I recently wrote a post for my blogging buddy Jess at Being Mrs Beer about how we ended up cosleeping and why we do it. I wanted to share that post with everyone here as well, since I get a LOT of questions about cosleeping from friends and family. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have—I’m extremely open about our sleeping arrangement.
Our sleep story is different from what most people do in the United States, but it’s very common in other parts of the world.
Miss M is almost a year old and has been exclusively breastfed since birth. Before she was born, we planned on having her room with us for at least the first 6 months. We were gifted the 4moms Breeze (I HIGHLY recommend this, we love it!), and set it up next to my side of the bed. I could reach over and touch her when needed and until she hit about 12 lbs, I didn’t even have to get out of bed to pick her up. She had the typical wacky newborn schedule but within a few weeks was sleeping in 4 hour chunks at night, only waking to quickly eat. By 2 months old she was sleeping 12+ hours a night. It was surprising and wonderful. However, I frequently woke up completely engorged and had to pump around 4am nearly every night until she hit 4 months old.
Once Miss M hit the 4 month sleep progession (we don’t call them regressions, since she’s growing and learning), she would wake up 3-4 times to eat overnight. Sometimes she would let me lay her back down in the bassinet, other times she would scream bloody murder until I picked her up. I was tired—I was still a new mom and I was trying to balance work, sleep, and taking care of a baby–so I started bringing her into the bed with us if she wouldn’t let me lay her back down.
After we made it through the 4 month sleep progression, M started sleeping 8-10 hours straight and waking to feed around 4-5am. I continued to bring her into the bed with us because I could usually keep her asleep until 730am if she was in bed with us. If she was in the bassinet, she would be up for the day around 5:30am. Since this was becoming a habit, I asked my husband if he had an issue with her being in the bed. He said that it was fine, and to do whatever it took to get the sleep I needed.
Miss M seemed cramped in her bassinet when she was about 3 months old, so we decided to move the crib into our room indefinitely. For nearly 4 months we had a pretty good routine—I nursed M, my husband would rock her to sleep, and then she would start out in her crib next to our bed, sleep 8-10 hours, then join us in bed for her early morning feed and would sleep with us until she woke up for the day.
Around 6 months, M was getting heavy and it was easier for me to nurse her in our bed and let her sleep there for naps. I often woke her up when I tried to transfer her into her crib and would then have to start all over. Since naptime = worktime for me, I went with what worked. Again, I asked my husband if he had an issue with this and he was fine with it.
At around 7 months, Miss M decided she wasn’t into sleeping in the crib any longer. My husband used to be able to lay her down at night, and even if she woke up during the transition, she would go right back to sleep. At this point, it would take an hour (or more) to get her to sleep. Then she started waking up 6-10 times a NIGHT. It was awful. We kept trying to push crib sleeping on her, but she would NOT stay asleep in the crib. We tried sidecarring the crib, moving the crib mattress to the floor, and putting her in her own room—NOTHING worked. The only time we got decent chunks of sleep was when she was in bed with us. This went on until she was nearly 8 months old and we decided enough was enough. Something drastic had to be done—and we make a huge decision.
We decided to buy a king size bed and co-sleep 100% of the time.
Yep, we decided to embrace the co-sleeping and let her sleep with us indefinitely. This was a big decision, because we knew once we did it, it wouldn’t be easy to kick her out. I had mentioned to our pediatrician at our 6 month appointment that she was sleeping with us quite a bit and she told me that at this point, if we decided to co-sleep, it would be hard to get her out of the bed until she’s quite a bit older (maybe 3) so make sure it was what we wanted to do before we did it (I absolutely love our pediatrician, BTW).
My husband decided to temporarily move into the guest room until we got a king sized bed, because we felt crowded in a queen sized bed. We started shopping for a mattress, found one we loved, and had it delivered as quick as we could (it’s a soft memory foam and I’m happy to share the name of it and why we bought this particular one if you’re interested). We decided to forgo a box spring since our new bed has slats, and the top of our bed sits about 20 inches from the ground. We did this to make it safer for M. Meanwhile, while M and I were sleeping together, the wake-ups went from 8-10 to 2-3.
Once the king bed was delivered, all of us sleep in the same bed every night. Co-sleeping didn’t cause Miss M to start sleeping through the night—she still wakes to eat overnight, but having her in the bed allows me to quickly know she’s awake, roll over, stick a boob in her mouth, and she goes back to sleep. I’m awake for maybe 2-3 minutes. We still have “bad nights” where she is up a LOT, and the occasional 2 hour baby party at 2am, but it’s almost always teething related. Most nights she’s up 1-2 times, only to eat (typically around 1030pm and around 400am, though sometimes she skips the 1030pm wakeup).
Co-sleeping is not for everyone, but it has been a great choice for our family. I am a big fan of “finding your tribe” and many of my friends parent their children in similar ways, and many of them co-sleep so I have a support group. My husband is 100% on board with co-sleeping, and I make it a point to check in with him about the sleeping situation every few weeks. It has NOT affected any part of our marriage (if you catch my drift), in fact, it’s probably improved things since most nights we are getting enough sleep. He’s also mentioned that he loves the snuggles since he’s at work all day. He even has a work buddy who also co-sleeps, so he’s got someone who can relate. We are good candidates for safe co-sleeping (I exclusively breastfeed–no bottles, neither of us are overweight, we don’t have fluffy bedding or lots of pillows, we don’t take drugs/alcohol), and we have bed rails and a video monitor for naps.
Miss M will not sleep with us forever. She will eventually move into her own bed, but we’ve decided to let her do it at her own pace. I anticipate at some point we will have a mattress on our floor for her, and maybe one day she will share a bed with a sibling (we will co-sleep with 2 babies if necessary, you CAN do it safely!). We are open with the fact that we co-sleep and have definitely recieved lots of unsolicited warnings/opinions about it (“you’ll be sorry!”, “it will affect your marriage!”, “you’re creating a manipulative monster!” and my favorite: “I would NEVER do that…”). I don’t like to give advice, but someone once told me that if it’s not a problem for you and your family, it’s not a problem; and that what works for one family may not work for another family. If you encounter a family that does things differently, please try to remember this.
We love snuggling with our little girl, and I can tell you that we will never look back on all the snuggles and wish I had done something differently.
I’m happy to answer any questions about our situation, so please ask. If you’re interested in more information, Dr. Sears has a good summary on co-sleeping and the benefits, and here are some tips to make cosleeping safe.