Bedtime: Evolutionary Mismatch

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I made the above photo in May 2012, when my kids were just turned 11, 8, and 5. You can see all three of them there, in our BEDroom, one of the many arrangements we’ve had for sleeping over the years. This is a full size bed and queen size mattress atop box spring pushed together. I sat in the middle and read to them until at least my youngest was asleep, and often I fell asleep with them, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night and moving to my own bed with my husband.

WEB010731sleeping7WEB0419bassinetMy kids are 13, 10, and 7 now. When I was pregnant with my oldest, I thought I’d have her sleep in a bassinet next to my bed for several months and then transition to a crib in her room. Later I would come to laugh at myself for that idea. She outgrew the bassinet in only 10 weeks. I got one of those “Pack and Play” things and put that beside my bed, and she quickly outgrew that too. Then, not being able to imagine putting her in a separate room, I attached her crib to the side of my bed with cable ties. I pushed the crib mattress against my mattress, with the level adjusted so both mattresses were the same height. With our king size bed and the crib, we had a lot of space!

WEB020415wakingfromnap8For many months, I couldn’t even leave her for naps without her waking up within a few minutes. Sometime in the middle of her baby year, I got a twin size mattress to put on her bedroom floor (photo, left). I’d nurse her to sleep, then quietly roll away, making sure she was fully asleep before I attempted to leave. Eventually this allowed me to have an hour or two free during nap times and after her bedtime. When I was ready for bed, I’d pick her up and bring her to my bed so that night nursing was just a matter of rolling over, latching on, and continuing to snooze. As time went on, I realized this was the way to go because I didn’t have any complaints like I heard from others about having interrupted sleep.

My babies could help themselves and I wouldn’t even fully wake up:

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In the above and next photos you can see my oldest in the crib attached to my bed.

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When my third child was on the way, we bought bunk beds. Over the years, those bunks got separated and reconnected and rearranged in all three kids’ bedrooms many times!  Here’s one of the early arrangements, with the top bunk arranged over our old queen size mattress. By the way, that queen size bed was the first my husband and I ever bought together, and it’s now my son’s bed!  The full size bottom bunk was in another room when this photo was taken, and for the last couple of years it has been my oldest daughter’s bed.

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When my second child was born, I hardly thought about it, and automatically kept her with me for sleeping. Same with baby #3. He has fallen asleep at night right next to me almost every night of his life. Yes, at 7 he still wants me with him when he falls asleep. I don’t mind at all. I consider it part of a close relationship, and I’m grateful for it. Long before I ever read about how other cultures have family bedrooms, before I’d given much thought to parenting, when I was still a teenager, it occurred to me that there is something strange about adults being able to sleep together while children are expected to sleep alone.

Here are a couple of photos of my  newborn son which show the crib attached to the bed very well. (The photos in this post were taken with four different cameras over more than a decade, each increasingly better quality!)

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See how the mattresses are pushed against one another. I filled in the gap on the far side next to the crib bars with firmly rolled blankets.

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My kids all stopped sleeping in their parents’ bed years ago, but I continue to lie in their beds while they fall asleep, sometimes falling asleep myself. Not my daughters anymore, usually, but my son, at 7, still wants me with him. I can wake up in the middle of the night and go to my own bed. Even when they were little, if all three of them wanted to be in our bed, look, we had plenty of room.

he was bouncing on the bed

Not long after that photo was taken, we detached the crib from our bed and gave it to another family. Since then bedtimes have looked like the following photos.

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WEB 2014 02 27 untitled 012Having big kids now, I can tell you that cosleeping does not mean kids will never learn to put themselves to bed. My daughters started putting themselves to bed sometimes around the ages of 9 or 10. My 13 year old has been going to bed alone almost exclusively for a couple of years now. I think the reason they haven’t sooner, nor go to bed alone consistently, is NOT because of dependence, but because they enjoy our bedtime reading together. We’ve read and reread many great books together at bedtime over the years. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and I’d guess bedtime will be one of my kids’ favorite childhood memories, because it’s a fun, close, warm family time (for the most part. Being a morning person, I have had many grumpy episodes at bedtime).

See, in the photo on the right, sometimes we even jump on the beds before settling down to snuggle and read. (This was taken last February, when we had the queen mattress and a twin mattress together in my son’s room. They’re jumping from one mattress to the other).

Cosleeping is one of my favorite parenting decisions. After I’d been enjoying it for many years, I had the choice affirmed by reading articles such as this one from one of my favorite bloggers, psychologist Peter Gray, Why Young Children Protest Bedtime: Evolutionary Mismatch. I thought it was new because another one of my favorite bloggers Free Range Learning posted it on Facebook today, but now I see it’s a few years old. I began to writing a comment, but then I thought about how long it has been since I wrote about co-sleeping on my blog and I pasted it over here.

I had fun a fun trip down memory lane gathering the photos too!

Feel free to ask me any questions about co-sleeping if you’re wondering how it could work for you.

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2 comments

  1. Pretty Cool Michele! My twins would much rather sleep with us and while it means I don’t always get a good nights sleep, your article was a nice insight! We are transitioning them to their ‘big’ beds (but in their room together) and that is making things easier. Thanks for sharing!
    Melani

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