Parenting and Co-Sleeping Go Hand-in-Hand
Gone are the days of the CIO (cry it out) method being the only way to go. A lot of parents have gone the way of a newer movement known as gentle parenting. The old school ones may jokingly call this method non-parenting or a lack of parenting, but there is certainly a way to do it while still teaching your kids how to be decent humans and not spoiled little brats. Gentle parenting is basically the belief that you don’t need to scream and yell at your kids, treating them only as subordinates. Instead, it aims to understand that the reason behind meltdowns is often tiredness, lack of structure, or understanding, and it also aims to treat our littles with as much respect as we demand as parents. That’s not to say that we treat our kids as equals. Personally, we as parents believe we have a job to teach them how to be good humans, navigate this world, and treat others well, and that still comes from a position of authority. We just prefer to do it with a slightly gentler method. There are obviously varying degrees of gentle parenting — some may do it differently than us, but I like to think that ours is an adaptive version.
Like so many, we came by this method honestly when our second minion was born. He went through the initial sleeping ramp up, beginning in a bassinet next to our bed for the first few weeks due to the frequent nursing sessions, and then graduated to a crib in his own room, supplemented by an electric swing for nap times until about age 1.
I do not recall the exact age that he started to crawl into our bed at night, but unlike our first born who would still be in the crib now at age 9 if we let him (joking, of course), our youngest began exiting his crib on his own at around 18 months old. To some, the “correct” way to combat this is to transition the crib to a toddler bed, put a lock on the door, and let him cry at night, thereby teaching him he needs to stay in his room to get sleep. To me, it was too late at this point, and we had failed to “sleep train” him at a younger age. That window of opportunity is usually around 7 months, or at least that worked best for our oldest. Whether this lack of desire to sleep train was due to tiredness, laziness, or just his stubborn demeanor, I remember constantly going into his room to comfort him or nurse him during his time sleeping in the crib. I was staying home with my sons and not working, so I wanted to make sure my husband got a full night’s sleep and didn’t feel the need to help me with the baby in the middle of the night since he had to work long days. And most nights, it became easier to pull the littlest one into bed with me when he woke up and got scared. And I think the older one jumped on the bandwagon when they began sharing rooms after we moved a few years ago, but he’s also struggled with night terrors as well. So that’s how we arrived here.
Less Fighting, More Sleeping
Some may disagree with me here, but bedtime has always been a big ordeal and a huge struggle for us. Don’t get me wrong, the sweet moments singing the ABCs in the bathtub and reading touch ‘n’ feel books, the gummy kisses, and the sweet snuggles with my boys are the memories I will hold onto forever. It was more as they got older (enter terrible 2s, 3s, and 4s) and having to start the bedtime routine an hour prior because of pushback, the sheer amount of time it takes to go from the bath, to jammies, to brushing teeth, to reading books and then subsequently stalling and fighting sleep — that wore me out after a full day of work, not to mention I only had a few precious hours with my babies before bed. Add that most of us are doing all of this after making dinner, cleaning up dinner, and possibly trying to fit in some exercise or downtime for ourselves, and as they got older, sports practice or something else for them. Adulting = exhausting, but we all know that. The point is that sometimes after a full day of it, the last thing I wanted to do was fight them about sleeping in their room alone and trying to tell them to not be scared or climb into our bed later.
Our Bed is Their Safe Space
I have a few friends who don’t even allow their kids in their bedroom. It’s a sacred place for Mom and Dad, they say. And as much as I respect their position, I can’t imagine banning my kids from my bedroom. Oftentimes I am folding laundry in my room while they watch a show on their tablet, laying in bed with their feet up on a pillow (how stinkin’ cute is that!?). Now, sometimes I kick them out so I can watch my shows, but you get the picture. We are also that family who tried to keep our dogs off the carpeted areas in our new home upstairs and made it about a month before we gave in. Maybe we are “weak” or “too soft,” but I can’t find anything positive from them not feeling like they cannot come into my bedroom when they need to talk, especially as they get older and encounter more issues in life. To this day, I remember talking through friend problems with my mom on HER bed.
Cosleeping is NOT a Death Sentence
Despite what you may think, co-sleeping is not a death sentence to your sex life. Yes, there are some nights when I just want to cuddle with my husband without a toddler foot resting on my shoulder. However, on those nights, we usually cuddle up and watch a show on the couch before heading to bed.
Other nights, if my husband needs unadulterated sleep after an especially long day at work, he’ll mosey over to the guest room or even sleep in the boys’ bed with the door shut (I envy him, let’s be honest). We view sleep as a necessity, and although it might be easier to get intimate time in while the littles are closing their eyes, more often than not we need the rest, too. I’d rather save those special moments with my husband for early mornings, his lunch break (hello, WFH benefits), or a lazy weekend afternoon when the kids are watching a movie. Both of us are more present and awake this way, and for us, it’s actually led to a happier, more purposeful sex life. Plus, it forces you to mix things up a bit!
Sadly, It’s Not Forever
I’ve been a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, and a work-from-home mom. I definitely enjoyed the nighttime snuggles with my littles more when I was working and away from them most of the day. In fact, we are now transitioning them back into their beds, but with no timeline or agenda, because that’s how we roll. #gentleparenting But I’m currently in the season of life where I feel they are ready, and I’m also ready for more time away from them and a little more uninterrupted, non-foot-in-my-face sleep. Wish me luck!