Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bed Sharing Past Infancy

Co sleeping looks different for every family who practices it. The term co sleeping encompasses many arrangements from baby`s own bed in the same room as his parents to sharing a family bed with parents and even siblings. In my house we bed share. our sleeping arrangements evolve and change from stage to stage, but bed sharing has always been at the centre.

In the beginning, the family bed was just my son Oliver and I. My husband, convinced of the safety and benefits of bed sharing with an infant supported it whole heatedly, but was uncomfortable sleeping next to such a tiny infant himself. This arrangement was fine with me, with the intensity & frequency of Oliver's night nursing, it was easier for me to switch sides every few hours with the bed to ourselves. 

As Oliver grew bigger, and my husband became more comfortable with the idea of sharing the family bed he started napping with us on weekends and then eventually joined us full time. I LOVE this arrangement. I love night waking to see both my guys sleeping peacefully in front of me, I love the way their sleep noises sound like a long & quiet conversation; a sigh answering a grunt which answered a hum. I love that I've never woken for the day to a crying baby, just big blinking eyes & toothy smiles, and my husband's apologetic grin because he didn't mean to wake us getting ready for work. I even love the WAY we sleep; when my husband and I lay on our sides facing each other with our legs curled up towards the centre of the bed, the negative space between our bodies, the place where our baby sleeps, is almost womb shaped.

Even now that our baby is now a toddler, we still fall asleep this way. All love and smiles and quiet contentment (Most nights anyways). But it should be said that co sleeping with a toddler is a whole different animal. Most nights we end up turned away and protecting our sensitive areas and vital organs from the onslaught of sleeping toddler thrashing.
But you know what? I STILL love it. I love that many nights Oliver and his father end up holding hands in their sleep. I love that I get to spend all night so close to my son now that most of his days are spent running and climbing and just generally being too busy to be held. I love that my husband has the family bed to look forward to at the end of a long day, to bond & reconnect with us after being gone for work. 

While we have plans to introduce a secondary sleeping surface for occasional/part time use, I don't see our family bed breaking up anytime soon. While there is a bit of a space issue in our queen sized bed with two adults and a toddler, there really is nothing wrong with our sleeping arrangements. 

Just like breastfeeding, the benefits of the family bed don't disappear after infancy. Emotionally, by sharing sleep with Oliver we are still fostering the kind of connection and attachment that is at the center of our parenting philosophy. Physically our continued breastfeeding relationship is strengthened by our proximity to each other during the night, and the quiet 'sips' of milk Oliver takes from me throughout the night have many healthy benefits. 

Will Oliver be in our bed until he's a teenager if I continue on like this? Probably not. Will he forever lack the ability to 'self sooth'? I doubt it. Will my husband resent me for continuing to bring our toddler to bed with us? Not at all likely. 

Co sleeping looks different for every family who practices it. In our family we share a bed, we are happy with this arrangement and we don't plan to change it any time  soon.


Carla said... [Reply to comment]

Considering space, you're lucky to only have the two adults and one toddler. Try two adults, one 3 year old and a 19th month old in the queen. :). Sometimes it does pose problems, but we still love it. We have beds for both boys and they both begin the night on their own so that DH and I can have some time to accomplish things, but we always wake up snuggling all together. I agree that eventually my children need to learn to sleep on their own, but I don't think it needs to be for awhile.

Kayce Pearson said... [Reply to comment]

I love still sleeping with my 3 1/2 year old :) We only have a twin size bed, with two adults, a toddler, and a cat that loves to take up space haha. But I wouldn't trade it for the world!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

I absolutely love co-sleeping with my 8 month old son and husband as well, as it is comforting to know all that I love is within arms reach. It is infinitely easier to breastfeed as well with my son nearby. Recently we've dragged a single mattress into our bedroom that my son and I fall asleep on initially and then I roll onto our Queen to be with my husband once he's asleep. Nursing is just one roll away and it allows for my son to be undisturbed by our movements (he sleeps better this way and having more bed space helps us too). I find it will make an easy transition to his own bed once he's ready since he's already in his own bed, sorta. :P

mamapoekie said... [Reply to comment]

Still proudly bedsharing with my 2y9month old. We had a little interval where she slept in her crib for half the night, because she crawled around the bed and fell out half the time, but other than that, she has never been elsewhere.
I love it. I hope it lasts for a while longer. SHe's still a tiny little person after all.
She does fall asleep off the boob more and more often and doesn't need me at her side constantly... So no, I don't think she'll be in our bed until she's 22

Miriam said... [Reply to comment]

We co-slept with our triplets. Now one prefers to sleep alone in her loft bed while the other two join us at various points throughout the night. They are just shy of five and those occasional mornings of all five of us snuggled together are wonderful!

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

I LOVE that you shared this. We are co-sleepers, too! My husband was uncomfortable at first, too, but he definitely has warmed up to it!

Mommaof3Loves said... [Reply to comment]

I LOVE this post!! What an awesome experience it is to share a bed with your child! We also bed share full time (and I am still breastfeeding my 17mo old). I LOL'd over, "Most nights we end up turned away and protecting our sensitive areas and vital organs from the onslaught of sleeping toddler thrashing." This statement is SO TRUE!! LOL!!!!

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