Confessions of an accidental co-sleeper

The pros and cons of co-sleeping with your kids beyond infancy.

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Isaac and Gillian snooze in mom’s bed. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski

My bedtime routine probably looks similar to yours:

  • chase the children into the bathroom so they can brush their teeth
  • give into the dawdling requests for extra drinks and snacks (even though both kids have had full suppers)
  • re-brush their teeth
  • round up half a dozen stuffed animals and enough books to run a children’s library
  • give into dawdling requests for one more story

But here’s where my routine likely differs from yours—we all pile into my queen-sized bed for the night.

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When our first child was born, both my husband and I refused to co-sleep with our infant son out of concern that he’d never be able to make the transition from family bed to big boy bed. Instead, Isaac slept in a basinette next to our bed for the first three weeks, and after that he slept in his crib down the hall. With the baby monitor next to my ear, no one slept well for the first three years of his life because we woke up to every squawk and wimper he made. Isaac needed to be rocked to sleep and woke up several times a night to breastfeed (and even after he weaned, he still woke up for a cuddle or a cup of water). By the time our daughter arrived, I was so exhausted that I swore I’d do anything to get a good night’s sleep—even if it meant co-sleeping.

Read more: The debate: Should you co-sleep?>

Now, four years later, my daughter has yet to sleep alone in her bed for an entire night and my seven-year-old son has been sharing my bed for the last six months. While I never set out to co-sleep with my kids beyond infancy, there is so much I love about sharing a bed with them:

  • It provides an opportunity for quiet conversations that don’t happen during our busy day. Between errands and school, it seems like I’m always on the run. Co-sleeping with my children gives me an opportunity to talk to them without distractions.
  • It’s helped break both children out of nighttime bedwetting habits. When their bladders are ready to burst, but they’re sound asleep, my kids start to fidget. Waking them up and making them go to the bathroom sped up nighttime potty training.
  • It boosts self-esteem, independence and trust. “One common argument against co-sleeping is that it will create children who are more dependent on parents. But this is like saying by putting a baby in diapers, she’ll be in diapers throughout her life,” (Source: “Code Name: Mama” on the Natural Parent Network blog). Indeed, that was one of my worries about co-sleeping when our son was born. Instead, I’ve watched my clingy toddler daughter grow into a a reassured preschooler. During this stressful time, when my husband is away for work, co-sleeping has helped my children feel safe and secure.
  • Waking up in the morning next to a snuggly child is the best thing ever. Co-sleeping with my older kids isn’t all bedtime cuddles and sweet dreams and, more often than not, I’m accidentally kicked, get my blankets stolen, get peed on and forfeit my personal space. But this opportunity to strengthen the bond with my kids is worth all the hassle.

No doubt co-sleeping is a very personal—and therefore controversial—topic.

Do you co-sleep with your older kids? Tell me why it works—or doesn’t work—for you?

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.

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