Sleepyhead

Co-sleeping and why it works for us

Sleep” – when parents hear this word, there is a love and hate battle going on. We love it when our little ones drift off to dreamy land, but sometimes the process of getting there and staying there can be a real struggle.

A lot of mummies ask me about my co-sleeping experiences with my baby, #JasperBean… and now that he’s no longer a baby, but a climbing, rolling, flipping and punching sleepy 2 year old toddler, guess what? Yes! He still sleeps with us in our bed and we actually enjoy it.

Did we intend for this to happen from Day 1? No.

Do people judge? Yes, many people have told me that I am putting my babys life at risk by sleeping with him. “What if you roll on top of him?” or “What happens when you’re so tired and deep in sleep that you let go and drop him on the floor?” or “What if he gets caught around the duvet?” etcetc… Admittedly, those thoughts have crossed my mind, but since having #JasperBean, I have been such a light sleeper that it didn’t feel like it was an issue at all. This co-sleeping arrangement has worked for us and will probably work for many other families too.

This post is about why I think co-sleeping is great and why I think it’s worked for us. I am not saying other sleeping arrangements are worse or bad in any shape or form. This is just my opinion formed from experience, reading and past research as a psychologist.

Many little ones including #JasperBean find it hard to fall asleep or may wake up in the middle of the night from night terrors. I remember just a twinkle of light would keep him awake all night. Hence I resorted to covering his eyes with a muslin! I know, you’re now thinking and maybe even saying out loud that I’m a bad mum and putting my baby’s life at even more risk than just co-sleeping! It worked for me and I kept his eyes covered no longer than what was needed. Along with many parents, I found this process frustrating and stressful especially after a long day running after him or at work. After putting myself in his shoes and looking at it from his point of view. I knew he was still learning how to fall asleep (yes, really!) and not trying to be difficult or spiteful. He was suffering as much as I was, if not more. Lack of sleep or bad quality of sleep has detrimental effects that surpasses a feeling of tiredness or lowered concentration rate.  In an adult, sleep deprivation can contribute to but is not limited to:

  • serious health issues, such as;
    • heart diseases
    • strokes
    • diabetes
  • affecting cognitive processes, such as;
    • thinking
    • learning
    • memory retention
    • reasoning
    • problem solving
    • judgement
  • depression
  • aging of skin
  • weight gain

In children, sleep deprivation doesn’t only result in a tired, fussy and emotional child. As listed above, the effects of lack of sleep in an adult applies to children as well. A study by Rebecca G. Astill of more than 35,000 children between the ages of 5 and 12 revealed that those who had shorter periods of sleep were more prone to behavioural problems and lower academic achievements when compared to those who were better rested.

So sleep is very important regardless of what age you are!

Solitary Sleepers

Many parents choose to have “solitary sleepers” where the child sleeps in their own room away from the parents, and at the same time teaching them independence from an early age. This maybe every new parents ideal situation when it comes to sleeping arrangements. I certainly thought I would enforce this, but sometimes there are other factors that don’t allow it, such as house crowding or the convenience of night feedings. Personally, I just had a very clingy baby that would cry all day and night when separated from another human body. In which case, I fell into the “roomshare“/”bedshare” camp.

So what are the arguments behind each arrangement?

There are many research that has claimed that children who sleep individually at a young age will learn to self soothe and fall asleep independently more quickly and potentially night wean and sleep through the night more easily. Kathleen Dyer Ramos, PhD, at the University of California-San Francisco’s Fresno Medical Education Programhas suggested that sleeping arrangement and parents satisfaction level are directly correlated. In her research, she found that mums who let their children sleep individually (solitary sleepers) have a higher level of satisfaction. After reading this, I thought I definitely needed to kick #JasperBean out of my bed, it was easier said than done! So can we conclude that this IS the best arrangement? Well, lets look at the other side of her research.

Co-Sleepers

Other than “solitary sleepers”, there are also 2 other groups housed under co-sleepers: Intentional co-sleepers and Reactive co-sleepers, who either “roomshare” or “bedshare”. The former decides to co-sleep right from the beginning and the latter is a result of circumstances and usually after the child has turned 1 years old. All 3 group had to fill in a survey and report on the child’s sleeping state and pattern. Such as unwillingness to fall asleep and night wakings that were difficult to calm. The survey also included questions directed at the mums point of view, satisfaction level and whether they thought the sleeping arrangement was problematic. It was found that mums in the intentional and reactive co-sleeper group had reported a higher frequency of night wakings. Although, when this was reported against the satisfaction level, reactive co-sleepers perception of problematic sleeping behaviour was much higher. Therefore even though they are in the same situation, why did reactive co-sleepers feel worse? This is apparently due to the parents perception and how their reaction to a sleep problem may be interpreted differently in either group. Most mums in the reactive co-sleeper group expect their little ones to sleep by themselves but don’t. Due to certain circumstances, for example, it might not even be due to house crowding or feeding, it could be when a child can walk and there is literally no way to stop the kid from going into your room/bed or night terrors that keep your little ones up at night. So in your tired state of mind you let them sleep in your bed to appease the situation, but in reality this is not what you or the family initially intended or wanted. In a lot of cases, the parents family view and values may differ resulting in arguments. Moreover when you aren’t able to adapt to the situation quick enough, too much focus may be placed on the child’s sleeping behaviour and could be perceived as problematic.

In reality, a child’s sleeping needs, pattern and stages from birth onwards will continually change. As a child grows, their curiosity and education of their surroundings are all environmental stimulants, throw their imaginations into the mix and the result could be night terrors and nightmares as they are still too young to separate fantasy from reality. Statistics have revealed that amongst 0-4 year olds, a third will have regular night wakings and need their parents to help them to return to sleep.

So although sleep is very important, it may not always be easy to get kids to sleep well. What is important is to understand that this is just a phase and there will be a transition period. Personally, I had resorted to co-sleeping with #JasperBean from an early stage so that we could all get some sleep. I have also learnt that sleeping in the same bed as my little one has provided me, S and #JasperBean with comfort. Therefore the “problems” of night wakings or crying and screaming at night aren’t really perceived as an issue to me. Honestly, waking up to my little ones face is the best thing I can wake up to (no offence to S!). Research has shown that another benefit of co-sleeping is children are more self reliant and have shown to have more social independence. This is because when kids wake up at night, it is much easier for parents to calm and soothe them. Hence they form a stronger sense of secure attachment. Knowing the benefits of sleep and especially co-sleeping has made me realise that I don’t need to reclaim my bed in a hurry. Don’t get me wrong, I am slowly transitioning him into his own bed, but I’m not too worried if this doesn’t happen in the next few weeks/months/(probably not years) because right now, we are getting some quality sleep even though sometimes I’m still finding myself being kicked or punched in the middle of the night.

Sleep is a much debated topic and there is no conclusion on which type of sleep arrangement is best. What has worked for me may not work for others. However, I believe that if you can mentally prepare your partner and yourself to a certain extent, you will be more happy and open to accept the situation you are faced with. Research and experience have shown that prior communication with S (hubby) about our values, expectations and advantages and disadvantages of each sleeping arrangement and making sure that our little one is safe whilst asleep is the best preparation and arrangement out there.

Do you agree or disagree? What are your views on family sleeping arrangements and how have you coped with the changes? I would love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading! Until next time…

Love… MsMamaBean x

Sources

Astill, R. G., Van der Heijden, K. B., Van IJzendoorn, M. H., & Van Someren, E. J. W. (2012). Sleep, cognition, and behavioral problems in school-age children: A century of research meta-analyzed. Psychological Bulletin, 138, 1109–1138.

Dyer, K., Youngclarke, D. M., Anderson, J. E. (2007). Parental perceptions of sleep problems among co‐sleeping and solitary sleeping children. Infant and Child Development, 16, 417 – 431.

Ferrie, J. Sleep, December 2007.

Harvard Medical School: “Sleep, Performance, and Public Safety,” “Sleep, Learning, and Memory,” “Sleep and Mood.”

Marije C.M. Vermeulen, Rebecca G. Astill, Jeroen S. Benjamins a , Hanna Swaab, Eus J.W. Van Someren, Kristiaan B. van der Heijden. (2016). Temperament moderates the association between sleep duration and cognitive performance in children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 144, 184–198.


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32 comments

  1. themariarita

    Loved your honesty and forwardness about this topic… So much criticism always arises in social media that it sometimes makes parents’ life really hard with raising children. Every family should be able to find their own balance in life and what best fits their children. Congratulations on your blog!

    Reply

    1. msmamabean

      All I wanted to achieve from this post is show that parents should communicate and empower one another with their knowledge and experience. So thank you for your comment, it really means a lot to me.

      Reply

  2. sarah

    co-sleeper or solitary sleeper… either way just let mama sleep 🙂 I loved how straight forward this article was! thanks for sharing, i have done both ways and lets be honest it all depended on the baby needs at the time!

    Reply

    1. msmamabean

      Totally agree, whatever works for you and the family is the best way!

      Reply

  3. MUMANDTHEBEAUTIES

    Such a great post! My first daughter slept independently in her own room from four months I had it drummed into me about not co sleeping because of the dangers. She would wake up and cry so often in the night we were all exhausted. My second baby I’ve gone with my instincts she room shares at almost 7 months and normally always come in bed with us at some point in the night. She rarely cries. She’s such a happy go lucky baby, I completely agree about waking up and having their little face next to you it’s so special, my daughter has also learnt how to reach out to feed from me thus letting her use her natural instints! I think co sleeping and breastfeeding go hand in hand. Great read 😊

    Reply

    1. msmamabean

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading my post! Thank you so much. I agree with you, it’s so important for us to utilise our maternal instincts and for our babies to do what’s natural to them.

      Reply

  4. mommyingmaars

    What an awesome post! I feel like co-sleeping is important in the early stages of a newborns life. They’re used to being close and comforted inside. After coming out and having to sleep alone it creates issues for everyone involved. I co-slept with all my kids. I still do. I understand the whole SIDS thing but being a light sleeper it was different for me. All kids are safe and never got rolled on or anything. As parents we have to do what works for the family involved. Thanks for sharing mama!

    Reply

  5. oldhouseintheshires

    A great post. Thank you for writing it. #blogstravaganza

    Reply

  6. abbeycoseattle

    We were very determined not to be co-sleepers… struggled with crib and sleep training and around a year started giving up inadvertently. We were just so tired from trying to get her to sleep in a way she didn’t want to! Our daughter is two now and we co-sleep and it doesn’t bother any of us at all 🙂 My husband and I both work full time and its nice to have some family snuggle time at night and in the morning… it makes it feel like we are around each other a lot more.

    Reply

    1. msmamabean

      I totally understand what you mean! Babies change everything and we all just try to make the situation as best as it can be, whatever works for you is the best method! Hugs and support for all mummies.

      Reply

  7. Christopher James Mitchell

    Hey thanks for putting this together and letting me know about this 🙂 I appreciate how upfront you are!

    Reply

    1. msmamabean

      Thank you for your comment! I try to be as honest and unbiased as possible 🙂

      Reply

  8. Sarah

    We are one of those families that got our kids to sleep in their own room early on. For the first two months, each of my 3 kids slept in a pack n play right next to me, and pretty much ended in bed with us because…nursing…but by month 2, we transitioned all of them to their own rooms!

    Reply

    1. msmamabean

      Wow! You have done really well! I’m hoping to re-claim my bed soon, but the snuggles at night are too sweet.

      Reply

  9. Dominique| Perchance to Cook

    My sister does co-sleeping and loves it. I totally agree with you that people are super judgmental especially when it comes to parenting! We should be open to hearing why different things work for different families without judgment.

    Reply

    1. msmamabean

      Definitely agree! Whatever works is the right/best method, I hope your sister doesn’t get judged too badly regarding co-sleeping and continues to enjoy the cuddles and snuggles at night 🙂

      Reply

  10. Ant @ OurCookery.com

    I think you have shown that parents can empower each other with their experiences 🙂 We chose to co-sleep early on and then transition him to his own crib slowly through naps at first (around 4 months) and then he was in his room by the time he was 6 months. I say, whatever works for the family is great.

    Reply

    1. msmamabean

      Thank you Ant! It really is simple isn’t it? Sharing our experience and not being judged is all us parents ask for.

      Reply

      1. Ant @ OurCookery.com

        It is…being able to be vulnerable opens us up to all sorts of learning and growing.

        Reply

  11. Nandita

    Totally agree with your perspective on sleeping arrangements. I feel a baby’s slumber should be governed by considerations for safety, quality sleep and convenience. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for the other.

    Reply

    1. msmamabean

      Absolutely, there is no one size fits all.

      Reply

  12. feelingmumyet

    Very interesting article. I have older adopted children so I wouldn’t know a thing about babies, but I will share your post with some of my friends with newborn babies. #brilliantblogposts

    Reply

    1. msmamabean

      Thank you so much, I really appreciate this. Being a mum to any age children has their own challenges.

      Reply

  13. tammymum

    You will not find any judgment from me lovey. I am a big believer in whatever gets you through the day, or night. We don’t go sleep now, I have a one and two year old. We did room share for 6 and 10 months respectively and during those times we did. I hunk everyone just needed to sleep. I always said I wouldn’t before I had children however until you’re in those shoes you just don’t know do you. So like you say, do what works for you! Thanks for joining us at #familyfun

    Reply

    1. msmamabean

      Thanks for having me and not judging! Definitely having support from fellow mummies is a massive boost! X

      Reply

  14. Cathryn Wood (@littlepaperswan)

    We co-slept for a good 3 or 4 months and it worked well for us at the time we then moved my daughter into a single bed and it was the best thing we did. More sleep for us all. Do what works for you. Any sleep is better than no sleep!

    #MarvMondays

    Reply

  15. mamaloveslochy

    How refreshing to to see someone else co-sleeps and it works – I love cosleeping with my little one, I’ve read up entirely on the risks and most importantly how to prevent them. The worst part of the judgement is that people seem to think you’re somehow ignorant to the dangers!
    I think I’d be more likely to lose sleep if he was in another room as I’d constantly want to be checking on him to make sure he hasn’t suffocated/ choked/ or entangled himself somehow!!

    #MarvMondays xx

    Reply

    1. msmamabean

      100% agree! Co-sleeping doesn’t make us any less of a loving mum than someone who sleeps separately. A tired mum that hasn’t had a good nights sleep is never a good thing in any household.

      Reply

  16. laurenorderblog

    I have never co-slept with mine, but this is a beautifully written article. Especially hate when people judge just because people parent differently. Raise them how you want! Love it!

    Reply

    1. MsMamaBean

      Thank you for your lovely comment Lauren!

      Reply

  17. Megan Bidmead (@whispertoroar)

    This is a really interesting post. My son is turning out to be a nightmare sleeper, and currently sleeps best next to me. I was absolutely petrified of this to start with (despite following all the safe co-sleeping rules) but it’s got the point where we can’t carry on being sleep deprived. Definitely no judgment from me. People from different cultures around the world co-sleep with their babies and probably think we’re crazy for putting them in their own beds!

    Reply

    1. MsMamaBean

      Sleep is so important for the whole family! For me, sleep deprivation has always been more dangerous than co-sleeping! I hope it works out well and know that your little nightmare sleeper will one day learn to sleep independently.

      Reply

Let me know what you think!

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