Family life

Why co-sleeping worked in our house

In her latest editor's letter, Karine shares her family's sleeping habits from when her kids were babies.

By Karine Ewart
Why co-sleeping worked in our house

Milla, Beckett, Wyatt and Theo sleep soundly, 2008.

I have already received a ton of feedback about my February editor's letter, so I thought I would share it with you here, too. Let me know what you think!

Once upon a time, there were two very naive expectant parents named Jason and Karine. One night, at their prenatal class, the fairy godmother (a.k.a. instructor) asked, “Who here thinks they will co-sleep with their babies?”
Jason and Karine looked around in confusion. “Sleep with their baby?” Karine thought. How ridiculous.
A few weeks later, Milla was born. And much to her parents’ surprise, she didn’t sleep like a fairy-tale baby. When the new family arrived home, Milla slept most of that day, but awoke at dinnertime and didn’t go back to sleep. Whenever Karine put Milla in her crib, she woke less than 10 minutes later. By midnight, Karine was tired of going back and forth to Milla’s room. Not having a bassinet, Milla alternated between Karine’s arms and a laundry basket on the floor.
After a few sleep-deprived days, she held Milla in her arms and lay back against the pillows in frustration. She loved her baby so much, but she was so, so exhausted, and everything seemed so freakin’ difficult. Tears started to fall down her face. And after a moment or two, she realized that Milla had fallen asleep. Fine, she thought. I’ll just lie here until she wakes up. Three hours later, Karine concluded that as long as she held Milla, they could both sleep. And so, Milla joined Karine and Jay in their bed. And they lived happily every after. The end.
Every few months, we would start trying to transition Milla to her crib, but something always happened: a cold, a fever, a tooth, life in general. And secretly, I loved having her near me. Then, after years of fertility treatments (another story for another time), we got pregnant with twins. And then my concern went from getting Milla out of our bed to how she would feel when two new babies invaded her world. She needed security and consistency. When Wyatt and Theo arrived, I was prepared for a similar newborn sleep experience, but those two little swaddled monsters slept through the night at six weeks. (Milla still hadn’t slept through the night and she was three.) Was it because they could hear/feel/smell each other? I don’t know. All I know is that sleep was good!
Musical beds at our house truly began after Beckett was born: Jay slept anywhere he could to get enough sleep, and I usually slept with whichever kid needed me most. Bee was so little (under six pounds for the first month), that he’d just curl up under my chin and sleep as long as our faces were close. With four kids under four, that worked for us. Eventually, we created “everybody’s bed” (above), which was in a spare room. Our theory was that until they said differently, we’d at least get our bed back, and they would still have one to share. This worked until Milla was six, when she decided she wanted to sleep on her own. (The boys still share a room.)
The moral of the story is this: Do what’s right for your family so you can get some sleep, and don’t worry about what others think. You’ll be a better parent, and your kids will be happier, too. Isn’t that ultimately what we all want?

This article was originally published on Jan 21, 2013

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