our co-sleeping journey

our co-sleeping journey

 

This is what a six year old looks like sprawled across a queen sized bed.

I'm always impressed by how much room he can take up.

In truth, I didn't start my parenting journey with what I felt were radical ideas. I'd never heard of Peggy O'Mara or Dr. Sears. (Though later on I was glad to find them!) I just did what felt right to me. Breastfeeding, baby-wearing & co-sleeping were truly my natural instincts as a young mama. I carried my babies all the time, never let them cry if I could help it, and they all slept beside me…. usually nursing much of the night.

All of that is a lot more acceptable today than it was 16 years ago.

To be honest, there were even a few times I lied and said "Yes, of course they sleep in their crib." with my first two. I was worried about being judged. About fitting in. About messing up. I think these feelings are pretty synonymous with all new parents on some level. 

But now I'm older. And I don't give a crap what people think anymore. It's a beautiful thing sometimes, this getting older. I'll take the crows feet with the moxie.

So now if you ask…

I'll laugh and tell you each of our four kids slept in our bed most nights until the next sibling arrived. The crib we had held more clean laundry that needed folding than it did babies. Though they did nap in it. Our youngest at the age of six starts out in his own bed every night, but more often than not he wanders into ours in the wee hours. Maybe he's cold, or scared, or having trouble sleeping. I don't usually remember because I wake up enough to pat his back, and then I fall back to sleep.

I love my sleep. I love my kids. I don't usually mind if all that intermingles. Even if our youngest one is sort of like snuggling with an octopus… and often times once he's fast asleep again we carry him back into his own bed to avoid a heel drop to the belly.

Our kids have robust active imaginations. They play well together and by themselves all day long. They imagine wonderful crazy beautiful things, create their own worlds. I don't expect them to turn this off from 10pm to 6am every night. If they get scared and need to feel safe… they come running down the hall with a blanket. We're okay with this.

And you know? They all grow up. They all become these fiercely independent young people who no longer need a mama to smooth their hair and pat their back to coax them to sleep. Or daddy to kiss their eyes and flip their pillow over to give them good dreams. This sweet bit of childhood is so fleeting… I don't want to look back and think I didn't soak up every bit of it that I could. Or that I didn't follow my gut instinct.

Even if it means snuggling with an octopus.

And because I share this with every new mama that asks me, I thought I would tell you too. In your own heart, you know what's right for you and your little ones. That is always the path to follow

xo,

stephinie

 

ps ~ I've been doing a weekly post over on the Natural Kids Team blog… come take a peek.

 

35 thoughts on “our co-sleeping journey

  1. Most days we wake up one big jumbled family, even though the little ones go to sleep every night in their own beds. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, especially on the weekends.

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  2. Weekends are the best, I agree. Before you know it, it's over. They'll be six foot tall and off on their own… I'll take every bit of this precious time I can squeeze in πŸ™‚

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  3. i wholeheartedly agree! we were gifted a beautiful, antique crib when i was pregnant with number 4 and we sorta chuckled to ourselves since our kids have never seen the inside of a crib. i’ve loved co-sleeping with mine and will be sad when these days and nights are over!

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  4. My octopi are still sleeping sideways & upside down. This morning I woke up to the tickling of my feet – waking up with a smile is so nice.

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  5. The big kid *loves* it when my husband is on call at the hospital because it means that she gets to sleep with the baby and me. The other night the two of them fell asleep holding hands.

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  6. i chuckled when i read about the uses for the crib, that was us too. i wouldn’t trade those years of co-sleeping for anytihng, we still all share a room together, though various beds. the oldest finally wants his own space but isn’t hurrying about it either. each parent will know what is right. it really helps to get out of the way of others’ expectations and judgements, for fear of loss of approval can alter any path unnaturally. we felt in our hearts that we knew what our kids needed and that intuition hasn’t let any of us down! so nice to read this today.
    ~erin

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  7. I agree. I loved co-sleeping, and I’ve never understood why it provokes such negative feelings in people. But a lot of parenting decisions seem to provoke strong emotions in people, and I know that I, too, have been guilty of the “oh, sure, he sleeps in his crib” response once or twice, when I just couldn’t handle the inevitable argument that followed. Seriously, folks, I will not attack you for sleep training or whatever other parenting philosophy you choose, so please leave us to co-sleep. Although sleep issues are rivaled only by whether you breastfeed and when you quit when it comes to provoking often unsought responses and judgments.

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  8. beautifully said. πŸ™‚
    i was right there with you, doing all those AP things 16 years ago before i had ever heard of attachment parenting. and people would say β€œwhy?!” and i would shrug because hey, it just felt like the natural, right thing.
    and it was so *easy*. breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding, cosleeping .. it all just made life so much warmer, easier, closer, more comfortable, simpler.
    and those boys are taller than me now and they are completely independent and smart and funny and neither of them is the clingy basket case that certain β€œfriends” and relatives muttered they would turn out to be. ;o)

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  9. Love this. As a first time mama with a little one, it’s been a revelation to me to figure out that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. He can start in his own bed, come find mom and dad if he gets scared or wants to cuddle in the morning, etc. I feel like we’re getting the best of all worlds right now, truth be told. Although we’ve gotten a teeny bit of judgement from family, it’s been nice mostly getting to work out a good solution for ourselves.

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  10. I never think of us as co sleeping but like your youngest, our daughter starts the night in her own bed but often makes her way to ours in the night. She is a wiggly worm in her sleep but I’ve just got used to it. Sometimes though I’ve seriously thought about buying a bigger bed .

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  11. We got a crib for S, but she hated it with such a fury, we ended up using it as a safe place for her to practice pulling up and cruising.

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  12. Well said!
    I, like you, had no idea the way I chose to mother my little man had a name, I just did what I thought was right, what my gut told me to do, and so far it has been totally amazing!
    We co-sleep, in fact my little man doesn’t have a bed…yet. We are thinking about getting him one, but we know he will most likely start the night there and then end up in our bed, which is totally fine.
    The best thing we did to improve the co-sleeping bed was to upgrade to the king size bed πŸ™‚

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  13. Good for you, Stephinie, for following your instinct as the mama. My babies slept with me maybe for the first 2 months, until my husband “made” me put them in their cribs, because it was what we were “supposed” to do. Let me tell you, it felt wrong, but I caved. I would follow my instincts more (and listen to “experts” and well-meaning family members less!) if I were doing it all over again – with my 48 yr-old brain, of course…

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  14. We never even bought a crib. πŸ™‚ I chose to buy a king-sized bed instead. I wasn’t a young first-time mama–I was 28, and my older sister had paved the way as far as breaking in the family with the attachment parenting ideas–but I still marvel at the self-confidence that allowed me to bring that baby home 12 hours after his birth and place him in the middle of that big ol’ bed, right next to me. People always wondered, Where is the nursery? Huh? I’d say. Yeah. We don’t have one of those. None of my kids have had issues transitioning to their own beds *when the time was right.* (Right time for them, of course.)
    My parents’ room was off-limits when I was a kid. I don’t ever remember going to them in the middle of the night for anything, although I must have? But my older sister and I shared a room, and she’s the one I remember comforting me. And it’s great that I had that, but I will never turn away a child needing comfort in the middle of the night.

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  15. Goodness…. extended breastfeeding can really get some folks upset can’t it? I quite agree that having compassion and an open mind are key. I’m not judging other’s decisions either…. but I love to share my journey to other kindred mamas. Especially those looking for a gentle reminder that they should follow their own path πŸ™‚

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  16. I had no idea it had a name either.
    Just that it was right for me. Authentic somehow….
    And easy too! haha! That’s true.
    We have very independent free thinking young people here too…. so that whole “clingy basket case” suggestion of well meaning friends & family has pretty much been debunked!
    xoxo

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  17. We’re the same way. They mostly slept with us as babies and made their way to beds about the time they were one-ish. Then we just sorta went with what made everyone get the best sleep. And we’ve totally considered a King size bed too….. but the youngest is six and sleeping on his own more & more. And I’m too cheap to buy a new one πŸ™‚

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  18. I’ve done this in all kinds of ways too…. listened to family members and experts instead if my own heart. I did what felt wrong because they said it was right. It’s frustrating sometimes to look back on. But I always did what I thought was best, and that is all any of us can ever do. I feel like I kind of got a do-over when our youngest arrived ten years after the first. I was a confident and seasoned mama. It’s been a gift. But that’s exactly why I share this story with other mamas…. to remind them they know what is best πŸ™‚

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  19. My only regret is that we never got that King sized bed πŸ˜‰
    One of the sweetest things ever that I recall is when we brought our fourth baby home. We did have a crib for safe napping and I laid him in it while we got ready for bed. My husband went to the room before I did and when I arrived he and Luke were snuggled up in our bed. “You didn’t want me to leave him there, did you?” he asked. A man moving a sleeping baby. It still makes me smile.

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  20. I too, let the kids crawl in bed with us..Those days have long past and the closest thing we have to it is the family couch and a good movie!! When they were little I would sometime’s crawl into their bed after a nightmare of mine had woke me with fear and worry. When my daughter was pregnant, young and still living with us, I spent the final days of her pregnancy sleeping with her… Maybe that is strange.. But that is where my instincts wanted me to be..Rubbing her back through the early stages of labor.. I had my husband and she had me.. Now when my granddaughter’s spend the night, Guess where she sleeps.. with me and I wouldn’t have it any other way…There is nothing more bonding than sharing your bed…

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  21. When I have another one, I’m calling you to come for a visit. Breastfeeding has never worked well for me, and I have 3…we never make it past 5 months before my milk dries up, no matter how many herbs I consume. I’m thinking it probably has something to do with the not-co-sleeping habits around here. Hoping that if I get the chance to do it again, we can do it right. πŸ™‚
    Jeni

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  22. I love this. When I was pregnant with Sam (and very much in the same shoes as A) My mom did the same for me. I had a single twin bed in my tiny room and she slept on the air mattress next to me on the floor. Or sat with with me… smoothing my hair and talking to me while I drifted in and out of sleep in early labor. It was so nice to be cared for and feel safe. Even though I wasn't little anymore. xo~

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  23. I'd love to visit πŸ™‚ But really… the most important thing is to be okay with what comes from doing your best. I juggled single motherhood, full time work and a baby sixteen years ago. I only made it 4 months nursing and pumping before I was just too overwhelmed to continue all of it. I had little support in the nursing department… so that's what gave. I might do it differently if I could do it over…. but I did the best I could in that moment. So I'm okay with it. I'm quite certain you have done the best you can in your moment…. and no on can do/give more than that πŸ™‚ xo~

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  24. thank you for sharing ❀ the LORD has given us our families and we know that this time is fleeting and I am with you, I want to soak in every single moment and not brush any of these precious moments away πŸ™‚ thanks for writing this, it is very appreciated πŸ™‚

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  25. Oh Karen! I hear you! I should have listened to my heart more, but the more overtired/sleep deprived I became, the more desperate I was for suggestions for how to get our son (now 3.75) to sleep. I read every book like a maniac, tried various things (go outside all morning for him to nap, get him outdoors all day, run him ragged, etc.) as well as ‘sleep training’. If only I’d listened to him. He just needed us. close. Still does. Even though we did extended breastfeeding and other ‘non-usual’ (for our families) things, the sleep thing was just not easy. And in Alabama, where we lived for the first 2.5 years of his life, there were billboards advocating against co-sleeping. A big picture of a bed, with ‘this is where babies die’ and co-sleeping is child abuse on billboards! Talk about disheartening!
    Thanks for the post, Stephinie. I wish I’d been as in-tune as you.

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  26. Oh goodness. I don't think of myself as in-tune in the beginning. Just a single mama trying to get enough sleep so I could get up and work my shift the next day. It did feel natural, yes. But so much of it came from my *need* to sleep. And I just didn't tell anyone where he slept! I wanted so badly to do things "right" when I began this parenting journey. Now I realize that everyone's "right" is an individual thing. All you can ever do is your best, and I know you did for little N. xoxo~

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