Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Co-Sleeping: Three Years Later

Three years into co-sleeping, I still get a lot of questions about it. When we were pregnant with Dmitri, I did a lot of research on different methods of parenting babies, from attachment parenting to baby-wise. And while I read about many different philosophies, it really wasn't a very hard decision for us- we went with our instincts.  It just made sense to us to co-sleep, and we knew it is what our human ancestors have been doing for hundreds and hundreds of years. There were some practical considerations too - something about getting out of bed every time my baby woke up seemed like it would make breastfeeding a newborn more laborious and frustrating, plus I have a hard time falling back asleep once I've gotten out of bed. There are plenty of other reasons to co-sleep, and I'm not necessarily trying to present an argument for why one should co-sleep, but I'm sharing some of the reasons that it made sense for us.

Now, three years into it, I have a lot more knowledge and experience of what it really means to co-sleep, and not just with one, but two little ones. And so I wanted to share my experience, some of the pros and cons, and answer some questions that I hear frequently.

I am not trying offend anyone who has different parenting styles, but just sharing my experience.

Some Pros of Co-sleeping

-It makes traveling with little ones easier. We don't have to worry about bringing a pack n play, or about having enough beds. And because they sleep in our bed, they don't sleep very differently then they would at home; because very little has changed for them. We are all there together.

-All the sweet bedtime and morning snuggles. I love getting to cuddle with my kids.

-I don't have to get out of bed. Ever. This is especially nice when my children are sick or teething or have bad dreams.

-Since David is gone the majority of the littles waking hours, sleeping snuggled up next to Papa means a lot to them.

-I never have to worry about my littles at night. Which means I sleep better.

Some Cons of Co-sleeping

- There are extra people in your bed. So you have less space. (We have a King size bed, which helps a little...)

- You will most likely have to find a different location to have sex. This could be a pro or a con. I've never found it to be an issue, as we have a guest bedroom and, well, other places in our house too.

-You might not be able to leave your children for the night until they are a bit older than if they slept in a crib. David and I have never left the kids with anyone, and don't see this as an option in our immediate future either. (I have, however, left the children overnight with David a couple of times).


Logistics - How do the four of you sleep in the bed?When Damon was a baby, we slept Damon - mama - Dmitri - papa. This requires either a guard or barrier to keep the baby from falling off. Now, we have moved Damon next to Dmitri, and they enjoy sleeping next to each other. We hope that this will make the transition into their own shared bed a little easier.

Speaking of their own bed, "Will they ever have their own bed?"
Nope. Never. Unless they move out of the house after they are 30. Then I guess I will let them have their own bed in the cabin that we will build next to our house for them.

Yeah, right. So, we plan to move them into a queen bed of their own that they can share, when they are ready. I was thinking when they are 4 & 2 and moving them together. As that approaches, I am not really feeling a rush. I know the day will come when they are ready, and we will do it then. I'm not interested in making it a traumatic event. We will also wait until we are settled, either here, or wherever we move since that is a possibility.

Does co-sleeping effect your marriage?
I'm sure it does. As does having babies and toddlers in general. I think that it makes us closer as a family. But it definitely cuts down on cuddling with just my husband. I know that we are both looking forward to having the bed to ourselves one day, but we know that this is a relatively short season in our lives and like any relationship between parents, we have to put effort into getting one-on-one quality time and we try to make this a priority when we can (although it's always a challenge.)

Does co-sleeping teach kids bad sleep habits? Do you they sleep through the night?
In my experience, my littles slept very well as newborns compared to others that I know who did not co-sleep. Both of them slept 5-6 hours straight at night within the first week. I think that this is because newborns are used to being inside of their mothers, and co-sleeping mimics the security that they knew within the womb. I think it varies from child to child as they get older. Dmitri didn't sleep through the night until he was 18 months old (that is, 12 hours). I know some co-sleepers do sooner, and others much later. If you let a baby cry it out, they will sleep through the night sooner, usually. At the age of 3, Dmitri goes to sleep in about 5-10 minutes and sleeps through the night for 12 hours. We've never let him cry without being comforted. Did it take longer? Yes. But did we reach the ultimate goal of having a good sleeper? Absolutely. And I felt that I accomplished this while still respecting him and his feelings, being an empathetic parent, and not going against my own instincts that its not ok for me to just let my child cry.

I've heard co-sleeping is a good form of birth control....It has not been very effective for us. And honestly, I think sex is just an excuse people give for not wanting to co-sleep. I'm convinced that we have sex just as much as anyone else with children our age, if not more, regardless of co-sleeping.

Isn't co-sleeping dangerous?
This has become an especially hot topic since a recent anti-co-sleeping campaign of billboards that are fear-based propaganda. I think that there are steps one can take to co-sleep safely. Including, 

-never leaving a baby unattended in a bed

-sleeping on a firm mattress
-not using down or fluffy blankets or having soft pillows near the baby
-never co-sleep while under the influence of drugs, including things like benadryl, and alcohol
-don't let someone who is not the child's parent sleep with the child 

There are probably more, but those are some that come to mind that we have followed. Another consideration when thinking about the safety of a child while sleeping, unfortunately, babies also die in cribs. There are many different opinions and theories on this, and I recommend parents research it for themselves. And most of all, follow what your instincts tell you. 

How do you ever sleep? I would never sleep with my kids in my bed.
There was definitely an adjustment period for us. But after a couple months, we got used to it and now we sleep just fine. David and I experienced the same thing when we got married - it takes time to adjust to having someone in the bed when you aren't used to it. But we do adapt, and I think many people underestimate their ability to do so.

So, have you ever wondered about co-sleeping? Any questions that I didn't answer?


Neighbor Tiffany said...

Hi Caroline,
We have a 1 month old and we start out with our daughter in the bassinet right next to me every night. However, after her first feeding during the night, she usually ends up sleeping in bed with us. While I love the convenience and snuggles, I worry my husband will roll over on her. I wake to every peep she makes (mommy instinct I guess) but he is a solid sleeper...often snoring through her cries when I don't change her diaper fast enough at 3am! Did you ever have any concerns about your husband rolling onto her? I'd ultimately prefer her to sleep between us instead of just beside me.
Also, when they were babies, did you swaddle the boys in the bed? We swaddle her when she's asleep in the bassinet, but not when she's with us because I don't want her to get too hot. I've just heard they often sleep longer if swaddled so they don't fling their arms and wake themselves up.
Thanks for your sharing your experience!!

Mama Gone Green said...

Thanks for this post! We slept with both of our babes, but Finn got moved into his own bed at 3 and Phoebe to a crib in Finn's room at just over 1. My children sleep exactly like the ones in the top photo of this post, and after 3 years of sharing our bed (and being kicked, pushed, and smacked all night) Todd and I decided that we needed out bed back.
I am so happy that we did co-sleep and I still miss having those cuddly kids in bed a lot of nights... and don't tel Todd, but whenever he is out of town, the kiddos come back to bed with me!

Jacinda said...

This is a great post on such a needlessly controversial topic. Thanks for your insight. As someone who doesn't have children yet, this is just the sort of info I like to file away for when that day does come (hopefully soon!)

I've been a reader for awhile and I really love your blog.


Unknown said...

This may sound like a stupid question, but I'm honestly curious - babies sleep more than adults, but you should never leave a baby alone in a bed. What do you do for naps and the like? Or when they go to bed and you are still up? Now your babies are older, but I have a 1 year old who's napped twice a day for a while and it's the only time I ever get anything done!

Caroline @ The Feminist Housewife said...

Tiffany - I definitely can relate to this. I'm also a light sleeper and my husband is not. It has never been an issue with us, though. But, if you are worried about it, I would keep the baby on your side, or on the opposite side from your husband until she is older. Once she is older, it might be less worrisome to have her sleep between you.

As for swaddling, my children just didn't like it. I had done all kinds of reading, and I had practiced on a baby doll and everything. But co-sleeping helped mine sleep for longer periods of time, so we didn't end up doing it. But I've heard that some babies really benefit from it!

Lynzie Lee - this is a little confusing. I think this is mainly true with newborns. They should probably nap in a pack and play or somewhere where you can keep an eye on them. As they get older, it's just important to make sure that they can't fall out - whether by using side guards or putting them on a mattress on the floor. Hope that helps! Obviously, your baby will probably be unattended at some point. But it's about using common sense, especially with newborns that can't lift their heads well.

Bliss said...

Ah ha ha ha ha. Stopping by from Simply Vintageous to check out your paint project but got all caught up in the baby sleep positions.


Heidi said...

It's nice to hear such a similar story to my own :) We co-sleep with both our girls,1 and 3. It's such a special and treasured time. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

BTW I absolutely LOVE the pics you have of co-sleeping! Right on!

Adrienne Gomer said...

I totally respect your desire to co-sleep, way to go! Personally I find it much easier to sleep without kids in our bed. My daughter never slept with us but our son did the first few months because it was easier to breast feed that way. Once he turned 3 months he was in his own crib. Even so, my daughter started sleeping 12 hours at 6 months and my son who is currently 6 months is just starting to and I've never let them cry it out. A little whimpering I ignore, but I don't let them just cry and they're still pretty great sleepers. There are so many different ways to do it, but I agree, you have to do what's right for you.