We are a family of accidental co-sleepers. We didn’t set out to share our bed with our children but we didn’t exactly try to stop it from happening either. My husband and I don’t have any ideological beliefs about bed-sharing or refusing to bed-share with our children. We are simply two adults that just want to get as much rest as possible.
We are desperate for sleep.
And there is nothing we hate more than big meltdowns in the middle of the night. So that means that sometimes we end up letting our children come sleep in our bed with us.
The secret is that both my husband and I actually really enjoy snuggling in the bed with our littles.
Not only do we love to cuddle with our kids, we also always use the excuse, “They’re only little once!” This basically means that they get away with a lot more than they should simply because we know that soon they will be too big and too cool for us. We have to get our snuggles in while we have the chance. But even though I (sort of) love sleeping with my kids, I also know that I don’t get quality sleep when one or both of our kids is sharing our bed with us.
When we first became parents, my husband and I spent a lot of time and energy trying to keep our son out of our bed. I was actually really scared to sleep next such a tiny baby. But when Wolfy was about four months old, I started falling asleep during our late-night nursing sessions. I decided that falling asleep while holding my baby was even more dangerous than purposefully sleeping next to him. When my son woke for his middle of the night feeding, I started bringing him into the bed. And just that quickly and innocently, our accidental co-sleeping journey had begun.
Having my son sleep in our bed for part of the night worked really well for a while. We all seemed to be getting more sleep. Maybe the quality of the sleep wasn’t that great but at least the quantity had improved. Then when our son was about ten months old, he started trying to have these baby-parties in the middle of the night. He would be up for hours, babbling, laughing, fussing, and nursing.
Finally one night at about 3:30am, my husband and I hit our breaking point. We put him in his crib and let him cry it out.
I would say that we felt terrible and guilty about it, but I think we were too tired to have any feelings. I remember it was so hard not to go in and get him and right when he got really upset and I couldn’t stand it, he stopped crying. A few minutes later, I tiptoed to the edge of his crib and saw that somehow he was deeply sleeping all on his own. It was like magic! After that, Wolfy slept in his own bed all night long. My husband and I felt better than we had in a very long time. We were like new people, new well-rested people; a married couple with our bed all to ourselves. We wondered why we hadn’t made our son sleep on his own sooner.
Then just before Wolfy turned two years old, we moved. I always say that when we moved, Wolfy moved right into our bed. I think he might have slept one night in his bed at the “new house”. After that, he was always in our bed. All night, every night. We were co-sleepers again. At one point, Wolfy didn’t even have a bed in his room. Our bed was his bed and that was it.
This spring, when Wolfy was over three years old and we had a newborn baby, we used a sticker chart and got Wolfy to sleep in his own bed. And finally we transitioned him into his room. This time there were no tears. I guess he was just ready to sleep in his own space. But this didn’t mean that my husband and I got our bed back to ourselves because our new baby girl was not about to let that happen.
For her first three months of life, our baby had slept in her co-sleeper or her swing or in our bed or in all three places during the course of a night. Sometimes she made us sleep with the lights on like death row prisoners. Yes, this little baby had creative means of torturing her parents. As soon as Wolfy was sleeping in his own bed, it was like she sensed the vacancy and immediately moved into our bed full-time.
For a while, I accepted that my husband and I would never have our bed to ourselves.
But then our little girl became even wiser. She realized that since she was already sleeping in the bed next to me, why not just nurse all night? All. Night. She wouldn’t accept pacifiers or snuggling with my husband. No substitutions.
Sometimes the baby would fall asleep and I could huddle with my husband on the far edge of the mattress but soon she would wake up and freak out because she wasn’t nursing. It was an all-night feeding frenzy. She sky-rocketed to the top of the growth charts. One day, in the middle of winter, I left my house and did all of my errands in my slippers.
I knew we had to reclaim our bed or pretty much die trying.
Sure, I spent a few more nights being a human pacifier, hoping beyond hope that she would just forget about the whole all night nurse-a-thon. But who wants to give up a 24/7 buffet where you’re the only customer? Finally one night at bedtime, when I couldn’t handle another night of nursing, I said, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m going to have her cry it out.” I was really scared. She seemed too little to sleep on her own- not quite six months old.
First my husband tried to put her to bed. He paced back and forth while she fussed. Then she loudly protested. She was definitely not going to magically fall asleep in his arms. Finally we clenched our teeth and put her down in her crib. She cried for five minutes. Five minutes! And then she passed out until the morning. I’m not kidding. Now she pretty much sleeps through the night in her own bed with very little crying. The joke is on us, I suppose. Once again we probably could have skipped a lot of sleepless nights by having her sleep on her own a lot sooner.