Sleeping with Your Kids

When my kids were babies, I loved the feeling of that warm, little lump of a body resting heavily on my chest as they slept. Hearing their gentle breathing, inhaling their sweet baby smell is, to this day, one of my most comforting memories. I’d give anything to relive one of those moments. I looked forward to the 5am feeding when I was awake enough to bring the baby into bed with me and nurse them until they fell asleep at my side.

As my children grew to be toddlers, when they tiptoed into our room in the middle of the night face wet with tears from a bad dream, my husband and I welcomed them into our bed. I’m not a great sleeper but when their warm, little bodies were nestled close to mine, sleep came easily.

When it comes to sleeping with your kids, everyone has an opinion about it. Actually, people seem to have opinions about just about everything when it comes to parenting–whether you ask for them or not. I’ve gotten lectures on why co-sleeping isn’t good for them or for your marriage. I’ve heard it will prevent them from learning to self- soothe. I’ve been told that once you start letting them sleep on you, they’ll never sleep in their own again.

My mom has always said, “You have to do what’s best for you and your child. Don’t worry what’s best for others.” I took that advice and ran with it. But I did get a professional opinion first. I asked a close family friend who happens to be a clinical psychologist what he thought about letting my kids sleep with me. “It’s one of the most comforting things in the world for a child to sleep with a parent,” he told me. He said it could reinforce strong family bonds and promote closeness. I even read research that sleeping with your children can increase their confidence and independence–though I’m sure I could find the same research on the other side of the argument. You can always find research to help you justify the path you want to take (i.e., red wine is good for you.)

When I asked my friend/psychologist why people seemed so against co-sleeping his thoughts echoed my moms: “Because it doesn’t work for everyone. Once you start it, you might not be able to stop it without a lot of effort. Just choose what’s right for your family.”

Loved snuggled at the beach with them.

So, we continued to welcome our kids into our bed. As our kids got older, they came in less. The change was so gradual; I almost didn’t notice it when it ended. Now, my littlest who is 7 is more likely to climb into bed with her big brother or sister than with us and they always welcome her with open arms. More mornings than not, I find her in bed with her sister or brother, snuggled tightly next to them arms around their shoulders. My 3 kids can bicker as much as any siblings do but I love that they look to one another for comfort and nurturing and I hope that continues long after I am gone.

What I can tell you about my kids is that they are close to one another and us but they have never been clingy. And all 3 of my kids walked right into preschool on the first, past crying toddlers without looking back. At first it bothered me: why was it so easy for them to let go? But their teachers assured me that it was a good thing; they were confident I’d come back.

Maybe it had nothing to do with the theory that co-sleeping instilled some kind of inner confidence in them; maybe it’s just who they are. But at least I can say that sleeping with us did not produce 3 clingy, attached children.

I did have those moments where I worried that my son would still be tiptoeing into our room, slipping into bed with us when he was a 6-foot tall, hairy-legged man. But in a blink, it’s over. Somewhere along the way, the midnight visits became few and far in between. I don’t know exactly when it ended, but now, I can’t remember the last time, they tiptoed into our room at night.

Now sleeping together has become a treat. My kids look forward to weekends where we invite them to watch a movie in our bed and let them fall asleep with us. Or when we stay in a hotel or at my parents’ house and we all snuggle up in one room together.

Looking back, sleeping with my kids will always be among the fondest, most comforting moments in my life. To this day, my husband will offer to nap with any baby whose parents will let him. But if you choose to sleep alone, we promise we won’t judge!

 


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Author: Heather Zachariah

Former Art Director for Home Magazine and Caribbean Travel & Life, Heather is chauffeur to 3 busy kids; the president of her Home and School Association; and VP of Marketing for TipsFromTown. And she's passionate about all 3!

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