Someone once told me it was a bad idea to put a sound machine in my kids’ bedrooms. He thought that my children should get used to the natural noises in the house so that they could become better sleepers. He said I was setting them up for a lifetime of reliance on very specific sleep settings that will make for inflexible co-sleeping arrangements with roommates or partners. I told him that until he was a sleep-deprived parent who used any and every tool to get his kids to sleep, he could shove his opinions all the way up his ass.
I wasn’t giving my kids bourbon to get them to sleep; I was creating a predictable environment with few disruptions. I also lie down with my kids until they fall asleep at night. I am not worried I am creating a bad habit with this either. I am creating moments of calm attachment in a very busy and chaotic life.
When my first child was born, I didn’t have a parenting style. I felt pressure to do the right thing, whatever that was, according to the books and the beginning swell of internet parenting groups. I looked to others to learn about teething, food, and sleep schedules. I was desperate to follow the rules while still trying to follow my daughter’s lead. She was a pretty easy kid, but I struggled with knowing what to do when it came to getting her to fall asleep. When she transitioned from her crib to a toddler bed, she wouldn’t stay in her room after I tucked her in at night. Once asleep, she would usually stay asleep, but falling asleep on her own was not a common event. She would get up multiple times, and after too much time spent on this routine, I or my ex-partner would lie down with her until she drifted off.
I felt guilty about this. Somehow I thought I wasn’t strong enough to get my kid to fall asleep on her own. My child was too defiant. Then two years later my twins, my daughter’s siblings, were born and I quickly adjusted to a parenting style that was more about survival and less scripted. I did what worked in the moment, and there were no tougher or more desperate moments than getting my kids to sleep. I let go of my self-doubt and stopped comparing myself to what other parents were doing. It became more than a means to an end, and I started to enjoy snuggling up with my kids each night. I wasn’t a failure; I had found a new way to bond with them.
My daughter is almost nine years old now and I stay with her until she falls asleep each night when I do her bedtime routine. My twins are six and I stay in one of their beds too until they both fall asleep on the nights I read them stories and tuck them in. After we read, my kids and I will turn out the lights, get under the covers, and be quiet together. Sometimes they will tell me a story about something that happened during the day. They will talk about what they are anticipating at school or ask me questions about upcoming holidays or mention the fact that they miss eating ice cream for dessert. Sometimes they just want to lay their heads on my chest and fall asleep. They are relaxed and happy — and so am I.
Our days are filled with noise, bickering, hectic schedules, and meals eaten in the car. We are always on the move and I love that after the last bit of pre-bedtime commotion is over, we end our days tangled up in a state of cozy peace.
Occasionally I fall asleep too but I set an alarm to be sure I don’t sleep for long. My ex-partner does this with the kids as well. Neither one of us consider our nighttime ritual with them to be co-sleeping nor attachment parenting, but we are aware that we have created a dependency between us and their sleep. We are okay with this. Like any form of parenting, especially when co-parenting, it’s best to be on the same page with the other adult(s) with whom you are raising kids.
I realize falling asleep with your kids is in line with the fundamentals of attachment parenting and can result in less stress on our kids and a greater sense of emotional connection and security. Getting what we need from the people we love generally makes us happier people. Many parents provide this without using any of the methods consistent with attachment parenting, but AP parents believe co-sleeping is one of the ways to be most responsive to kids’ needs.
You may think all of this is bullshit and believe that I am being manipulated by my child. I don’t want to think that my child has to manipulate me for my time, but if that is their motivation, then so be it. It makes me sad to think about the day they won’t want a bedtime story or hug. My kids may always welcome affection from me, but I don’t expect it nor will I force it.
For those of you who are adamant one way or the other about co-sleeping with your kid, one study showed that it doesn’t hurt or help your child’s development. The sleep patterns of 944 low-income families were evaluated by researchers at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. Racial and ethnic backgrounds and location of residence were all considered in the study that looked at co-sleeping when children were 1, 2, 3 and then 5 years. The children’s cognitive and behavioral development, including early math, reading, and social skills, and levels of hyperactivity were measured. Co-sleeping did not negatively impact or greatly benefit a child’s development.
Do what works best for you and your child. I value time and a well-rested kid. I love bonding and connecting with my kids and they love snuggle time and attention. Lying down to sleep with them checks all of these boxes. I don’t worry about it being a bad habit any more than the use of a sound machine. It’s okay to drown out the noise when finding ways to connect with your kids.