When my son was born, his dad and I had already decided we would NOT be one of those parents that allowed our baby to sleep in the same room as us. We had carefully weighed out the pros and cons of co-sleeping and inevitably decided that it bred codependence and would be a difficult habit to break when the time came. So, for the first few years of his life, my son slept in a nursery down the hall from us.
Whenever we heard other couples let their child sleep with them, we would exchange glances and roll our eyes in jest. Your kid will never learn independence, we would think to ourselves. You’re doing this more for your OWN needs than those of your actual child.
We would pat ourselves on the back for being smart enough to have raised a kid who was able to self-soothe and get himself to sleep.
Then our son turned three and that’s when the nightmares began. Seemingly out of nowhere he would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, screaming about monsters or bad guys. We would have to lie down next to him just to get him calm enough to be lulled back to sleep. After a few weeks of the dreams not desisting, his dad and I moved him into our room – a decision admittedly predicated on laziness and our own desire for sleep.
As any parent who has ever slept with their child probably knows, it is not the easiest task. Most kids are prone to accessive movement, kicking and jerking around while in a deep slumber. Relocating our son to our bed was like recruiting a cage fighter to be the third wheel. Nights were marked with waking up to a foot in your rib or an elbow to the face or the covers pulled completely away.
But something happened in those weeks that I never thought would: I actually started enjoying our cuddle sessions. There was an inexplicable comfort hearing his nasally breath or feeling his chest rise and fall as we drifted off to sleep. Often I would wake up to him just smiling at me as if he had been watching me sleep. His nightmares had completely stopped and co-sleeping didn’t seem so silly anymore. In fact, it made sense.
Eventually, we had to move our son back to his own room, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I miss having him next to me. I would be lying if I said I am not relieved to have our bed back to ourselves. Somehow it feels empty.
I still think that on some level, co-sleeping is more for the parents’ peace of mine than the child’s, and I don’t have any regrets about how we raised our baby. However, I now don’t judge parents that choose to co-sleep with their little ones. I now understand it is a special time and a special way to bond. As parents, we only have a small window of opportunity to capitalize on these special moments because they grow up so fast. And really? What is so awful about providing warmth and assurance to your vulnerable baby or toddler?
And one day, while all of us parents will be incredibly proud of how independent and self-sufficient our offspring turned out, we will miss the days they sought comfort and shelter under the covers of mommy and daddy’s bed.