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

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. There are mornings that I wake up in the last twelve inches of the the bed because Lucy has pushed me all the way to the edge and I have a passing wish of complete dominance of our KING bed, but it usually only lasts a few seconds. I figure these few years of having them in our bed will go by so quickly. The question of independence has always been brought up, and we found by completely reassuring our kids in little ways like letting them sleep in the family bed has made bolstered their confidence in much larger things. As far as independence goes, they are really quite an independent bunch.
    Many mornings I wake up with a little one rubbing my cheeks or rubbing my head and it really puts my whole day in perspective.

    So I wonder how many Richmonders out there are doing family bed or not…

  2. Tom's New Mom on said:

    I agree with the Catrows, putting your baby in the bed is just one more bridge to cross. I have a six month old son and he sleeps in his own room with his own toys and does his own thing. We had him in the bed with us for two weeks when my husband’s co-worker accidentally rolled over her baby in the middle of the night and killed him… that was enough to scare me straight and i havent allowed him to sleep in our bed for even 10 minutes as soon as his eyes roll back we take him to his bed.

  3. We have two girls (2 1/2 year old and a 9 week old) and the thought of them sleeping in our bed has never crossed our minds. In fact when we have allowed them to sleep in our bed overnight (cause of sickness or nightmares) we make sure the next night they are back in their own bed and don’t let it turn into any habit.

    I have no clue how sex would happen if you have kids in the bed, I have a problem with the dog being on the bed during “those times”.

    However I think the most important part to my wife and me is the fact that we want them to fall asleep by themselves, whether home or away, not have to have my mom or dad next to them in order to sleep.

    Don’t get me wrong though — I LOVE cuddling with my kids.

  4. I’ll be honest, those first few nights that JR was in his room alone, I just kept thinking, “He’s so small. I wonder if he’s scared to be in there all by himself.” But the several hours without a peep from him showed us that he was just fine.

  5. In my house, this debate started with our pug, Frankie. I lost. Frankie burrows into a spooning position with whoever is available each night. Now we’ve got Jasper Deez, a 10 month old cuddly fuss-bucket of a boy (currently having teething induced night terrors). I’m losing that debate too (it is giving everyone involved maximum sleep time each night). But here’s the thing. Frankie wakes Karen and Jasper up, with his snoring and thrashing (allegedly I do one of those things too). So he and I have to sleep in the guest room. But we do have the crib parked next to the bed so we can slowly nudge the little guy into his own space. For the time being, the family bed is in effect, although fractured and transitioning to something else.

  6. I just want to clarify… sex DOES NOT HAPPEN with kids in the bed.
    That would just be weird and creepy. The fun is to be had figuring out other options.

  7. Jason: that’s cool though, I don’t think it has to be one way or the other as long as you find what works for your family. I’ve become a pretty light sleeper and yet find that I have fewer sleep interruptions with the baby in the bed. It has been more than a sleep thing for me though, I absolutely have loved the connection time I have spent with my kids for those first couple of years.

  8. Carolina on said:

    Family bed fans here. We have two children- co-slept with our son until he was 5 (he is now 6 1/2) , and are currently co-sleeping with our not-quite-2-year-old. We engage(d) in all sorts of other “bad” ;) sleep habits, too, like nursing to sleep and rocking/baby-wearing to sleep. Our son is able to go to sleep on his own (without anyone with him, in different beds/homes etc), stays asleep all night (12 hours), and has in no way, shape, or form been negatively impacted by co-sleeping for 5 years or all those other “bad” sleep habits we engaged in, and I expect the same from our daughter. So, I don’t think it’s fair to say that co-sleeping sets up a child to be unable to sleep independently.

    I also want to mention that co-sleeping is NOT inherently unsafe. Does the fact that 43 children die in cribs every year, and 12,400 are injured, deter people from using cribs? No, it makes them follow safety guidelines. The same can and should be said about co-sleeping. You can do it safely.

    As far as sex…uh, there are lots of places to do it other than a bed. I think that co-sleeping has actually spiced up our sex life, rather than put a crimp in it. ;)

  9. As with most parenting issues…there is no right answer to this conundrum. I think whatever works for the couple is best for the child. We didn’t have a big bed and had serious worries about crushing our baby in our full-sized bed. However, we did sleep with him for much of his first three months. Our second baby, however, slept a lot better without us than with us. We still enjoyed naps together but overall, sleeping in our own beds has worked for our family. I have had many friends who were adamant supporters for opposing sides of the issue and I have learned that being a good parent (and friend) means not judging others for their parenting choices.
    I’ll admit, however, that even in our non-co-sleeping home, we do have sleepovers…the kids will share a bed sometimes and if you are scared, you can certainly join us in the now queen-sized bed, and those nights are nice. I also don’t have to worry about crushing my now 40+ and 80 pound kids. ;-)

  10. Kim S. on said:

    We actually do both. My 4-month-old daughter starts off the night in her crib in her own room. She’ll sleep in there anywhere from 3 to 8 hours…when she wakes up to eat I bring her to bed with me and she stays in bed with us till morning. It’s the best of both worlds for us…we get time to ourselves in bed (which is a good opportunity for sex) and still get to cuddle with the babe for a good chunk of the night too. Sometimes if we’re having a rough night and she won’t go down in her crib, I’ll just bring her to bed with me. It’s worked well for us.

  11. I think this, like most parenting issues, is just what works best for your family and your kids. I personally had trouble sleeping when JR was just in the room with us, so I knew having him in bed with us would make that even harder. And I knew that if I didn’t sleep, I would turn into a horrible, grouchy person and mother.

  12. For us we did the same as the Catrows. Baby in a bassinet in our room for a couple of weeks. Naps in his room. Etc.Etc. It works for us. 8 years later — Are kids still go to bed at 8:30.. Every night. Unless we are watching a movie or still out with friends/family that may take us over. However, similar to the Pharr’s our kids are quick to jump in our bed – when they don’t feel well or they’ve had a nightmare. and even though sickness and nightmares suck — I love it when they jump in our bed…

  13. My wife would like me to relay a couple more tidbits.

    a) We tried having Jasper sleep in the crib for the first four months, but he was too demanding. If you’ve pulled it off, part of the equation is probably the baby’s evolving personality.

    b) We’ve got both bibles on this issue: BabyWise (fascist) and the No Cry Sleep Solution (hippy dippy).

    c) At this point, Karen doesn’t give a flying eff about the no-no’s. Whatever works is what’s best, but ya gotta explore your options (like Motel 6, right fellas? – I’m kidding!)

  14. kathy newsom on said:

    I’d recommend a book called “Our Babies Our Selves” for anyone who really wants to delve into the anthropology of this co-sleeping issue. Only in modern society, mainly American, is this even an issue. Personally, I don’t think modeling after more primative, tribal societies is a bad thing in this respect. I feel it brings us closer to cuddle to sleep, and we have some of our best talks as our eyes open in the morning….or in the middle of the night. Kathy

  15. Erik B on said:

    The NYTimes had an article on co-sleeping a couple of weeks ago including alarming (maybe) numbers of increased infant death. An excerpt.

    “These numbers on increased rates of death do not directly attribute the deaths to any particular cause, but rather come in the context of other studies showing a similar increase in the rate of co-sleeping in the US. The American Academy of Pediatrics has been cautioning against that practice for years, warning that parents can roll on top of their infants during sleep, or that a pillow can cover a baby’s face or a blanket can get wrapped around the child’s neck, or the child can get wedged between the mattress and the wall. A panel convened by the academy in 2005 recommends that babies sleep in the same room with parents to facilitate bonding and nursing, but not in the same bed.”

    The whole article is here:

  16. I think following the co-sleeping rules helps to take out a lot of the fear in the safety department.

    No drinking. No drugs (even cold medicine) while
    sleeping w/ kids.
    Very few pillows, no heavy blankets.
    A bed no more than 18-24” off of the ground.
    No family bed after extreme tiredness- lack of sleep for extended periods of time.

    Most stories you hear about roll overs involve intoxication of some kind.

    The other thing that always surprises me is that most people don’t know 1/2 of the world co-sleeps.
    It isn’t for everyone and I think you have to be willing to invest time either way- sleep training (unless you have an extremely easy baby), or navigating getting them out of your bed later on.

    In our case, the boys made their decision to leave on their own, there might have been some “runny eyes” from parents that night…but they were 6 and 4 by then and they never came back.

    I gotta admit, there were moments I was ready to have them go (during moments of toddler nursing frustration, but that is a whole other controversial subject i’m sure we’ll get to) but Jorge talked me out of it. I’m kinda glad he did because it all feels so short in the grand scheme.

    Each baby is so different, each family too, it’s all about finding your parenting groove…

  17. Yeah, I feel like I should say that JR is an exceptionally easy baby. As he was so insanely fat, he just didn’t need to eat constantly like some little ones do.

  18. We use the family bed. At 2, our daughter starts the night in her own room and eventually joins us before the morning comes.

    For our family, I couldn’t imagine having done it any other way!

  19. We have tried every sleeping arrangement: Baby in bassinet by bed, baby in crib in other room, baby in crib for part of the night, baby co-sleeping. Ultimately, co-sleeping worked well for us whether for all or part of the night. We gradually introduced the kids to their own rooms and beds. Our youngest, currently 4, still slips in in the middle of the night on occasion often without even waking us. Both our children (oldest is 7) are fiercely independent and still love to be held and cuddled, too. We also rocked our babies to sleep in our arms, answered all their cries and held them as much as possible. Sleep issues? They are asleep within 5 minutes of tucking them in every night! They are both well adjusted and well behaved children.
    As for me, I felt more rested with the baby nearby than having to get up to nurse several times a night. Were there nights I wanted MY independence? Of course. However, it is truly such a short period of time. It already seems like ions ago.
    As for the dangers, it was a matter of being smart and taking precautions. I slept without a pillow and without my beloved heavy blankets. If we were over exhausted and thought we would sleep too heavy, the baby slept in the bassinet nearby. We never put the baby near the wall. They also make baby “beds” now that can be placed in the center of a bed.
    And Jorge, we are totally with you on the “creativity”. Think outside the box (or bed, in this case), people! ;-)

  20. Thérèse Hak-Kuhn on said:

    As the mother of 6 children ranging from 17-28 I can tell you time passes much too quickly! Some of my dearest memories are the times with my babies and kids in our bed. Co-sleeping is not odd or any other negative adjective nor will it create dependent children. Anyone who knows my kids will attest to their independence and sense of security. Throughout the world this would not be a topic for an article … it is what is normal and as mammals (yes we are mammals) this is how young are raised and nurtured. Though I can respect that not everyone feels that co-sleeping is for them, I can’t help feeling a sense of sadness that you are losing out on some of the most percious moments.I have been known to say, That sleep is highly over-rated and though there were many many nights where sleep was a myth to me … in the greater picture it was a moment. It is not judgemet that is speaking here, it is my experience and part of that experience is the loss of my daughter. I will be forever grateful that she shared my bed, that she shared her siblings bed and that I was available to her 24 hours a day not on a schedule.
    I know there are many different styles of parenting so what I hope is that each of us as parents is really listening to our hearts and doing what feels right for us not what someone else says, be it a book, an”expert”, a friend, a family memember or me.
    Love your babies they leave you to soon!

  21. Reading these makes me feel so much better about our little one. We co-sleep basically whenever he wants to. He’s 3 1/2 months and some nights he goes down in his bassinet just fine and some nights he simply refuses. When he won’t we just move him to our bed and he sleeps just fine.

  22. Kristin on said:

    Interesting. I have four kids as well, triplet girls who are 4 and a 5 year old son. Needless to say, co-sleeping was not done in our house, and never even considered. I was a slave to the schedule and still am to a point, it just changes as they grow up. I love the honesty in everyones comments on a subject that can be very controversial.

    I have met parents who co-sleep and they have listened to my balking and negativity about it. What I couldn’t let go of was how great their children are. Very loving and supportive and respectful of one another.

    I have met parents who are slaves to the schedule with kids who are just fine as well.

    It all depends on the person. If it is for you, go for it. If it isn’t… don’t. I will say, I love it when my cuddle bugs come in my room in the middle of the night and sleep with me. My husband was out of town for 6 nights a few weeks ago. My daughter, Lee, came in and slept with me every night. Did she somehow know that I can’t stand to sleep by myself? Who knows. All I know is, every morning, she was there. Those are the moments for me that I will always remember.

  23. Tiffany S on said:

    We have proudly coslept for over two years and I don’t appreciate negative hype or comments about cosleeping that are commonly heard in this culture.

  24. We co sleep with our 2 daughters (ages 3 and 3 months) and it is an amazing experience. I would not change it for the world.

  25. We started out cosleeping because it was more convenient for overnight nursing and because having my much anticipated newborn so far away for hours on end seemed inconceivable to me. Researching the topic quickly led me to evidence that responsible cosleeping is perfectly safe. There was no plan for how long we would cosleep, and with my daughter just over a year old, the arrangement is still working beautifully for us. When she is ready, I will happily help her transition to her own bed, but I will always treasure the many sweet moments cosleeping has brought us.

  26. Laura Smith on said:

    We have co-slept with our three children over the last 7 or 8 years ~ but usually not all 3 at once! But co-sleeping did prompt us to buy a king-sized bed :)
    By age 3 or 4, the boys have been ready to move into their own room and their own beds. No sleep dysfunctions here.
    I think that more people co-sleep than are willing to admit it – and that is sad. I suppose we all set up that “perfect” nursery with the crib and accessories, so it must mean we’ve done something wrong if we don’t use the dang thing! We actually gave away the crib before baby #2 was born. It hasn’t been necessary!

    Happy parenting :-)

  27. Beckey on said:

    As the mom of an almost 8 year old boy who was fierce and passionate about everything in his little life EXCEPT sleep for the first 2 years of his life, I would have just collapsed of exhaustion were it not for our co-sleeping choice. We had plans for schedules and a crib, he had a totally different plan. He really chose the co-sleeping arrangement because he knew what he needed and we were just trying to figure it all out. While my husband was deployed to the Middle East for 7 1/2 months, we had a bond that kept loneliness at bay and made night nursing a breeze. Even when he gave up night-time nursing at 18 months, he still needed closeness to get to sleep and stay asleep. He’s now a kind, well-adjusted little boy and I would not trade those twilight moments of peace, serenity and closeness which embody the very essence of mothering for anything in the world.

  28. We had planned to use a bassinet for the first few months, then get a crib, but unfortunately i had a C-Section which made getting in and out of bed in the night nearly impossible. One night during the first 2 weeks, out of exhaustion from trying to nurse every 2 hours, i tried nursing laying down and found Heaven! We never looked back.

    We currently co-sleep with my almost 3yo and my 10mo. We started out in a queen size bed, and as the 3yo got bigger and started taking up more space in our bed, we invested in a twin, which then got side-carred to our bed, making it like a King. We recently did the same thing with our 10mo and another twin, so now we have wall to wall bed! They each have their own space at night, but we are all still very close an easily within snuggling distance, although at some point the 3yo ends up between DH and I, and I often end up in the twin with the 10mo. I couldn’t imagine it any other way. Especially when the kids are sick, its the only way i would get ANY sleep.

    I wholly support what Patience said about guidelines for safe co-sleeping. If you use common sense and think ahead, there’s no reason it cant be done safely. Most incidents of roll over are caused by some form of intoxication or unintentional co-sleeping (not intending to fall asleep while watching TV, while nursing, etc…) and that is where the VAST majority of stats come from. When its done properly, its just as safe, if not safer than crib sleeping.

    And lastly, i know i hate sleeping alone, and can only imagine that after 9 months in the womb, the LAST thing a baby wants is to sleep alone!

  29. Jordan on said:

    We play musical beds in our house. Our almost 3 year old usually chooses to start the night in her own room and ends up in our bed sometime during the night. And our 10 month old starts off the night in a side-cared toddler bed and ends up in our king size bed once I come to bed several hours later. We love co-sleeping and it certainly makes my life as a nursing mama a lot easier!

  30. We have a home of musical beds, too. One of the parents snuggles in each kiddo’s (full-sized) bed for 10 minutes or so at bedtime to help them get to sleep, then at some point in the middle of the night the kids usually come climb into the king sized “big bed” or call one of us to join them in their beds. I’m of the opinion that the best sleeping arrangement for every family is that in which that family sleeps best. For us, it absolutely includes co-sleeping. What I find dismaying is how many parents-to-be dismiss the idea out of hand because of pre-conceived perceptions of a crib as the “right” place for a baby. After 9 months inside, of course babies want to be close to a parent after they’re born. And the independence argument always makes me chuckle; babies are *supposed* to be dependent on their parents! By nurturing their dependence, we give them room to explore their independence.

  31. Carolina on said:

    For people who find the New York Times/CDC report compelling, and think that co-sleeping is unsafe, I wonder: Do you drive with your kids in the car?

    Because far more children die each YEAR in motor vehicles than (allegedly) died from bed-sharing IN A TWENTY YEAR TIME PERIOD. Approximately 2,000 children die each year in motor vehicles vs. 513 infant suffocation deaths between the years of 1984-2004.

    I totally understand parents who say: Co-sleeping is not for me; I don’t sleep well; I need my space etc etc. But to use safety statistics as an argument against co-sleeping, and then engage in behaviors that are MUCH riskier…. I find that hypocritical.

  32. For those of you who do co-sleep, how do you work out the logistics of it? Does everyone go to bed at the same time? How do you handle nap times?

  33. We have an 11 week old daughter, who sleeps in her pack ‘n play beside our bed at night. As I am a special education teacher and have a mother who works with pre-mature babies, I am constantly bombarded with research and opinions on what to/what not to do when raising your children.

    Around 3 weeks, we realized that our daughter would not sleep on her back. So, we let her sleep on her stomach, which as many of us know, increases the risk of SIDS. There have been recent studies that have proven infants who sleep in the same room (not the same bed) as their parents have a decreased risk of SIDS. So, since Ava was already sleeping on her stomach, we decided we should keep her in our room, maybe evening out the risks.

    She does sleep in her crib during nap times, and we will probably transition her into her crib overight within the next few months. For now, we are happy and comfortable with her being in the room with us.

  34. Of course, what works best for baby & family is best. But, oh, oh, oh, how we love snuggling our babies in our bed. Some of my favorite quality family time is when we’re all hanging out in our bed on a lazy Saturday morning – telling stories, laughing, and feeling dreamy.

  35. Clocking in with one more co-sleeper here. We have co-slept since day one — we’re now at three and a half years. We finally gave away our never-assembled crib. Like the other co-sleeping parents here, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The quality and quantity of our sleep is one thing, the bonding and family togetherness time another, the ease of nursing….it just makes so much sense. In my opinion it’s just one more way that the norm in other cultures makes a lot more sense than what’s standard in the good ol’ USA.

    I’m also sick of the fearmongering news stories. You know who’s behind a lot of those studies they use to back up the stories? The crib industry. Hmmmm.

  36. kelly on said:

    we cosleep and have found it to be alternatingly sweet and annoying. we started doing it so i could do night nursing without having to fully wake up & get out of bed. the night nursing has definitely helped me get more sleep than i otherwise would.

    and i especially enjoyed cosleeping when i worked full time, as it gave us some much needed closeness. some of my best memories during my children’s early months are of nighttime parenting.

    on the other hand, there are some nights when our toddler does aerobics in his sleep. that gets old pretty fast.

    we didn’t necessarily set out to cosleep. we were open to it, but we let our children guide us. our first son slept with us for his first 5 months, then he became a very restless roly poly, and we moved him (painlessly) to a crib until about 19 mos.

    but then we moved and had a baby in the span of a few months, and he ended up needing some nighttime closeness to ease those transitions, so we obliged. i imagine he’ll go back to his own bed shortly, but we’re not forcing or rushing anything.

    our second baby is four months old and still in the bed. unlike his brother, he is a very peaceful sleeper, so cosleeping is still quite delightful and easy.

    sometimes my husband and i long for our marriage bed, but this time passes so quickly and we are truly parenting 24 hours a day, so cosleeping makes the most sense right now.

  37. I understand the convenience while nursing in the middle of the night. But when our little boy was still waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning, my husband would always get up and bring him to me so I didn’t have to get out of bed. Is that rare? Have I been married to a saint this whole time?

  38. We’re a hybrid. Baby slept in his own room from the get-go, until he began waking up screaming 30 min after we put him to bed. That was around 5 months. Then we started co-sleeping for sanity’s sake, until that stopped working around 9 months. He wasn’t comforted to sleep by nursing or proximity anymore. Fortunately this coincided with increasing mobility, which equaled more exhaustion and more crib contentment.

    Cosleeping was wonderful when I would wake up with his little peaceful self nestled next to me. Since he was a robust 5-month old when we started, I never worried about rolling onto him. The kid could’ve thrown my husband onto the floor, seriously. The downsides were going to bed at 8 and sore muscles because he liked to sleep on my arm,

  39. Amy Whitehurst on said:

    I type this while being lovingly sandwiched between two sweet children. I appreciate this discussion because I think, many people are unaware of the joys of co-sleeping.

    Sharing a bed may seem like a sacrifice to some, but these years are flying by, and I want to soak in every precious moment. Comforting our son after a bad dream, or nursing our daughter in the comfort of our family bed is something me and my husband are both proud of.

    The two of us will have plenty of time to sleep in our bed as a duo, but for now, snuggling beside these sweet babies so they feel safe and secure, while we cherish every moment of their baby/childhood is our goal.

  40. Chris Wolf on said:

    Perhaps a survey should have gone with this article?

  41. This turned into quite a lopsided outpouring. Did someone alert the attachment parenting listservs about this discussion? (joke) How about if some of yall step off of the soapbox and field Valerie’s question about naps? Admit it. Co-sleeping comes with some co-dependence at really inconvenient times, right? I mean, it doesn’t invalidate the practice, in my house it can create periods of sedentary couch surfing with the kid when mom would rather be doing something else.

  42. Thanks, Jason. I mean, JR basically goes down at around 7:30 or 8:00, is up again at around 10:30 for one more feeding, and then is out for the night. Does that mean I go to bed at 7:30 and get up again? What happens if you have a babysitter for the evening? I really want to know how it works!

  43. Hi Jason —

    I actually surfed over here from RVABlogs (the same way I found your blog). I’m the working parent and my husband stays at home with The Boy, so naptime is his venue. He doesn’t cosleep at naptime unless he feels like a nap too. Mostly he just lays him down and that’s the end of it. When he was a baby he would walk him to sleep, then lay him down, just like a lot of folks who don’t co-sleep do. It’s not like we have three heads and breathe fire, we just happen to sleep in the same bed. Be cool.

  44. I’m cool, just sarcastic (at least as cool as a fire-breathing three headed new dad can be). My son Jasper will punch a person in the face before falling asleep in their arms. It’s boppy or screamfest at naptime. The upside to co-sleeping is pretty well documented in these comments so far. I’m hoping to hear how people deal with the challenges (of either sleeping relationship). I mean, my wife and I cannot come to terms on anything even tangentially related to “Ferberizing.” So, co-sleeping it is.

  45. I can give the down and dirty on this one- yep, there are absolutely times of inconvenience for sure.

    nap times- I would lay down with my kids to nurse them down and then get up. or not. Sometimes it was really quick or it could be long which did leave me feeling a little trapped.

    babysitters- Some of our kids did fine going to sleep w/ a babysitter just being held, or watching a movie, others wouldn’t sleep until we got home.

    night time- Similar to nap time- nurse down and then get back up…before they started preschool or in the summer, we just all went to bed at the same time. It could be late too.

    The general nature of our family was/is pretty laid back. While we have always had a routine (bath, book, bed, etc.), we rarely lived by schedule. In some ways this gave us lots of freedom and in other way it has confined our life. I would venture to say we are even more unstructured than friends with similar parenting styles…not sure if this is good or bad.

    I don’t know if we are a typical example of a co-sleeping family. There are so many factors at play so it’s hard to tell.

    I think more than anything it was what felt the most natural to us- not in a hippy dippy way (that one is for you Jason :)) but in a wow-this-seems-to-fit-us kind of way.

    Even after 4 kids I still think about our parenting choices, sometimes I feel like we are superstars and I’m so glad we made the decisions we did. Other days we are hoping we aren’t total parenting losers. I’m not convinced we have this thing totally figured out, but we are just trying to love our kids and each other the best way we know how…like every other parent in the universe.

  46. Thank you, Patience! I think your explanation further highlights why co-sleeping just would not work for our family, just based on how we do things. (I’M NOT SAYING WE’RE BETTER, DON’T THROW THINGS AT ME)

    Our days are super busy and need to be super scheduled, mostly so I don’t completely lose my mind. And with our little boy being cared for outside of the home two days a week, it just wouldn’t work out.

  47. If you want the baby in your room, that’s fine. Put them in a Pack-n-Play or a bassinet next to the bed. Or just move the crib into your room temporarily. But don’t put them in your actual bed. That’s just stupid and dangerous and you’re endangering your baby’s life, period. Would you not put your child in a car seat? Probably not. Then why would you let him sleep in your bed. Just as unsafe.

  48. Mel, that’s patently untrue. You’ve been sold a bill of goods. Cultures the world over have shared beds for as long as they’ve been having babies. There is no safety issue with sharing a bed. It becomes an issue when things like sleeping pills, prescription medication and alcohol are added to the mix. I would appreciate the courtesy of not being called “stupid” in reference to a subject that I — and many others on this site and elsewhere — have diligently researched. Thanks.

  49. No throwin’ over here Val! I totally get it.

  50. Jennifer C. on said:

    Another “stupid” parent here :)
    We are semi-accidental cosleepers. My older son was a wiggleworm as an infant and his breastfeeding skills were miserable, so he didn’t sleep with us. The younger one was extremely snuggly and nursed like a champ, plus I’d already discovered the joys of horizontal feedings. What we generally did was put them down for naps and at bedtime in their own beds, then bring them into our bed at the nighttime feeding, whereupon they stayed. I’ve found our kids to be pretty flexible about where they sleep as long as they know what the deal is – we’ve recently had to shift everyone back into his own bed because ours is a queen and there just isn’t enough room. My two-year-old will appear in the middle of the night and ask to be tucked back in, but I’m used to middle-of-the-night wakings by now.

  51. valerie on said:

    a few things to get outta the way first:

    1. how awesome to have parenting posts on rva news! i always check in here to see what the ‘cool kids’ are writing about, and now it’s something i can add to…! yay!

    2. mel – not only was that rude, it’s ignorant.

    we were cosleepers, and it was both frustrating and magical… it’s really whatever works best for your family and schedule. our little big boy (2 1/2) is in his own bed now, and for a while we’d still take naps together, but now that he’s given those up (gasp!), we just get our snuggles and cuddles in throughout the day. as for any question of confidence in cosleeping children, i whole heartedly agree w/ jen in post #30 when she said “…nurturing their dependence, we give them room to explore their independence.” our son is the most self confident and daring little guy, it’s so amazing and awe inspiring watching him navigate through our days together.
    as far as an answer to valerie’s ( (heya! another one!) question about bedtime and naptime: my husband and i have quite different bedtimes, and i always went to bed earlier than him anyway, so this didn’t change. we actually had a full size bed in babe’s room (an extra), so i’d sleep in there w/ him. the night’s i just couldn’t bear to go to bed early, i’d sneak out and usually finish the night in my own bed. naptime was taken in his room, in ‘his’ bed (we never used the crib, it’s storage for all the clothes he’s grown out of!)… it was such sweet time to spend together, and i wouldn’t have traded it for anything :)

  52. Carolina on said:

    I want to say that overall this discussion has been very respectful (Mel’s rude and ignorant comment notwithstanding), and I *LOVE* this new parenting column! I really hope it becomes a permanent feature. I don’t think I’ve seen this many comments on any other columns at RVANews. ;)

    About the logistics:

    Absolutely, co-sleeping can be inconvenient and make me feel trapped. (The same can be said for parenting in general, by the way, regardless of what philosophy you follow.) For me, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. I also come from the perspective that fostering *dependence* when our children are very young is a *good* thing, and allows them to become more independent later, when it is more developmentally appropriate.

    I basically do/did what others have said- nurse and lay down with the child until they fall asleep, then get up and go about my business. I’ve always done a sleepytime routine with my kids (bath, books, nurse) and I also believe in early bedtimes to give the grown-ups some kid-free time, so even with the routine and nursing/staying with them to fall asleep, I am usually done with all that by 7:30-8pm. By the time my kids reached 18 months or so, they didn’t wake up again until early morning (3-4 am), so I can usually count on 2-3 hours of uninterrupted time after they go to sleep, and my husband and I just go to bed whenever.

    Naptime is the same- nurse, lay down, get up and do my thing for an hour or two.

  53. We have co-slept with our 23 month old since the day she came home. We never intended to but once she got here the thought of leaving such a little baby alone in a room was too much for me to handle. There have been so many magical moments that I would’ve missed if she were sleeping in her own room and it saddens me to think that other people are missing out on similar moments.

    Co-sleeping is how nature intends for us to sleep. Have you ever seen a gorilla or chimpanzee put a baby to sleep and then walk away? No, they would never do that. They carry their babies with them everywhere and the babies sleep on their mothers’ chests. Just because we wear clothes and live in houses doesn’t mean we’re any less of a primate than a chimp or gorilla. Several generations of crib sleeping isn’t going to undo what’s been ingrained in us over millions of year of evolution. Sleep training, like the Ferber method, exists because as a society, we’re trying to force our babies to do something that is against their nature: sleep alone.

  54. As someone who is married to a nurse and has to hear all the horror stories of her working in peeds and in the nicu. The dangers of co-sleeping with newborns is REAL. It does happen and more than you hear about on the news. Sure we hear about it maybe 1-2 times a year but the outcome is not always death. Sometimes it’s broken bones, head trauma, suffocation and permanent brain damage. It happens, it happens to good mothers/fathers with the best intentions who are not drug induced or intoxicated.

    The same goes for cribs — it happen and it happens more than you think. I don;t think we should pass judgment on who does what. If it works in your house – awesome.

    I think it was a great question to post. I’ve always wondered how it worked (co-sleeping) the logistics of it.

  55. Studies have proven that there is an increased risk of SIDS from cosleeping. There is a reason the Back to Sleep campaign and SIDS education has dramatically decreased the deaths of babies. It’s because more and more educated parents are putting their babies in firm, flat cribs with no bedding. My comments aren’t rude…just the truth. Hey, if you want to risk the life of your baby, go for it, but I won’t be stupid enough to put mine at risk. There are ways to sleep close to your baby without risking their life. Do your research.

  56. Mel, can you cite your studies please? Better yet, please read the studies linked to above: I guarantee you, I research everything when it comes to the safety of my child.

  57. Tammy on said:

    People may have been co-sleeping with their babies for centuries, but not on soft mattresses with heavy comforters and pillows, I suspect. In an era when pediatricians advise not putting a pillow or stuffed animals in bed with a baby for fear of suffocation, I think it’s clearly dangerous to put a baby on a mattress with pillows and blankets

    Here’s one recent article:

    Yes, I think co-sleeping is dangerous. I hope nothing ever happens to child whose parents do it, but the risks are just too great.

    For those who do — when do you put the child in his own bed? Do you have problems when you do? Or do you expect to co-sleep until the child goes off to college? Not snarky, quite serious — if co-sleeping is that great, why would you stop?

  58. Jami Town on said:

    We always WANTED to co-sleep (and we still do during times of sickness) Why? There is just nothing like snuggling up every night with one of your sticky, sweet, sweaty-headed little angels!!! Even with their sharp heels and elbows! They are absolutely perfect in this state!

    But alas, as much as we would LOVE to co-sleep, it just doesn’t work for our family. It took us quite a few years to get over that and we still have moments where we wish they were all curled up with us in an over sized bed. Then we have a night that we do all sleep together (hotel stays, illness, camping) and we’re reminded why we DON’T co-sleep.

    Simply put, I just don’t sleep well with other body parts on me! I wish I did, but I don’t. It makes me cranky, and breaks up my sleep, which in turn sets me up for a LONG day. I don’t work outside the home. So, having that space to myself at night is imperative to taking care of myself.

    We do co-sleep in the beginning, however, right up to the point where we start waking our sleeping baby up when we slide into bed. That’s the point that we know it’s its time to transition from our bed to a bed beside our bed. We do that until we wake them up when we slide between the sheets. Then they move to the far corner of the room, and then it’s into their own room sometime around 4 months.

    Another reason we like having separate sleeping space is how I FALL asleep. My bedroom is my haven for unwinding. That means folding laundry, journaling, reading with the light on, or watching the end of a show, then SLOWLY drifting off to sleep. That’s just how it happens for me, and I can’t do that with a sleeping baby in the room. If I was one of those people whose brain shuts off when I hit the pillow (like my husband) then co-sleeping would be a more feasible option.

    But in the end, through trying to make it work in a family bed, we decided it just creates more stress trying to force it. Accepting that we are all much happier in separate sleeping spaces was a big step for us. We get to separate beds gradually, which helps the children immensely. And they share rooms, too! So, they don’t actually sleep alone, and they love that.

    In the end, I think you can do it either way and it can be just what your family needs! There are no absolutes in the issue, that’s for sure.

    Mother to Liv (5 1/2), Jude (3 1/3), Phoenix (22 months), and expecting a little girl March 27th!!

  59. Lynn,

    So you’re saying that the mountains of research that have supported putting your baby on its back to sleep on a firm mattress devoid of any blankets, pillows, parental bodies, etc are just rubbish? Stop the presses! Lynn’s “motherly instinct” trumps legions of medical researchers who have spent years researching ways to decrease deaths from SIDS!

  60. sarah on said:

    As a new mom to a 5 month old we have exerimented with co-sleeping and haven’t found the answer just yet. Currently we are in the hybrid camp where she starts the night in her own bed and if she wakes for a night time feeding comes to our bed and stays. Our challenge is that I would love to co-sleep and my partner is nervous and does not like it. I sleep 100% better with her in the bed and my partner the opposite. Have others had this same issue.

    One the research issue, just as with any major life decision there is evidence for and against. Americans can’t be trusted to be the only ones with the right answer. In most other cultures co-sleeping is the only option.

    Boo to Mel. Be nice and no one will judge you.

  61. Okay — throw away everything I said. We didn’t co-sleep with the 1st two kids. But the new baby who is about 8 days old — hasn’t slept in a crib or bassinet yet – we are crazy – and she is spoiled. but for now it works.

  62. Michelle on said:

    Here’s Punky Brewster’s take on the subject…

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