In Defense Of Co-Sleeping

by Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
A mother enjoying co-sleeping with her baby in bed
JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty

Fact: My second baby and I co-slept.

I simultaneously adored my time sleeping with my newborn son and dreaded it.

I adored feeling his body next to mine. I adored the sounds of his breathing. I adored the smoothness of his skin next to mine. I adored watching him fall asleep while nursing. I adored the closeness. I adored the bonding. I adored waking up with him nestled under my arm.

And maybe most of all, I adored the sleep.

Yet, I dreaded mentioning this fact to anyone. I dreaded seeing the concerned look that came over their faces. I dreaded the questions and well-meaning advice. I dreaded my own insecurities about co-sleeping. I dreaded the fact that I doubted what we were doing. I dreaded that brief moment when I woke up checking to make sure he was still breathing.

I felt the need to clarify and defend my decision to co-sleep.

My blood pressure was high, I’d say, and the midwife recommended getting as much rest as I could even in the early weeks.

I’m following all the precautions I’d say.

We aren’t going to do this for the long haul, but for now it’s working, I’d say.

After his birth, my blood pressure remained high. I also had a toddler in the house. I needed to sleep. I needed to feel more like myself. And anyone who has lived with a newborn knows that sleep doesn’t come easily.

And co-sleep we did. For weeks. And it worked. And he survived. We both survived with more sleep and connection.

I would lay down in our big queen bed with my baby. We’d be in the middle of the bed. I’d keep the blankets away from us. And we nursed and slept.

It was glorious.

I remembered the early days of my first child’s life and how tired I was. All the time. Here we were now, in the first few weeks and I could function. I slept. My baby slept and ate. My milk supply was great.

During the day, I would look up information on co-sleeping. Immediately I’d see the concerns and advice for safe practices, co-sleeping not being one of those safe practices.

I reached out to friends who had co-slept — all with their children still doing well today.

And I remembered my time living in West Africa where co-sleeping wasn’t a thing to debate; it was simply a way of life. All the babies and children slept together. From the beginning. When I slept with my son, I felt connected to more women across the world who co-sleep. I thought of women before the Internet and age of instant connectivity who didn’t think twice about sleeping with their baby.

My son and I co-slept and I wouldn’t change anything about that time with him.

He’s now 6 months old and sleeping in his crib. My blood pressure is fine. Our nursing relationship is great. We’re both well rested.

But we have those early weeks between us. Those precious, fleeting nights together.

I vividly remember thinking as he slept under my arms that this was just a season in his life. A short season at that. And it was. One that I look back upon with fondness and no regret.

Fact: My son and I co-slept and I wouldn’t change that time for anything.