Co-Sleeping Pros and Cons

There’s never one right way to do anything.

I chose to co-sleep with my son because, for us, it felt like the best option.

That’s not to say it’s been cuddly and sweet the whole time.

And the official safety recommendation for my home state is for children to sleep:

  • On their backs
  • In a crib
  • Without blanket

I just wanted to share a bit about my experience with co-sleeping.

Safe Co-Sleeping Positions and Guidelines

For safety, lower the bed to the floor. Do not use pillows. We only use a sheet for a covering. Be mindful of minimizing electronics in my son’s sleeping space. No phone, laptop, router, etc in the same room. It’s a dark, quiet environment. We did end up using a sound machine, though. My son was waking up to the sound of a garbage truck several blocks away!

Pros of co-sleeping

  1. It made access to nursing easier. There were times where it felt safer for me to roll over and nurse in bed. I got to avoid getting baby up and out of his crib while exhausted. I avoided finagling all the nursing pillows. I avoided getting us transitioned back to bed in the middle of the night. There are times that I was so exhausted that I  feared tripping and falling with my baby in hand.
  2. It made me feel less anxious when I could see and hear my baby sleeping and breathing. I know modern technology has invented some amazing baby monitors. But, I’m somewhat distrusting of my ability to really tune-in to those kinds of devices. The fact that I could use my own senses to assess that my son wasn’t suffocating or in distress brought me more peace.
  3. It’s incredibly sweet to hear your baby’s sleep talking. Hearing their subconscious at play when they're so young is incredible. Sometimes my son will talk about something in his sleep from several months prior. It’s fascinating to witness his brain processing the world in waves.
  4. It felt like it fostered independence in my son, in one way. For example, when he’s tired, he knows he can just walk over to his bed without relying on someone to put him in it. Likewise, when he wakes up, he can get up and walk over to me on his own.
  5. Minimalism. I didn’t like the thought of buying something that would be used for a finite amount of time for a finite purpose. Plus, when my son was born we were in a 1 bedroom apartment. Putting a crib right next to the bed didn’t feel very different than being in the same sleeping space.

Cons of co-sleeping

  1. It makes access to nursing easier. Babies have the remarkable ability to sense/smell when their milk is near. So, from my experience, babies that cosleep wake up more frequently to nurse than babies who sleep in a crib. So, even two years in, there is no sleeping through the night for us.
  2. One reason I avoided a crib is that it felt.. so confining. I wanted him to develop a sense of agency with spatial awareness. But, that said...there were many nights, where instead of a crib defining his space, the whole room became his space. At times, I felt like the entire room was a giant crib for both of us. If my son had a sensitive evening (we will call it that for now) I’d put him to bed.  Then, the second I tried to get up to take care of laundry, dishes, meal prep, etc, he’d wake up. I’d have to try to start the process all over again. That was super exhausting. To lay there, not yet sleepy yourself, with your to-do list floating around in your head. The knowledge that you really only have an hour or so to try to get it done. But then being unable to move or else wake the baby was hard.
  3. Nighttime potty training has been...difficult. Even after he was day potty trained, I diapered him at night. I did that until the diapers were dry in the mornings. When I had that natural cue that he could hold his bladder through the night. Then I switched to cloth diapering, then to just panties and PJ's. But accidents happen. Sometimes 1-3 times a week. And even with waterproof sheets, mattress covers, and yoga mats for easy can still be jolting. And a lot to do in the middle of the night. Some approaches to managing night-time accidents are to limit fluid intake after dinner. And/or wake your child up to void once a night on a schedule. But neither of those options-though I’ve tried them-have stuck for us.
  4. Limitations on personal time/space. For me, cosleeping means you are with your child literally around the clock. So, it can feel like an infringement of personal space sometimes. Like, there was no relaxing and watching Netflicks in bed before drifting off for me.

There are so many variations to co-sleeping or crib sleeping. Your experience could look totally different from mine. 

There are all kinds of support groups for all kinds of sleeping styles out there.

And, do I know if, in the long run, it’ll be something I look back on with a strong feeling? Will cosleeping have contributed to any co-dependency behaviors down the road? Gordon Neugield Ph.D. and Gabor Mate M.D. claim that the more securely attached child, the more independent they’ll be down the road. For more info, you can read his amazing book Hold on to Your Kids: Why parents need to matter more than peers.

Is my choice in co-sleeping a reaction to how I was brought up (a home culture that was loving and also very pro-independence from a very young age)? Do I know if this approach will make him a “Sensitive sleeper” for life?

Sure don’t.

It’s a parenting approach I question and re-evaluate often. But ultimately, seeing that my son is happy, learning, and restful is comforting to me.

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