I’m on the defensive. I fully admit it. Maybe I should start this way instead:
Hi, my name is Jenn and I bed share with my 15 month old.
There. I said it. Outright admitted it as if I were in some sort of 12 step program. Is that what co-sleeping has been driven to – secrecy and shamefulness? Maybe I should go back further … back to the beginning of loss of sleep as we know it.
I happily co-slept with Sabine when she was born. She was tiny. She slept better when I was near and I slept better when she was near. It was a mutually enjoyable arrangement. When she was two months old and I came back to work, I decided to transition her to the crib … because that’s what everyone told me I needed to do. Enter the worst two weeks of sleep in my life. My child, who had been sleeping in four hour blocks, started sleeping for four hours. Period. Starting at 3am. She also refused to sleep anywhere but her carseat and refused to fall asleep anywhere but in the car. As you can imagine, this meant driving around at 2am every night.
We spent the next month and a half concentrating really hard on developing a “routine” and, at four months, Sabine slept through the night. In her crib. Then at six months she stopped. At eight months I gave up on running between her room and ours 8 times per night. Brandon said, “Why don’t you just bring her to bed with us?” Because we can’t DO that! They say NOT to do that! “Who is ‘they’ and are ‘they’ her parents?!” he replied. He was right. He had me. They weren’t up with her 8 times per night and they weren’t calling the shots. So, it was into our bed she came.
We’ve had good spots and rough spots since then. Currently we’re in a good spot. A REALLY good spot. More than that I’ve *gasp* decided I really like having her in bed with me. I know immediately when she has a fever (which has been all too often this winter). I get snuggles for 10 hours a night that I miss out on while I’m at work. I’ve become a believer in night time parenting. And still … I don’t tell people often that we bedshare. It’s not PC, afterall. When I DO tell people that we bedshare I feel studied like some remote tribe … and I hear a lot of “You’ll never get her out of your bed! She’ll be sleeping there when she’s five!” My first thought is “No she won’t!” and then my second thought is … “So, what if she is?”
You hear these stories a lot, right? The stories about so-and-so’s best friend’s dog groomer’s daughter sleeping with her parents until college. You know why I think you hear these stories? It’s not that I don’t believe them … I totally do. But, I think you hear them so often because those who have success transitioning from co-sleeping at a reasonable age are embarrassed to admit that they ever co-slept in the first place. It’s become such a parenting no-no that it’s been forced underground. There’s a really interesting study by Keller & Goldberg that followed 83 families, both solitary sleepers and co-sleepers. The solitary sleepers slept better at night and weaned earlier. However, the co-sleepers were more “self-reliant” and showed “more social independence”. Do either of those things really sound so horrible for the child? Another study by Ball, Hooker & Kelly examines the strengthening of the bond between father and child through co-sleeping. Again, this is a bad thing?
The bottom line is – I think co-sleeping is normal. Not normal in the sense that EVERY family should do it but normal in the sense that it’s an OK thing to do, as long as everyone is happy with the arrangement, and normal in the sense that I believe many more people are doing it than what articles would like us to believe. Or to what parents admit. In the past year I’ve learned that sometimes babies wake up at night … and that’s OK. I’ve learned that one of the best things in the world is to wake up next to your smiling baby. I’ve learned that it’s easier to comfort a sick/hurting/scared infant who’s next to you than it is to comfort one down the hall. I’ve learned that our family may not follow the “rules”, but we sure are happy. We may not have the best sleep track record of any family out there either but I wouldn’t change anything we’ve done. I won’t change anything we’re doing for future babies either. Actually, that’s not true. I will change one thing … I won’t attempt to crib transition at all next time. We’ll be exclusive co-sleepers from the beginning.
If you’d rather read something less rambly about co-sleeping, check out this link!