Why Co-Sleeping Works For Us — Even If It Horrifies You

Photo: Oksana Shufrych / Shutterstock
Why Co-Sleeping Works For Us, Even If It Horrifies You

I don't know when I decided my husband and I would co-sleep with our baby. I know that long before I became pregnant, I bookmarked a link to a co-sleeper bassinet.

When someone informed me that babies usually grow out of them around 5 or 6 months, I smiled and said "I'll see if I can stretch it until 9 months."

My daughter didn't spend too many hours in that bassinet (though she did spend some time in there and it did make for a wonderful changing table).

Here we are nearly 10 months and she is still in our bed, nestled next to me throughout the night.  It works for us. It might not work for you, maybe it didn't work for your neighbor or your cousin in Indiana. 

I'm not here to talk about the safety of bed sharing. There are experts and studies for that. There are just as many statistics speaking to its dangers as there are statistics highlighting its benefits.

Back to me and my family bed.

I love and adore this Huffington Post article by Dr. Claire McCarthy titled, "Confession: This Pediatrician Is a Sleep Softie." In it, she discusses how she shared a bed with her all six of children at some point. She mentions some of the reasons behind it, breastfeeding-made-easy is one of them. Laziness is another.

I can definitely relate to these reasons. Establishing and maintaining a successful breastfeeding relationship — possibly through toddlerhood — was and is extremely important to me.

As a result, it has always been easier to just have my baby right there beside me. 

She also writes, "Personally, I think that as a culture we are a bit too hung up on getting our kids scheduled and independent practically from the time they are born."

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I could kiss her for putting this out there. I can't even count how many times I have been asked if my daughter sleeps through the night. Why is this a common question? Exactly what does that tell you about my baby if she does or does not? No, she doesn't.

She probably won't for a few years. Yes, I am tired. But I'm okay with this. This is what I signed up for.

I didn't expect to be able to take off my mom hat between the hours of 7pm and 7am. I'm running a 24 hour operation here.

I'm not arguing that my way is better than independent sleep. In my opinion and in my own experience, babies have needs that need to be met around the clock. Even if that need is just to be held close to mom or dad.

To me, my daughter is more important than a perfect night's sleep. And I try to remind myself of this at 3am when my natural need for sleep trumps my usual desire to cuddle and soothe.

In reality, before I became a mother I didn't sleep through the night. I wake up to take a sip of water or use the bathroom.

Sometimes I wake up because I hear a noise and imagine a situation where a convicted felon made his way into my home. Uninterrupted sleep is normal. Being right there for my daughter when she wakes up and cries in the middle of the night is just another part of my role.

I want to kiss Dr. McCarthy once again when she explains that she is not a softie when it comes to everything:

"I'm really strict about eating vegetables, limiting TV time and homework... I insist on basic standards of kindness. We all find our way as parents, and decide what's most important to us."

Infant sleep may be important to some parents, but as a health nut and TV-hater, I know I have bigger fish to fry... er, broil ... in the coming years.

So while I place no emphasis on the importance of sleeping through the night, other people seem to.

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And there are two general responses when the topic of co-sleeping comes up. One goes something like this "You'll never get that kid out of your bed." This doesn't worry me because I don't know many 16-year-olds who want to sleep with their parents. Wink.

The second question always sounds the same "How do you have sex?" The polite answer is that you don't need a bed or a bedroom to be intimate with your partner. The not-so-polite answer would be "mind your expletive business."

In the beginning, when my husband and I discussed where our daughter would sleep, he was happy to hear she wouldn't be alone in her room downstairs.

Even now, nearly a year later, he is totally on board with our co-sleeping arrangement. In fact, it makes him sad that my daughter doesn't want to cuddle up to him at night. I keep reminding him that this might change once she no longer sees me as her primary food source.

And I hope I'm right because there is nothing sexier than seeing your man holding your baby close.

I tend to think that bed-sharing is beneficial to our relationship. For example, if you ask my husband, he'll tell you that our daughter sleeps well. This is because her cries rarely wake him.

His sleep isn't being disturbed by me getting out of bed, turning on the lights, making a bottle, and tripping over a dog all to get her settled back down.

No matter how many times she needs me during the wee hours, he wakes up well-rested, and for us, this is a good thing. He has to get up and go to work 5 days a week. Happy husband, happy life?

Like all new parents, we're figuring it all out as we go. What is working today might not work tomorrow. But with the support of Daddy, we hope to continue with our nighttime situation for as long as it's working for all three of us.

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Brooke Dowd Sacco is a freelance writer, editor, and mom based in Philadelphia.