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We Don’t Expect Grown-Ups to Sleep Alone, So Why Expect Kids?

Photograph by Twenty20

When my first baby was a newborn, I literally couldn’t put him down. Even if he was dead asleep, if his head so much as touched the mattress of his bassinet, his eyes would spring open, as if to say, “Why on earth are you putting me there?”

The only way we could get any sleep was to take him into bed with us. So, we learned about safe bed sharing with an infant, and went for it. It wasn’t a tough decision. It made breastfeeding easier, and I loved that I didn’t have to get out of bed to tend to my baby’s needs.

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Yes, people told us that keeping him in bed with us was setting him up for bad sleep habits, that he’d never learn to self-soothe and that we’d never have our bed to ourselves again.

But he was a brand new baby, still curled up in fetal position half the time. He looked like he still belonged inside me, so I thought it was strange to expect him to sleep anywhere but next to the body that had been his home for all his life.

It is those kinds of mama instincts that have guided my decision to bed share and co-sleep with my kids long-term. I have two sons, both of whom slept with us as babies and toddlers. Now 4 and 9 years old, my boys each have beds in their room, but they also have mattresses in our bedroom and are welcome to sleep near us whenever they choose.

And yes, that ends up being many nights, especially for my 4-year-old.

Think about where your babies and kids are coming from. All they want is that same security and closeness most of us adults do.

Their reasons for sleeping in our room vary. My older son comes in when he’s had a nightmare, nervous about something, isn’t feeling well or sometimes “just because.” My younger son just really wants to be close with me still and spends most of his time directly in our bed, snuggled up against me.

But as far as I’m concerned, neither of my kids need a reason.

I’m a 38-year-old woman, and I want companionship at night … in the form of my husband! Most married couples sleep beside their spouses—for many, those nighttime snuggles are one of the main perks of marriage. In fact, not sharing a bed with your spouse is often looked upon as taboo.

So why are grown-ups allowed to have that need, but kids are denied it?

My husband and I have been married for 15 years. It doesn’t happen often, but whenever he is away for a night, I have a ton of trouble sleeping. I toss and turn, unable to fall asleep without his warm body beside me.

It’s no wonder babies, toddlers and small children would crave this kind of security. What I don’t understand is why parents are so often against it.

Yes, sharing a bed with your kids isn’t always sunshine and roses. You might get woken up a little more often. You might get kicked in the head sometimes. It can get crowded for sure.

But there are ways to make that work. You can invest in a few extra mattresses in your bedroom like we did, or just splurge on a king size bed from the onset. Once your kids are past the baby stage, you can set up boundaries in terms of night-waking, just like parents do for kids who sleep in their own beds.

If you’re worried about sexual intimacy with your partner, no need. As long as you have more than one room in your house, there are ways to make it work. Trust me, I know from experience.

Bed sharing is not for everyone—and I’m by no means saying that everyone should do it. But think about where your babies and kids are coming from. All they want is that same security and closeness most of us adults do.

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And don’t worry. There is absolutely an expiration date when it comes to the family bed. Children outgrow it in their own time. I certainly don’t know any teenager who wants to go anywhere near their parents’ bed!

So, enjoy those extra nighttime cuddles while they last. You’ll be missing them in no time.

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