Co-sleeping

March 2002

People often ask:

I also lay down with Rhiannon to nurse to her to sleep and she napped on a mattress on the floor. I listened to a tape or read a book because she took a long time to let go. Sometimes I napped with her, but usually I quietly rolled away and got up for some quiet me time.

“Does she sleep through the night?”
“Does she sleep for you?”
“How many times does she wake up at night?”

I’m tired of these kinds of questions. What does it matter? Everyone wakes at night; it’s part of our natural sleep cycle. It’s not a problem. Of course Rhiannon sleeps! Of course, she is a baby, and babies are constantly growing. She doesn’t stop growing at night, so she needs to eat at night too. Or she just needs the comfort of knowing Mom is right there and she’s safe. We’re all well-rested because Rhiannon sleeps right next to me. All we have to do is roll over and latch on.

Unfortunately, we didn’t start out with this arrangement. For years, I had planned to have my babies sleep in a bassinet next to my bed for a few months, and then move to the crib in their bedroom. That seems silly now. I can’t imagine abandoning her alone in her room. It doesn’t make any sense to make our children sleep alone, while we snuggle up with our spouses.

When Rhiannon was born, she did sleep in that bassinet. And then my fast growing baby slept in a bigger bassinet, and by the time she was 4 months old, she was sleeping in her crib, beside our bed. Those first few months were hard at night, especially at 4 a.m., because I had to actually sit up, get Rhiannon out of her bassinet/crib, nurse, and then, if I didn’t fall asleep myself, put her back, hoping she’d stay asleep. Often I’d just keep her in bed with me. Finally, in December (6 months old), Rhiannon took matters into her own hands. It was getting nearly impossible to lay her down in her crib at night. No matter how long I nursed her to sleep, she’d wake up when I set her down. So I started nursing her lying down on our bed. Then I could get up without disturbing her. For a while I tried putting her in the crib when I came to bed a few hours later, but eventually I decided it was best to keep close together all night long.

In January we bought Rhiannon’s twin bed. The top mattress is on the floor of her room. Now I can nurse her to sleep for naps and bedtime there, and not worry about her rolling off our high bed. I nurse her to sleep on her bed and she sleeps there from 7 or 8 o’clock until 11 or midnight, when I go to bed and bring her with me. She calls me to nurse her at least once during that time between our bedtimes. I usually go to bed when she calls for me between 11 and midnight. The rest of the night she nurses a few times, but I really don’t know exactly because I barely wake up, and quickly fall right back to sleep.

I have put a lot of thought into co-sleeping (and I’ve read about it too; see links below). It’s silly that I should though. It’s the most natural way to sleep. You don’t see animals putting their babies in separate nests! I’m not worried about how long she’ll want to sleep with us. I know it won’t last forever, and I know someday I’ll miss waking up to Rhiannon’s singing and babbling, her beautiful smile, and back rubs given by little feetsies.

October 16, 2002
I think I could probably leave Rhiannon on her mattress in her bedroom now, and she might only call me to nurse one time or two until dawn (she still nurses a lot just around dawn). I have actually stood there, watching her sleep, when I was ready for bed (usually not before midnight nowadays), and thought about leaving her there. But I always pick her up, hold her warmly and snugly, and carry her to our bed. It’s not just the ease of nursing anymore. It feels better, safer, right to keep her close to us. I have even thought about how we’ll work it out when the next baby comes, if Rhiannon still wants to sleep with us. The crib is still beside our bed, waiting. Rhiannon likes to crawl into it and play in it in the morning. I think I’ll try putting her newborn sibling in the crib and Rhiannon can sleep in between Robert and me; I’ll be between the children. It’s probably safer to keep the children apart at first.

Rhiannon is already down to one nap per day (since about 14 months). She has even had a few days with no nap! I shouldn’t be surprised. From an early age, she wasn’t much of a napper. At least now her naps are longer than they used to be, so I can have an hour, sometimes even two hours, of time to do my own thing.

One of the most wonderful things about being with Rhiannon when she falls asleep and wakes up is listening to her. She is becoming quite a talker! She has a large vocabulary and a great memory. And she just goes on and on, sometimes seemingly randomly, chattering away before she falls asleep,or after she wakes up. We have woken up with laughter on many occasions

This crib was attached to our king size bed for many years! Caroline, who was one of Dora’s biggest fans, even got to pick out some sheets for it!

February 2, 2003

I took the railing off our crib finally and attached it to the bed with cable ties. (Before it was just pushed up against the bed, and the railing served as sort of a guard rail. The crib didn’t shift because the wheels dug into the carpet.) I pushed the crib mattress against the big bed mattress and filled in the resulting gap on the far side, between the crib mattress and far railing, with tightly rolled towels. It’s nice to have some more space now, but I’m far from ready to leave Rhiannon to sleep alone in her room. I think she only nurses in the beginning of the night and at dawn, but sometimes she needs extra nursing and I’m glad I can go right back to sleep.

July 13, 2004

I’ve been meaning to update this page for a long time! After the last entry, Rhiannon slept in the crib, attached to our big bed, more and more. As I grew heavily pregnant, it was easier to just nurse her to sleep at night in the crib, rather than picking her up from her mattress when I was ready to go to bed. Also, very gradually, Robert started taking over putting to bed. My milk disappeared early in pregnancy and nursing became very difficult. When Caroline was born, we left Rhiannon in the crib at first, and just added Caroline between Mom and Dad. I don’t remember when we switched Caroline to using the crib. It must have been when the eczema flared badly, and I wanted to be able to more easily change her bedding. Then Rhiannon slept between Mom and Dad for a few months until we set up her bed in her room after her 3rd birthday.

It was an amazingly easy transition. We bought some new bedding and curtains, but Rhiannon showed no interest in them. She did have fun jumping on her bed and crawling under it when Robert set it up. The first night, Robert put her to bed he did the same as usual except in her new bed instead of our bed, and since then she has slept there almost every night at least until dawn. (She still often wants that dawn mommymilk.) We never told her she had to sleep there. We didn’t talk about it much at all, but just matter-of-factly started using her new bed. She still wants me to nurse her to sleep about half the time—Robert sings or tells her stories the other half of the time—but she sleeps through the night once she gets to bed. (She does have night owl tendencies, just like her dad.)

Meanwhile, Caroline is sleeping in my arms a lot. She was an amazing independent sleeper as a newborn, but when her eczema got really bad, she kept waking up scratching, often making herself bleed. We held her to protect her. Now I think maybe she slept so easily as a newborn as an escape from the itchies. In any case, I was always amazed when I could lay her down after nursing her to sleep and expected it wouldn’t always be that way. Now she’s gradually sleeping for short spurts on her own. I actually don’t try very hard to put her down, because she sleeps longer in my arms and I can do more then (usually seated at the computer, but I could use the sling more). As for night, it has always been easy, because she sleeps right next to me. I really can’t tell you how often she nurses at night.

Co-sleeping is the best!

I also held my babies for most of their naps!

February 22, 2008

Ian has slept every night beside me since he was born.  We don’t even have another bedroom for him, so we hope he won’t ask for one for a while!  Rhiannon, now 6, still likes to have stories before bed, but they don’t make her fall asleep anymore.  Until recently, she has wanted to have me or Robert lie with her until she fell asleep.  But over the last year or two, she has occasionally fallen asleep by herself, and in recent months, she’ll occasionally shock me by saying, “Mom, I’m going to bed,” and she’ll go.   Caroline, 4,  is usually not needy at bedtime.  She wants a story, but she falls asleep quickly.  And unlike Rhiannon, who continued to crawl into our bed frequently through the last year (but I can’t remember when she last did so), Caroline almost never comes to our bed.  I kind of wish she would, because sometimes she just sits up in bed and yells for us.

Some of my favorite photographs are of my children sleeping together in the big bed.

April 8, 2009

I was thinking last night about how some people worry that if they allow their kids into their bed they won’t be able to get them out.  It puzzles me, because I like sleeping together so much.  As long as I can remember I’ve thought it unfair that kids have to sleep alone while adults get to sleep together.  It doesn’t make sense.  Kids need to feel protected and how can I know my kid is safe if she is so far away in another room?

Still, my kids are moving to their own rooms anyway, and it has been no problem at all.  Rhiannon, now nearly 8, still prefers to have someone stay with her while she falls asleep, but even if I don’t feel like lying down with her, I can sit on her bed with my laptop.  Half of the time she reads or writes herself to sleep.  I wonder how much of her need for someone nearby is personality and how much is due to the fact that she didn’t fully co-sleep with me until later in her first year.  Anyway, even if she would like someone nearby when she falls asleep for the rest of her life, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

Caroline, now almost 5.5, can put herself to bed and often does.  That’s what she gets for being a nightowl child of a morning lark Mom who gets grumpy if kept up too late.  Sometimes she asks me to sit with her, but she falls asleep fast.  Ian, 2, is still nursing to sleep.  He has reached the age Caroline weaned, which means she was starting to listen to stories to fall asleep.  Ian doesn’t seem ready for that yet; he only sits for short board books during the day.

All is well in co-sleeping.  It has been one of the most wonderful parts of parenting, about which I’ve never held any doubts.

August 18, 2012

My kids (now 11, 8, and 5) all still love being read to together and falling asleep together in the same room!  I enjoy our snuggly reconnecting at bedtime too, as during the day the the kids and I can be busy doing our own things for hours.  But we still come back together at night to read together.  We have some great talks at this time too. It’s a peaceful end to each day.