The crib or the family bed?

Two sets of parents share their opinions about one of the hottest hot button parenting issues out there: co-sleeping.

Editor’s note: Today’s feature is the second installment in our new parenting column written by two sets of Richmonders: Jorge and Patience Salgado (veteran parents of four gorgeous children), and Ross and Valerie Catrow (total parenting rookies who have only been doing this “raising a child thing” for a couple months). Check back fortnightly to watch them discuss/agree/disagree/throw down over all kinds of parenting issues, Richmond-related and beyond.

Today’s question: To co-sleep or not to co-sleep?

For those of you who are not parents, this is a super, hot-button issue in the arena of raising kids. And unlike our last column, the Salgados and the Catrows actually have differing opinions on this one.

The Salgados

When we became parents, there were no preconceived notions on how we were going to do things. Honestly, we really had very little clue as to what we should be doing. It only took one sleepless, restless night to convince us that co-sleeping was where it was at. I still remember very clearly looking over at Patience in the middle of the second night of Josiah’s life and asking her if she wanted me to bring him into the bed with us. We felt something was missing, someone was missing from perfect little circle that had just grown by one. Ever since that night there has been a steady stream of little ones and the crib became a very expensive hamper.

There are the obvious obstacles; many a night we’ve been kicked and nearly pushed off the bed. Who knew such tiny little things could take up so much physical space? And sex? Well, considering we just had our fourth, you might say things get very creative.

At first, there was some nervousness. Would the baby be OK? Would we roll over him, suffocate him? Would we ever get them to sleep on their own? Would we ever have our own space back? As the nights came and went, all of these fears were replaced with an assurance our intuition had lead us in the right direction for our little family. No, we never rolled on any of the babies, the older boys eventually wanted their own space, and we have been creative in making our own.

We can’t deny it has been crazy at times. At our Museum district apartment, we had what we affectionately called our MTV cribs bed. We had a custom made bed frame with two queen mattresses side by side. At that point, we had a 5 year old, a 3 year old and a baby all in the bed with us. Yeah, it was nuts, but it gave everybody a connecting time at night that we couldn’t share during our hectic days. Our nighttime routines of talking to each other quietly in the dark, the round robin I-Love-You’s, and waking up to a baby burning a hole in your head trying to get your attention made it all worthwhile. So, is it for every parent? No, absolutely not, but for us, co-sleeping has been one of the most rewarding parts of our parenting.

The Catrows

Our son is 13 weeks old. He has been sleeping in his own room for 11 1/2 of those 13 weeks. This, I think, the reason why we are still functioning adults and also probably why we are still married.

When we brought JR home from the hospital, he spent the first week sleeping exclusively in a pack’n’play in the corner of our room. By the second week, he still spent nights in our room, but nap times happened in his crib. When we hit week three, if he was asleep, he was in his crib, with the exception of a handful of very fussy evenings that could only be resolved by some baby/mama cuddles on the couch.

For us, co-sleeping seemed like it was just setting us up with a potentially stressful issue that we were going to have to deal with later on. We thought it made sense to get JR accustomed to sleeping on his own right away, rather than having to do it while also navigating through other parenting challenges like teething and potty training.

More than that, our biggest priority in raising our son is equipping him to be as independent as possible. That is definitely not to say that children who share a bed with their parents are clingy and underdeveloped in that regard.( I mean, have you read about Patience and Jorge’s older daughter? Hello, Miss Firecracker!) But when working towards that goal, helping JR learn to sleep on his own seemed like the most logical first step.

Are there times when we think about how great it would be to spend the entire night holding him? Absolutely.

Do we ever think he might be missing out on bonding time with us? Sure. We’re working parents, for Pete’s sake.

But have we ever thought we made the wrong decision about this for our family? Never. JR was sleeping through the night at 7 weeks old, is able to fall asleep pretty much anywhere and around any caregiver, and is hugely fat and happy. As parents, we are well-rested and still feel like we have space of our own (for, you know, naps, and…other stuff), something we would surely struggle with if little ones were sharing our bed.

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Patience Salgado

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