By: Alexa Bigwarfe
As many young couples do, when my first husband and I started talking about having a family, we had our list of things we would not allow our children to do.
- They would not throw tantrums in public.
- They would eat what we prepared for them.
- They would not back talk.
- And they certainly would not sleep in our bed. After all, that was our space and we did not want children in our bed with us.
However, when we made that pledge, we did not know the challenges life would throw at us. We did not know I would wind up pregnant with identical twin girls and be hospitalized three times, the final time for almost five weeks. We did not know that two days after being born, one of our twins would die. We did not know a lot of things before we had children.
And as all parents do, we adjusted to life.
We did well enforcing the “no sleeping in our bed” with our first child, although we probably would have slept more if we’d just allowed him to crawl into bed with us. He was three and a half before he stopped waking up in the middle of the night.
Our second child was off to a great start. We moved her into a toddler bed at a young 18 months of age to prepare for the arrival of the twins.
Life changed drastically when I was admitted into the hospital for a five week stay. My husband, who spent long days at work and then time with me in the hospital, often got home after the children were asleep. He missed them, and he started bringing our almost two year old daughter into the bed with him, so that he could at least have some time with her.
It began there. Over two years later, she still comes to get in our bed in the middle of the night every night. We created a co-sleeping monster.
When she was smaller, it was easier to just let her crawl into the bed with us. Rather than getting up and soothing her back to sleep, she would just nuzzle in and fall right to sleep. We were tired. We’d had our surviving twin in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for three months, and the balancing act had worn my husband and me down to almost shells of ourselves.
So we let her stay. Now she is five. Part of me loves the fact that she crawl in bed, snuggles up to me, kisses me, and loves on me. That is our special time. But by about the fifth she has kicked me, stolen the covers, or nearly edged me off the bed, I start to wonder if perhaps it is time to figure out how to get her back into her own bed. Permanently.
Co-sleeping continues to cause debate in our society. Should you, or should you not allow your children to sleep in bed with you?
In most cases, your own family situation should dictate what is right for you, with the exception of one consideration. Co-sleeping with an infant is strongly advised against by the American Pediatrics Association (APA) because of its correlation with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a condition in which a baby dies without explanation during sleep. The APA instructs that infants should sleep on their back in their own beds to avoid, the risks of suffocation, accidental death, and SIDS until at least three months of age. It’s estimated that half of SIDS incidents occur when a baby shares a bed, chair, or sofa with someone else.
Why is co-sleeping with an infant risky?
- The baby may get trapped between the mattress or headboard or between the bed and the wall
- The baby may get smothered by pillows or blankets
- A person may roll on top of the baby
- The baby may fall off the bed
However, when the children are a bit older, and struggle to sleep through the night, do what is safest and best for your family, and modify as necessary.
Alexa Bigwarfe is the mother of three children, a freelance writer, and a dog owner. She likes sleep, and will take it with, or without children.