The Joys of Co-Sleeping
By Erica Neser,
author of Sleep Guide for Babies and Toddlers (Protea Books, 2006)
and mother of three (including an intermittently co-sleeping child)
"There were ten in the bed
and the little one said,
'Roll over, roll over!'
So they all rolled over
and the one fell off
there were nine in the bed
and the little one said..."
19h30: Jason (2 months), falls asleep and is put into his cot. His sister, Alexa (2 ½), is waiting in her bed and ready to sleep. Mum lies down next to her, as she always does, and Alexa drifts into sleep, and so does Mum.
20h00: Jason niggles, and Dad quickly settles him back to sleep in his cot.
20h30: Mum wakes up, carefully untangles herself from Alexa's embrace and gets up. She is sleepy but there are dishes to be washed and e-mail to be checked.
22h00: Mum and Dad go to bed.
1h00: Jason wakes for his night feed. Mum brings him into bed with her. He feeds for a short while, but he's restless and wriggly afterwards. Mum has become used to this, but Dad lies awake and decides to go and sleep in the spare room.
2h00: Alexa has a nightmare and comes to the main bedroom. She snuggles up to Mum in the big bed. Mum is not very comfortable sandwiched between two children, and goes to sleep in Alexa's room.
4h30: Jason wakes again. Mum takes him to Alexa's bed, gives him a feed, and they both fall asleep soon afterwards.
6h00: The alarm starts ringing in the main bedroom. Alexa hears it and toddles off to wake the rest of the family. Another night has passed and another day begins...
This is a perfectly NORMAL night. In fact, this was quite a good night, all told!
The Joys Of Co-Sleeping
- Baby feels warm, safe and loved.
- Parents feel secure knowing baby is right there with them.
- For many children, this is the ONLY place they get any significant stretches of sleep.
- Can deepen the bonding between parents and baby.
- Promotes breastfeeding, increases milk production and inhibits ovulation.
- Co-sleeping decreases the amount of crying at night.
- Less need to get up at night. If baby cries or has kicked off her blanket, she can simply be comforted or tucked in again.
Independent sleeping is relatively new in human history, and the family bed was the norm until about 100 years ago, and still is in most parts of the world. Certainly, no prehistoric cave-dwelling parents would have had separate caves for their babies!
It is quite natural for babies to want closeness, day and night. Most of us still prefer to share our bed with a loved one, and the need for physical closeness is never truly outgrown. Having said that, your children will not be in your bed forever. Most children want to have their own beds sooner or later! Studies have shown that bedsharing is not only safe when practiced correctly, but also helps children grow into secure and well-adjusted adults. When co-sleeping is practiced as a parenting choice, it is generally a positive and satisfying experience for both parents.
You should not sleep with your baby on a couch, on a waterbed, if you and/or your partner smoke, if your toddler already shares your bed, if you have been using alcohol or medication that makes you very drowsy.
Tips For Co-Sleeping Families
• Playing "musical beds" is more common than you think, and is considered quite normal.
• Accept that it's a phase that will eventually pass.
• Don't worry about what others will think about your sleeping arrangements.
• Babies and children go through phases when co-sleeping works very well, and other phases when it doesn't seem to work at all. Try to adapt to these phases.
• Get a bigger bed if you can.
• Mattresses on the floor are often a good option.
• You may get more sleep if you all have separate single duvets rather than having three (or more) people trying to sleep under one double duvet.
• Babies and toddlers often sleep at 90o angles to their parents. Most parents just learn to sleep with little feet in their faces.
• Cots that attach snugly to your bed are available and work well for babies who tend to crawl around in their sleep.
• Special baby nests also work well for small babies sleeping in their parents' bed.
• Try to get your children used to sleeping in their own beds some of the time, and preferably for the first part of the night. This gives you at least some time to spend with your partner.
• If you want to cuddle with hubby (alone!) and your bed is filled with sleeping kids, use one of the other rooms!
It's not always easy sharing a bed with your children, but there are few things as sublime as waking next to a sleeping child, their little arm curled around yours and their face an expression of contentment. Life is short, and childhood is even shorter!