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I Stopped Fighting Co-Sleeping and It Changed My Life

Photograph by Twenty20

Sharing a bed with your baby or child is one of the biggest parenting no-no’s. Major health organizations warn against it. The older generation will tell you that if you sleep with your child, you're holding your child back from full independence. Parents who co-sleep are thought to be out of line with mainstream culture—the weird "hippie" parents, unlike the others.

But guess what? It’s a whole bunch of nonsense. Most parents sleep in the same bed or room with their kids at one point or another. In fact, half of all parents who co-sleep actually end up lying about it. I mean, if you think about it, who needs the endless judgment and scrutiny? It makes sense that so many of us keep it under raps.

The thing is, anyone whose dealt with a child who wakes multiple times at night knows it’s ten times easier just to have that child in your room than having to get out of bed to tend to them. And if you’re a breastfeeding mom, popping a boob in your baby’s mouth while you’re both cuddled up half-asleep is a million times easier (and sweeter!) than having to lug your milk-soaked self to the nursery.

Yes, co-sleeping can be unsafe, but there are ways to make it safer, like making sure to remove any excess blankets or pillows where your baby is sleeping, having a bedrail or wall between the edge of the bed and your baby, having your child sleep on their back and never EVER bedsharing if you're under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In fact, in countries like Japan, where bedsharing and co-sleeping is the norm, death from SIDS is far lower than it is in the United States.

I was a bit of an accidental co-sleeper myself. I fully expected to share a bed with my newborn at least some of the time, but I got one of those co-sleeper bassinets that attach to the bed so that I could put him in there for some portion of the night in hopes that we’d both get some solitary sleep.

Our family bed had become ginormous, filled to the brim with kiddos, and with kid beds flanking our bed on either side.

Well, that didn’t end up happening. At all. The kid couldn’t sleep unless he was literally touching me (and my boobs.) So, in the interest of sanity, I took him into bed with me. Weeks turned to months, and eventually, years.

My husband and I learned quickly that there was no use fighting the bedsharing. It got us the most sleep, allowed us to be close and present with our kids and most of all, it worked for our family. We realized at a certain point that our best bet was to just make it as comfortable and safe as possible for all of us.

So, within a few months, we ditched that co-sleeper and upgraded to a queen-size bed. And we purchased a crib, removed one of the sides, and securely “side-carred” it to our bed, filling any empty spaces with receiving blankets and such.

Finally we had a cozy, spacious set-up. It meant that sometimes the baby (who was quickly becoming a toddler) could roll into his own space. And it meant that my husband and I each had plenty of room to sleep comfortably.

This worked perfectly for a few years. Eventually—around the time that I was pregnant with our second child—our son’s crib was upgraded to a child-size bed. We smushed that bed against one side of our queen bed, and his old crib was kept in place for our second baby.

Our family bed had become ginormous, filled to the brim with kiddos and with kid beds flanking our bed on either side.

I know that our set-up isn’t for everybody. And, yes, my kids have their own room too which they sleep in every now and then.But the fact of the matter is that whether you’re dealing with a newborn who wakes you at all hours of the night or a toddler who's prone to the occasional bad dream, there's almost no parent of small humans who isn’t going to be woken by a child at least a few nights a week.

So my advice to new parents is expect that you’ll be rooming in with your kids more often than you might expect. Please know that you absolutely aren’t alone and that in many ways there's just no use fighting it. Instead, make your sleep set-up as safe, accommodating, and peaceful as possible.

Everyone will sleep better in the end, I promise.

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