When my daughter was first born nearly 5 years ago we had a bassinet set up next to the bed and a crib in the room next to ours. She never slept in either of them. I guess we ‘fell’ into cosleeping since my daughter would not actually sleep anywhere except on my arm.
At the time I was struggling, I didn’t know that her 45 minute sleep cycles and all night nurse-a-thons were completely and utterly normal. I knew babies woke up but I didn’t know they woke up THAT much. Needless to say cosleeping from Day 1 helped save my sanity, if I had been writing at the time I am certain I would have written many posts about having my baby in bed with me.
Five years later I am thankful for my tiny wakeful baby because it set us out on a sleeping journey as a family that I would not trade for anything. She slept in the crook of my arm and she still falls asleep in the same crook every night now, 5 years later.
My 16 month old falls asleep in my other crook, he still nurses to sleep and through the night and having him right beside me in bed makes those wake ups ever so much easier than if I ever actually had to get out of the bed!
Much has been written about the benefits of cosleeping with your babies. Temperature regulation, establishing and maintaining the breastfeeding relationship, bonding, better and more sleep - just to name a few.
But here’s the thing: cosleeping with older children is pretty freakin’ awesome too (despite the occasional kick in the back or arm in the face).
My 5 year has always slept between my husband and I. We all happily fit on a king size bed until she was about 3 1/2 and her brother came along. When he arrived we added another single bed to our king to make a super duper awesome family bed. One day we may make it even bigger.
Our kids will sleep with us until they decide they don’t want to. And I don’t have any doubt that day will come. My daughter already mentions sleeping in her own bed. We don’t push her to do it but have told her she is always welcome to sleep wherever she wants. If she wants to try sleeping alone that is fine, and it’s also fine if she changes her mind and comes back to the big bed. She’s not actually ready yet and I’m really in no hurry for her to leave. For her talking about it is enough right now. She still climbs up into our big bed every night and snuggles in for a story or a song and she drifts off to sleep in my arms.
For me cosleeping is a continuation of our daytime parenting philosophy. It prioritizes connection over everything else. Five year olds can be frustrating little people sometimes. And as calm and collected as I strive to be, I do not always succeed. Reconnecting with her at night in the dark can only be good for both of us. She feels safe and loved and knows I am always right there beside her for the entire night. She is at the age of shadows turning into monsters and imaginary beasts coming into the room but we are there, keeping her safe. She does not need monster spray or night lights because she is flanked by us, her ultimate protectors.
Of course some nights are easier than others. There are nights where one person is sick and coughing and waking everyone else up. And there are the vacations where the beds are too small and the air conditioning is broken and it’s just a sweaty hot mess in the bed. But I still wouldn’t trade it. Giving our children the gift of connection and closeness throughout the night is something I am happy to oblige.
I know in my heart of hearts that I will deeply miss having them next to me when they decide to move to their own sleeping spaces. Not once will I look back on this time of my life and regret the extra snuggles, the extra hugs and kisses, the extra conversations and questions.
No one looks back on their kids’ childhood and wishes they had spent less time together. They just don’t.
Our days are typical busy family days and as our kids grow they will spend less and less time with us. Those night time hours are precious to me. When I wake in the quiet darkness to feed my son, I smell his head and drink in his scent and thank the universe for my family. And yes, if he wakes up 10 times in one night then I also want to pull my hair out. But I know that it’s not sleeping next to me that wakes him up…it’s just that he’s a baby and babies don’t always sleep.
So if your little humans are still tiny and sleeping with you and you are thinking the time is drawing near to move them to their own bed then perhaps give it a little longer. Maybe let them make the decision of when they feel safe and ready to move to their own space. This time will vary widely for different kids.
I will say it loudly, just one more time:
I LOVE COSLEEPING.
Now excuse me while I head up to our family bed and squeeze myself in between my babies and start the night shift. Sleeping, nursing, snuggling, keeping babies safe…it’s a pretty great bed, for the kids and for their mama.
What do your sleeping arrangements look like? I would love to hear your stories of sleepy togetherness.