I co-slept with both my sons until they were about 8 months old. It was purely my decision and I was not influenced by anyone, even though my friends and family had a lot of strong opinions about it.
For me, it was a good arrangement: shared warmth, crucial bonding and ease of breastfeeding. Not to mention the fact that I could lean in and sniff their perfect little noggins at any moment. Every night I was careful and cleared the bed of pillows and bunched-up blankets. We were safe and happy.
I’m not alone in the decision to co-sleep either. According to NPR, the number of American parents co-sleeping with their kids has risen from about 6 percent in 1993, to 24 percent in 2015. Maybe more moms are co-sleeping as it best supports their idea of parenting. That’s why I did it.
It was hard to hear from people I care about that I was making a bad parenting choice.
In the early days, I struggled with a lot of guilt over co-sleeping with my kid. Friends and family would say things like, “Let him cry it out” or “He’ll never sleep by himself.” Then there was the more passive-aggressive comment: “Don’t you want time with just you and your husband?” (The answer was no, sex was the least of my concerns, but not an easy one to admit, especially to my friends who weren’t moms.) It was hard to hear from people I care about that I was making a bad parenting choice.
Thankfully, I trusted my gut. I continued to co-sleep, to enjoy the close bond with my new babe and to hear his little snorts, coos and gassy giggles throughout the night.
But at some point, the novelty wore off. I was done. I couldn’t handle all the wet and leaky breasts, diapers and tears. Plus, the more they grew, the more they moved, and soon it was feet and fists in my face; and my youngest had this charming habit of pulling my hair.
So, we transitioned each kid to a crib by the time they cut their first tooth. This was a painstaking process for all of us and involved lots of binkies, patience and Army crawls out of the nursery. It was agonizing, but worth it. We all learned our first lesson in family resiliency.
Once they had adjusted to self-soothing and their cribs, we moved on to the excitement of toddler beds. Yet the subconscious pull of sleeping as a family was strong, and a couple of nights a week, one or both kids would waddle to mama’s side of the bed. And I relished it. Feet, fists and all.
I believe those early days of co-sleeping were absolutely essential to our bonding as a family. Our bed is a haven after long days and a sanctuary on weekend mornings. Over the years it’s been a trampoline, breakfast table, wrestling ring and more.
My children are now 13 and 10 and we still spend time in bed together. “Time to get horizontal” as my youngest often states, belly-flopping in the middle of our king-size bed. We chat, giggle and read, and sometimes, it’s just because they need a good prepubescent cry on a pillow that carries a scent they’ve known since birth. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.