We never really meant to co-sleep. I spent the last half of my first pregnancy decorating an adorable robot-themed nursery for my son. Long before he was due, the room was ready to go. Henry had two dressers full of pajamas, a closet full of clothes, a gorgeous plush glider, his name on the wall in 12-inch letters, and a beautiful crib. All I needed was the baby.
Except my boy never slept in his gorgeous crib in that lovely nursery even once. We moved before he ever got the chance to spend the night in his own room. He was 18 months old.
As it turns out, once I met my baby, I turned into a pretty committed co-sleeper.
I didn’t really mean to co-sleep for more than a few months, but time kept passing, and moving Henry to his own room never felt urgent to us. He was so small. We liked being able to look over at his little bed and see him peacefully resting. Even when he got big enough to climb into our bed for a snuggle in the middle of the night, we didn’t really lose any sleep. We just let him stay.
When we had our second child, we didn’t even pretend he was going to sleep in his own room. Walker didn’t have a nursery. Instead, I decorated a corner of my room for him. I knew he’d be in there for a long while. Did I mention Henry was still sleeping in our room full-time when we brought Walker home? He was just over 3 years old.
Henry’s six now, and Walker is three. They share a room, and most nights we put them to bed in there. They usually fall asleep together in their own big bed, but the next morning, I wake up with at least one little boy on a little pillow bed on my bedroom floor.
Some nights they don’t want to go to sleep in their own room, so we drag the pillow beds out early, and they sleep in our room all night long. Once in a while, we even sleep four-in-a-bed for a few hours. If there’s a thunderstorm, our bed is open until they’re sound asleep. If we do a movie night, we pile a million pillows and blankets into the bed, and everyone just sleeps wherever they land for a bit.
As much as we love it, co-sleeping past infancy opens us up to a lot of opinions. People don’t always understand why we allow it, and I think sometimes they don’t even get the logistics of it.
I suspect a lot of people think that co-sleeping is the same as bed-sharing. Co-sleeping simply means sharing a room with your child. Bed-sharing means sharing an actual sleeping surface. When I mention that our sons sleep in our room, people imagine our whole family asleep in one bed all night, every night.
Heck no! That’s not for me. If I had two kids and a husband in my bed every night, I’d never sleep a wink. My kids fall asleep in my bed with me sometimes, but I move them to their little beds before I go to sleep. I like having them close, but I want to snuggle with my husband at night for a while without two sweaty little boys kicking me in the kidneys.
Having our kids in our room for at least part of almost every night hasn’t affected our marriage at all. We have plenty of time alone to talk, plenty of time for affection, and plenty of sex. We have no problem figuring out places to get it on. If our kids are in our room, we don’t have sex in our room. That doesn’t mean we don’t have sex. There are couches and closets and bathrooms and guest rooms and kitchen tables and garages and minivans and back porches all over this house. Our room is just one of many options for keeping the romance alive and well around here.
Sometimes people think I want my kids in my room because of my own struggle with anxiety. I love being able to see and hear my kids easily from the comfort of my own bed, but that is not why I allow them to sleep in my room. My husband and I don’t necessarily want our kids in our room; we just don’t mind when they’re in there. All I want as a mom is for my kids to sleep wherever they feel comfortable and secure, so they get enough rest. We don’t encourage our kids to sleep in our room. We just leave the option open.
By far the most annoying misguided opinion I deal with as a co-sleeper is that my children will become too attached to my husband and me, and they will never learn to sleep on their own.
Children are born dependent, and they slowly learn to be independent. This happens every day in a million ways, and where they lay their sleepy heads doesn’t make a difference. Allowing my children to rely on me for nighttime comfort when they are little will not stunt their development. Secure attachments are actually really beneficial for future independence.
I mean, honestly. I’ve yet to meet an adult who can’t leave home because they have to sleep on their parents’ bedroom floor. That is not a thing. My kids are going to be fine.
I want my children to feel comfortable flopping down at the foot of my bed now and for the rest of their lives. I’m happy to comfort them through fevers, thunderstorms and bad dreams right now. I’m hoping it paves the way for them to trust me with heart breaks, failures and frustrations later.
We are totally confident that allowing our kids to sleep in our room when they need to is the right choice for our family. That doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. I would say if co-sleeping affects your marriage, prevents any member of the family from sleeping soundly, or just annoys you, it’s not right for your family, and you shouldn’t do it.
But our room is open to our kids any time, and that’s how we like it.