When I first had my daughter, I poured over the evidence and research, racking my brain trying to come up with a plan to get her to sleep better. Because that’s the ultimate goal of any parent: to have your kids sleep through the night (can I get an Amen?!).
We eventually did the cry-it-out method around 8 months and I couldn’t stand it. It seriously made me cry on my bed listening to her cry it out. It sort of worked after a week or two and some very painful bedtimes but I vowed to not put my kids through that again.
Yes, yes, I know what all the research says about it – it build trust, they have to know they can put themselves to sleep, etc. But there’s also the nurture parenting side of things that I definitely gravitate more towards. As in, I’d rather cuddle with my kids and let them know I am right there for them than to cry needlessly every night.
A baby/toddler’s sleep pattern is such a touchy subject and there are so many opposing opinions, research and expert advice on the subject matter. With SO many parenting styles out there, it’s really about finding what works best for your family that is both safe and healthy.
How We Co-Sleep
Luckily, my husband and I have a large king-size bed because more than likely one of our kids will be in it when the sun comes up. However, we never start with our kids in our bed. They each have their own beds and that’s where we put them to sleep each night. I think establishing a solid bedtime routine is important for them to know that their bed is their own space.
My daughter is almost 3 and does fantastic most times sleeping through the night (that always hasn’t been the case). She might wake up early every once in a blue moon these days, say 5:30AM, and I will bring her into bed to snuggle and she will play with my hair until she falls back to sleep until her usual 7AM wake-up time. Love. But usually she is a pretty great sleeper. My 1-year old son is still nursing and every night is different. I have learned to be flexible and go with the flow. Sometimes nursing will put him back to sleep and into his bed he goes. If he’s wide awake, I will bring him into bed and let him curl up next to me, his arm across my face. Sometimes he’ll lean over and give me kisses and fall back to sleep. So happy. I cherish these quiet, perfect moments.
Here’s the thing...my kids are growing, fast. It may seem like they’ll be young forever but they won’t. And no, I’m not worried about starting bad habits. I have heard that so many times from my mom and grandmother but I don’t know any teenagers that still sleep with their parents. Meaning…I know this is a phase that they will grow out of. They won’t be sleeping with us forever. And then all I will be left with are these cherished nighttime memories and an empty bed.
Both of my kids love sleeping with us, really loooove it, and it feels like the most natural thing in the world to do with my children. They are happy, we are are happy, and they sleep so much better and more soundly next to us. Plus, there are SO many wonderful health benefits for their development, how can I deny them these?
Benefits of Co-Sleeping:
- Sleep more peacefully. Research shows that co-sleeping infants virtually never startle during sleep and rarely cry during the night, compared to solo sleepers who startle repeatedly throughout the night and spend 4 times the number of minutes crying. Startling and crying releases adrenaline, which increases heart rate and blood pressure, interferes with restful sleep and leads to long term sleep anxiety.
- Stable physiology. Studies show that infants who sleep near to parents have more stable temperatures, regular heart rhythms, and fewer long pauses in breathing compared to babies who sleep alone. This means baby sleeps physiologically safer.
- Decreases risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Worldwide research shows that the SIDS rate is lowest (and even unheard of) in countries where co-sleeping is the norm, rather than the exception. Babies who sleep either in or next to their parents’ bed have a fourfold decrease in the chance of SIDS. Co-sleeping babies actually spend more time sleeping on their back or side, which decreases the risk of SIDS. Further research shows that the carbon dioxide exhaled by a parent actually works to stimulate baby’s breathing .
- Long term emotional health. Co-sleeping babies grow up with a higher self-esteem, less anxiety, become independent sooner, are better behaved in school, and are more comfortable with affection. They also have less psychiatric problems.
- Safer than crib sleeping. The Consumer Product Safety Commission published data that described infant fatalities in adult beds. These same data, however, showed more than 3 times as many crib related infant fatalities compared to adult bed accidents. Another recent large study concluded that bed sharing did NOT increase the risk of SIDS, unless the mom was a smoker or abused alcohol. (Source: Ask Dr. Sears)
NOTE: We never sleep with our infant babies; this poses all sorts of dangers and risks, including increased risk of SIDS, suffocation and injury. We have always waited until our babies are on all fours, crawling, sitting up and completely mobile before co-sleeping, usually around 8-9 months old. Please consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s sleep!