Pin It

Co-sleeping: Love it or hate it?

Where do you stand on the controversial parenting issue of co-cleeping?

When I first became a parent it never even occurred to me that I might share a bed with my baby. I’m not sure I even knew anyone that practiced “co-sleeping” or the concept of the “family bed”.

There were times during those newborn days that I’d fall asleep feeding Levi during the wee hours of the morning and would accidentally share my bed with him, but it was never on purpose. He slept in a small bassinet-type thing in our room not far from me (technically, that is co-sleeping), but I was always fearful of pulling covers over his head if I was to let him spend any significant time with us in our actual bed.

When Levi got older there were times I would deliberately try to bring him in bed with me (or us). Take this last Mother’s Day for instance…

I had decided I wanted to wake up with my little cherub’s face next to mine. Ryan was away for four weeks on a work trip in Papua New Guinea and I was feeling a little sorry for myself, knowing that my one-year-old wasn’t about to get up the next day and make me breakfast or clean the house for me. So instead I thought we could have a sleepover and some extra early morning cuddles.

I’ll spare you the details and just say that after three hours of trying to make it work, he finally pointed to the door and asked for “bed, bed, bed!”  I took him to his own bed and—after being up for hours tossing and turning with me—he was asleep the moment he hit his own pillow.

So much for that Mother’s Day wish coming true. I woke up alone (and exhausted from a terrible night’s sleep) having learned a lesson: Levi likes his own bed as much as I like mine.

But then little Judah came along. With him I’m more relaxed, more confident, and more intentional about certain things.

 

During our first two weeks post-partum (while my husband took paternity leave) I slept nearly every time he slept. I’d nurse him and we’d fall asleep together on my big bed while Ryan played with Levi. Sometimes he’d wake up and I’d nurse again and then we’d both fall right back to sleep.

It was heaven. I loved the closeness and bonding we shared during those naptimes. I also loved the hours upon hours of glorious sleep!

Now Judah is six* weeks old. I very much consider this my 4th trimester. He’s still a newborn (barely!), and I’m still adjusting to having him on the outside (though he does feel like he’s always been a part of the family). We do not co-sleep, but we also do not, not co-sleep. Some nights he’s in his own bed (in our room) for most of the night, some nights he’s in mine. We do whatever works best for us on the particular night.

With my first child I would have thought this was confusing and unwise – the inconsistency and being led by my feelings in the moment. But now I just feel it’s right – being a little more intuitive. Life is fluid. Things change. We adjust. We learn and try to respond well given the current circumstances.

I know that co-sleeping is a controversial issue, and I have no problems with parents who do or don’t. (The far more important issue is safe sleeping for babies, whether that is with their mother or on their own.)

I just want a good night’s sleep for everyone… and right now while my baby is so tiny, I like knowing that he’s near me. I like knowing that he wants to be with me and that I’m his “safe place”. And the truth is, when he’s nuzzled up in the crook of my arm and dozes off after nursing… I often can’t tear myself away from him.

And then other times I can.

At times I want the freedom to toss and turn and pull the covers way up over my head… and so I place him gently back in his bassinet and I bury myself in my own bed with my husband.

Either way, Judah sleeps well. (As in “well” like a newborn. He still usually wakes twice a night… but we’re all sleeping well, thank you.)

On another note, when I’m not sleeping with him tucked up beside me… I spend lots of time taking photos of him sleeping.

What is it about sleeping babies that just melt a grown woman’s heart? I’ll never get enough of pictures like these…

*Judah is now eight weeks old.


Update: I wrote this post a few weeks back… and then days later the controversial co-sleeping ad from Milwaukee was released, causing quite a stir among the mom-blogging community:

Regardless of what you think of the ad, the one thing it has accomplished is that it’s gotten people talking about important issues. Co-sleeping or not, parents need to be well informed about safe sleeping practices for their infants. This post isn’t intended to be instructional or persuasive in any way – just to share one of the things that’s different about my parenting perspective from my first child to my second. Here are some links if you’d like some helpful guidelines on safe co-sleeping as well as the American Association of Pediatrics recommendations for infant sleep and SIDS.


Dear friends, what’s your stance on co-sleeping? Wouldn’t dream of it? Or wouldn’t consider any other arrangement?

About Adriel

Adriel Booker is a writer, speaker, and difference-maker living Down Under with her Aussie love and littles where they serve in full-time ministry (and full-time parenting) together. She writes about celebrating motherhood, building families, strengthening faith, enjoying life, empowering women, changing the world, and telling the story.

, , , , , , , , ,

36 Responses to Co-sleeping: Love it or hate it?

  1. Rosilind November 29, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    I love it that you wrote this! I have a similar post in my “drafts” that I can’t wait to share. I, too, am far more lenient this time than I was with Robi – but we are NOT sleeping well. lol!! I have a noisy little boy who feels he must share every sound effect he has acquired in his short 7 weeks of life with us after his first night feed. We have yet to convince that this is not necessary, nor kind to those who wish to sleep at….oh….2am, 3am, 4am…whatever. But we hope to get there soon. In the meantime, coffee and I have become much better acquainted (and no longer instant coffee – I am now reaching for the real stuff!).

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos November 30, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

      I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and the last few days our sleep has been worse too! Not sure if it’s a growth spurt or developmental leap or what… but I sure am tired! I’m not sleeping well with him with me these last few nights either so I’ve mostly been putting him in the bassinet (unless I fall asleep feeding him…). *sigh*

      These months fly by. I keep reminding myself that! ;)

  2. Stephanie November 29, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

    My first was a co sleeper. Not because I really chose to, he just would NOT sleep by himself. He is five now and still dislikes sleeping by himself. We had to start using a baby gate across our bedroom doorway just to keep him from crawling into our bed every night. My second couldn’t stand to co sleep. Guess she needed her space :)

    Either way, co sleep or not, I think depends on both the child’s and the parents personality.

  3. brooke November 30, 2011 at 1:14 am #

    love it! we do things a lot like how you describe what you’re doing with Judah. this season of having my daughter nestled up against me as we sleep is SO SHORT in the grand scheme of things, and so i want to relish it while i can. i also love feeling that that night-time nearness gives her a deeply-seated sense of security and connection. but there are those times when i put her in her own little crib (in our room) for a chunk of time so that i can sleep sprawled out or cuddle with hubby. i suspect they’ll turn out just fine, and i don’t worry for her safety anymore. i’ve learned to trust that even in my sleep, my mama-instincts are strong, and i have never had a close-call in squishing her. :)

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos November 30, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

      Yes, I find that I actually wake very, very easily when he’s with me so I don’t worry about that either. I don’t have him near my hubs though because he sleeps like a rock! Nothing moves him! ;)

  4. Angel November 30, 2011 at 1:50 am #

    I had the same situation as Stephanie. At some point, honestly I don’t even know when it happened, my girl decided she would rather sleep with mommy. I do understand that for some parents co-sleeping isn’t an option, I don’t judge those who do or don’t, I think it is about what “works” for you. My girl slept with me from the time she was about 2 months until a little after her first birthday. She always started in her own bed, and would wake in the night and move to mine. I got more sleep with her in my bed, so it worked for us. At about 14 months she started sleeping through the night in her own bed. I think she just needed a little extra comfort and once she felt more confident, sleeping in her bed wasn’t so bad. We still have some nights where she sleeps with me, and I love it when it happens.

    This was a great post Adriel! And oh my is your new little man beautiful!! Congratulations to you all on your new addition!

  5. Kirsten November 30, 2011 at 2:10 am #

    We coslept from the time my little girl was a newborn until she was about 15 months, and then she got extra wiggly and wanted to be in her own bed, too. She still comes into our bed occasionally and we both love it. I don’t think my husband and I would change a thing we did regarding our sleeping arrangements, it just worked so well! I’m a huge proponent for cosleeping (though I understand if it just doesn’t work for some people, and that’s totally fine), so that ad irritates me a bit. I think that if done responsibly, cosleeping is great if it works for your family. Just my two cents!

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos November 30, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

      Yes, I think that ad is very confrontational. But I suppose it’s meant to be – the shock factor you know. Also, they had like 46 deaths from co-sleeping in the city so it’s definitely a problem that needed to be addressed. People need to be educated on safe sleeping practices – co-sleeping or not! But I do see how some would find that ad offensive.

  6. Ana November 30, 2011 at 3:08 am #

    I was like you–very ambiguous about co-sleeping with my first. But we did it anyway. I was too tired to do anything else, and it saved me from whacking my hubs with a baseball bat as he slept soundly, and I struggled with those first 6 weeks of breastfeeding. I finally just laid Isaac down in between us, nursed him to sleep, and drifted off myself. After he was securely asleep, Isaac was moved back to his bed (we were in a one bedroom apartment at the time). It worked well for us, both with Isaac and with Phinneas.

    I am very much pro co-sleeping.

  7. Megan November 30, 2011 at 5:09 am #

    Great post! I first read positive things about co-sleeping from Dr. Sears, and then our twins were born early and so small when we brought them home, so there is no way I could have put them in their own lonely room. We had them in a pack n’ play, then we moved one of their cribs in next to our bed. Now, at five months old, they start out both in their crib but through the night we do “musical bed”. Whoever nurses first comes into bed, falls asleep with me, then when the next one wakes, we swap them out. When my husband leaves for work, they both come into bed with me. When they start going longer between feedings, we”ll probably reevaluate. It’s been the biggest sanity-saving change that we’ve made, instead of trying to keep them both in the crib. Plus, I get more sleep!

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos November 30, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

      That makes a lot of sense Megan. It also means that they know how to sleep in their own bed, which I think is a huge bonus for later on down the track. Glad it’s all working out so well for all of you. :)

  8. Melissa November 30, 2011 at 6:06 am #

    What a lovely post Adriel and such gorgeous pictures of your precious sleeping boy. Yes, co-sleeping is SO controversial and I wrote my own take on it and this terrible ad campaign too. I was ambivalent about it too and very concerned about safety until I realized following my intuition, being intentional about it, and always preparing a safe sleep environment were possible.
    The babies I worry about are the ones who are brought to an adult bed (or other too soft surfaces such as couches) to sleep w/o any forethought. So co-sleeping itself isn’t necessarily inherently dangerous. The way it is carried out CAN be if not done without safety precautions.

    I really love how you are following your instincts and also point out safety issues involved. Wonderful Adriel. Just wonderful.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos November 30, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

      “The babies I worry about are the ones who are brought to an adult bed (or other too soft surfaces such as couches) to sleep w/o any forethought. So co-sleeping itself isn’t necessarily inherently dangerous. The way it is carried out CAN be if not done without safety precautions.” YES, I whole-heartedly agree.

      Co-sleeping flippantly without forethought SCARES me! BUT, I’ve come to realize that it can be done responsibly too. Either way, parents need to be educated – the absolute most important thing!!

  9. Nicole {at} Modern Style Mama November 30, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    I think it’s a parents decision and what works for them. I do believe you have to be very careful when they are small. I knew someone who woke up to their 3 month old dead beside them. The covers suffocated the baby. I simply could not imagine that heartache and guilt.
    I could never resist the newborn snuggle/sleep time together during the day. That is something that melts your heart. I always said my boys would NOT regularly sleep with me after the first 3 months or so. They needed to have their space as I also did.
    All of my boys slept on me elevated for the first 3-4 months most of the time. The all had issues with laryngomalacia and bad reflux. I was more at ease and we all slept better that way. Evenually they ended up in there own crib. The all slept better in there own bed as toddler/kids. Unless of course they are sick.
    With that said my newest little guy who is 10 months has slept with me, well actually on me, the majority of his life thus far. He was born 4 weeks early and had more intense issues with breathing/choking/reflux. He did sleep in his bed more at about 5-6 months. Probably more regularly at 8 months. Now at 10 months, after a month of being very sick he has slept on me once again.
    So I guess co-sleeping wasn’t what I was planning on but it was the only way baby and mommy could sleep. But for me they were never actually in/on my bed. That would be more worrisome for me and the major concern for doctors. Although I cant say he didnt slip down a couple times. I slept elevated in bed or on the couch with them on my chest.
    I understand doctors concern with co-sleeping especially early on. I had to do what was best for us. A mama of four boys needs to get some type of rest to function.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos November 30, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

      Oh Nicole, that story is heartbreaking. Just heartbreaking. Obviously there are very real concerns about co-sleeping and that is why it is of the utmost importance that parents understand these issues and safe sleep practices. And wow, your children slept on you for a long time! I can’t imagine trying to sleep elevated as you did for that period of time. I guess that’s being a mom isn’t it? You just do what needs to be done! Well done!! :) (And I hope your 10mo is better soon!)

  10. Tiffany November 30, 2011 at 6:38 am #

    I love sleeping with my kiddos but not regularly. Neither Joe, nor I sleep well when the kids are in our bed. Our daughter never slept with us until she was 1 and that was often when she was having a restless night and I was too tired to keep going in to her room to comfort her. She has crawled into our bed around 4 or 5am for a couple years now. I love waking up next to her. My second, a boy, wouldn’t sleep in his own crib (in our room) very well and ended up sleeping next to me for the first four months of his life. I never slept well because I was so worried about keeping him breathing. However, he’s a great sleeper now and almost never sleeps with us.

    I’m with you, whatever works for each family, is what works – with some precautionary measures, of course.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos November 30, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

      I’m starting to find that some nights I’m not sleeping as well now! (Wrote this a few weeks ago.) Not sure if that is because of my increased fatigue or what :) but I am trying to get him to sleep in his own bed more often than not! At this point he’s still in with me for a couple hours each night… And yes, precautionary measures are very, very important!

  11. Stacy S. Jensen November 30, 2011 at 7:18 am #

    I think it’s an important topic to discuss. I’m not a fan for me, but I know parents and situations where it works out fine. The ad campaign is harsh, but I think it targets a different demographic. I heard an advocate of co-sleeping define a crib as “sleeping behind bars.” Maybe everyone uses “harsh” tactics to get his or her point across.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos November 30, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

      Yes, I think that’s a good point. Both “sides” of the issue have used harsh/scare tactics to try and prove their stance.

  12. Kerry McCullough November 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    I don’t have a problem with parents doing it, but it’s definitely not for us. We learned from experience– Matt and I were so exhausted that we would forget when we had him in bed with us and when we didn’t. I rolled over on Niall once and luckily woke up right away, but Matt did it twice in one night and vividly remembers being awoken by the gentle wiggling of something underneath him… sure enough, Niall was squished under his pillow, struggling for breath. It was SOOO scary!

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos November 30, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

      Oh goodness Kerry – YES – that would put me off it for life! Horribly scary!!! I don’t like Judah being between Ryan and I as I know Ryan sleeps much more heavily than I do. I would fear something like that happening too. Horrible. So glad you and he caught it. Thank you God!!!

  13. Nessa November 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    With my daughter, we co-slept on accident. Too tired to do anything else. I would wake up, freak out and put her in her bed. So afraid I was doing something bad to her. Next time I know I will be more laid back, what works for us is what we will do.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos November 30, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

      Same. I guess this time I’ve just been deliberate to think it all through more. Yes, I’m more relaxed, but I’ve also made sure to clear away blankets, remove our pillow-top mattress cover, etc. so that I know I’m being as safe as I can. :)

  14. Life As Wife November 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    The AD is going for the shock factor that is for sure.

    Guess I’m a weird parent because the “hot button” issues (breastfeeding, baby wearing, cosleeping) are just choices to me. When J was younger I coslept occasionally but I didn’t know the controversary until the blogging world. To me, the danger f cosleeping are common sense – things I did/took into consideration without even knowing technically what it was.

    Some days I “baby wear”, some days we do a version of “CIO” and some days I hold my little man all day long for snuggles.

    Guess that means he’s going to be all kinds of messed up… Whoops.

  15. Teva November 30, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    This is such a great subject. I read so many books about baby sleeping in general in the beginning. Dr. Sears has an interesting take on co-sleeping. He talks about the baby and the mothers breathing being connected. Very much the fourth trimester syndrome.
    I like many others ended up co-sleeping for sheer exhaustion. I did end up loving it, my husband not so much. Then at about 3 or 4 months I didn’t love it so much but I had created a co-sleeping addict.
    Then came the research and deep struggle to do cry it out or not. I can now report after doing sleep training many, many times with backslides from teething and whatever else that wakes babies in the night, my girl is sleeping through the night most of the time at 17 months.
    I have vowed to start placing the next baby in their own bed earlier. But I know that every baby is different and my sleep deprivation will dictate other terms.
    Either way this is a good discussion for mom’s to have. Thanks for bringing it up.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos December 3, 2011 at 1:05 am #

      Yeah, I think many parents end up co-sleeping out of exhaustion. I think that’s the worrisome part – when it’s not thought through. (I know I’ve been guilty of that too.) I’m also aware that for us, we sleep better (overall) with having the bed to ourselves (me at least – Ryan sleeps well regardless) so we’re sharing less and less these days with bub. I’ve always kind-of done half/half for that very reason – I’m pretty sure I don’t want a co-sleeping addict. I’m not a fan of CIO though. I use mostly Baby Whisperer philosophy for sleep training… but for the newborn days I’ve been very lenient this time around and have enjoyed it that way! :) More and more we’re cutting out the co-sleeping though… I’m starting to sleep worse with him in bed so I know it’s time to switch! Oh, and yes, I’ve read Dr. Sear’s research – very compelling and interesting!!

  16. Rachel December 1, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    I thought I would love co-sleeping. I am attachment parenting, baby wearing, co-sleeping yadda yadda yadda…at least I thought I was. Turns out I desparately want Xave in his own room. Of course, Xave loves co-sleeping. But we established that both of us sleep MUCH better when we’re not sharing a bed or room. And he really fights the sling so we gave that up a long time ago and only use the Ergo for hiking. Unfortunately, we’re all sharing the one room at my parents house and likely will be for a while so we’re still after almost 4 months, trying to find a way to make co-sleeping work for us. Actually, tonight we decided to leave Xave in the cot in ‘our’ room and Jason and I are sleeping on the fold out couch in the family area!
    If I’ve learned anything in this last year of parenting, its that each family must do what works for them. I wish we could all feel free to do this and I wonder why as mothers, we’re always keen to get into that ‘mumpetition’? On that same note, I always find it interesting when pro co-sleepers use the argument that almost every other culture in the world co-sleeps. I’ve lived in Asia — these families have Grandparents living in! Grandma takes the baby OR has the baby sleeping the night with her either some or all the time too. Our western culture’s take on co-sleeping is often mother doing everything. So again, we must do what works for us! Happy mum = happy baby = happy family!

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos December 3, 2011 at 1:09 am #

      wow, that’s so interesting about the chinese grannies! i’ve never heard that before!! so true that we all have a certain “take” on things… may or may not be accurate!! and yeah, i was the opposite from you – very anti co-sleeping… but now i’m much more open. still, overall, i’d rather have bubs in his own bed once the newborn days are over. we all sleep better that way! we’re moving toward that more and more these days and it’s working out well… though i’m sure jude would rather be with us/me if it was up to him!

  17. Lindsey Aylward December 2, 2011 at 6:51 am #

    Love this article! It pretty much sums up my thoughts. As long as you are doing it safely, there is nothing wrong with co-sleeping or not co-sleeping. I planned on writing a post this week about co-sleeping too. I hope you don’t mind that I might link to your article.

  18. Jen December 2, 2011 at 6:56 am #

    I love your sleeping baby pictures! He is so cute! I was very against cosleeping when we had our baby. A bed next to us would be fine. But then we were just so exhausted…and somehow he ended up in our bed many times! I always kept a night light on so I could see him when I’d wake up though. I slept way worse with him in our bed because I was so paranoid.
    The ad definitely could scare parents away from cosleeping, but then again when we were infants our parents were told to put us on our bellies. And we turned out ok…mostly. :)

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos December 3, 2011 at 1:10 am #

      haha, that’s such a good point jen. there’s always new research that comes out that changes our norms, eh?!!

  19. Micheline December 3, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    Thank you for writing this, Adriel! We’re doing very much the same as you this time around. I remember getting up to nurse Q and making myself wait until he fell asleep until I put him back to bed and how exhausting that got. This time I nurse Zoe in bed and we sleep together, but fortunately she sleeps most of the night in her own bassinet next to our bed. But like you, I’m getting a little less sleep as she gets more wiggly so we may have to cut it out soon. I agree that it’s all about what works for your family, as long as you’re very conscientious of your sleep arrangements. I’m also a light sleeper, so I’m always waking up to check on her but still manage to get more rest this way. Still, the co-sleeping horror stories terrify me.

    P.S. Judah looks just angelic!

  20. Jessica December 6, 2011 at 5:07 am #

    I am all for co-sleeping, though, I don’t co-sleep much with Annah, at least not as much as I did (full-time) with Nya. I know there is controversy around the issue but I think as long as parents educate themselves on how to make things safe, it’s really a great thing. From my experience in co-sleeping full-time with Nya, I can say that it is one of the most beautiful gifts that you can give yourself and your child. I know many parents worry about the long term effects of co-sleeping, and to this I would say, to make things easier down the line it helps to make sure your child can sleep in other arrangements, too. With Nya I started out with doing co-sleeping for every nap and at bedtime, then I stopped co-sleeping for naps around 4 months. I continued full-time, co-sleeping for bedtime until she was around 12 months.

    I like your attitude on it! I think our little ones are only small for so long, so we might as well enjoy it while we can and not go against what feels right.

  21. grace December 6, 2011 at 6:55 am #

    I could NOT sleep anymore with our son in bed. My husband could but not me. Too many arms and legs… So we bought a Chicco play yard and we love it (especially because our son loves it!). But for much needed extra comfort we use it with the MamaDoo Kids mattress topper. My son sleeps right next to me.

Leave a Reply