Does she have to move out already? :(
March 15, 2019 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Is co-sleeping more beneficial to me than it is to my baby, and should I end it? If so, how on earth?

To be frank, the only reason I am thinking about ending it is that I don't want to spoil my baby's sleeping habits, or maybe because I don't want to make her too dependent on me, but the truth is I adore cosleeping and if it were my choice I would not end it yet. Sleeping with her is my favorite part of the day so please be brutally honest because I am 100% biased.

Baby will turn one in April. Right now, she sleeps in one of those cribs with a removable panel, and the open side is attached to our bed. She sleeps on my side. I wake up a couple of times during the night, but this isn't really a big issue for me (I don't sleep much at all and tend to wake up for breaks because I get bored or restless). My husband loves to have her with us as well, but he does pass out and disengages completely (which makes it easier for me, otherwise I would feel really guilty about spoiling his sleep). However, the whole cosleeping thing was my idea and we are doing it because I wanted to.

I feel like spending the night with her has helped me deal with guilt from going back to work and also it feels really special. Like okay I am missing out during the day, but I have the nights. She 100% relies on nursing throughout the night for comfort and nourishment (I would say she gets half of her calories during the night! She doesn't really eat much during the day). I work full time, and in my mind night-nursing is what has kept our breastfeeding relationship really solid (as well as my milk production). I worry that stopping night feeding would precipitate the end of breastfeeding altogether, which I was hoping to continue for at least another year.

So I have all these reasons why cosleeping is amazing and one of the highlights of my day, but I am worried that my biases are blinding me, and that actually one year is enough and any longer would be bad for her in the long run (psychologically for example). I fear that it will be hard on her to move to her own room when she's older. Or that she should be learning to sleep on her own and I am impeding that growth. I don't have it in my heart to let her cry it out in another room though.

So please, tell me if I just need to deal with it and wrap it up. Also, please tell me how?? How can I do it without traumatizing her? As with most 1-year-olds separation anxiety has settled in and she wants to be around me all the time (I want to be with her as well so it's really hard to push against that - do I have to?). Also, how do I safeguard against screwing up our breastfeeding situation?

Thank you for reading this wall of text.
posted by Tarumba to Human Relations (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What works for you and your family is good. People can come in here with a million different anecdotes, but the only thing that's truly important is what works for you and your family. We always believed that whatever got the maximum amount of people sleeping the maximum amount of hours was the best choice. For us, that meant a lot of cosleeping with my baby, a lot of breastfeeding, and a lot of bed sharing as my kid got older. Every family's arc is going to be different; every baby's arc is going to be different. My baby is now 15, well adjusted, sleeping on his own just fine, happy and secure.

DO WHAT FEELS RIGHT FOR YOU and don't let anyone tell you to do otherwise.

(Also, one tiny anecdote: Mr. BlahLaLa's work schedule was insane the first few years of my baby's life, and frequently the cosleeping time was the only time they spent together on a weekday. You can bet your life I wasn't gonna take that away from either of them.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:46 AM on March 15, 2019 [28 favorites]

The idea that babies should sleep separately from their mothers, and the overall concept that infants can be "spoiled," is a modern Western idea that doesn't square with how humans evolved. Not everyone is able to get the sleep they need with a baby in the bed and it's fine not to, but if it works for you, it is 100% ok and possibly even better for your baby.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:52 AM on March 15, 2019 [26 favorites]

Do what feels right to you. You are right that it might make it difficult for her to adjust to sleeping alone; this may result in you having a toddler who cries, wiggles, jumps, and talks to you all night long. But maybe you want that too? And if you decide you don't, then you can cross that bridge when you come to it.

Totally anecdotally, I coslept with my parents for years and never have adjusted to sleeping alone. In a lot of ways it really hasn't been a problem for me--I shared a bed with my sibling when we were kids, I had roommates in college, and I share a bed with my spouse now. In fact, I could not economically afford a bedroom of my own if I wanted to, so maybe it's an advantage?

People have been sleeping together in piles for millennia. It's modern industrial culture that makes that difficult. Whether it makes it difficult for you in particular, only you can say.
posted by epanalepsis at 9:55 AM on March 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

To add, however, I will say that having a toddler that cries, wiggles, jumps, and talks to you all night long can be hellish. But your future self can sleep train them then (with more effort than you would now, but that's the trade-off).
posted by epanalepsis at 9:56 AM on March 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

You can do whatever feels right for you. My child coslept exclusively until about two and a half, and intermittently until four. It was fine--we both liked it. The worst side effect for us was that they don't like to feel alone at night, but once we realised that was the problem, it was easily taken care of with music or soothing videos.

Said child is sixteen now, and seems to be a healthy, well-adjusted teenager. They still like to listen to music while they sleep, but I did, too, at that age. It was fine. Be kind to yourself and do what makes you and your child happy.
posted by mishafletch at 10:00 AM on March 15, 2019

Your child is in side crib so that will ease the transition when the time comes but I 100% don't see the point of ending co-sleeping until you night wean, and if that's not for years that's fine too.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:07 AM on March 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

N-thing that the anxiety around co-sleeping is a western thing and you should do what works for your family until it doesn’t work anymore. You’ll know when that is.

Anecdotally, I’m Korean and I co-slept until well past being a toddler and shared a room with my parents until I was I think at least 7 or 8. We lived in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment but the bedroom was massive so I had my own bed but room shared out of necessity (we were pretty poor and my parents could not afford a bigger place) until i moved into the living room.

I have grown up to be a person who can sleep pretty much anywhere, I’m pretty sure I can sleep standing up.
posted by like_neon at 10:09 AM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

One year old is still a baby. What babies need or are capable of is not the same as what older children need or are capable of. To put it in perspective, you are OK with her nursing, and do not fear that she will still be nursing when she is 12 or 20 years old. She is in diapers now, you do not fear that she will still be in diapers when she is 12 years old. Etc. Babies feel secure when they can see/hear/feel their primary caregiver(s) nearby. They gradually grow more independent, that is nature's way. Also as showbiz_liz points out, the idea of babies sleeping apart from their mothers/primary caregivers is a VERY recent idea, and in many parts of the world it is still uncommon.

My son co-slept with me until he was about 3 years old. I got him a sheet/blanket set with his favorite cartoon characters on it for his "big boy" bed in his "big boy" room, and we talked for several weeks about how soon he would be sleeping there instead of with Mommy, and that Mommy would always come to him if he needed me. On the appointed night I put him in his bed, and he had a momentary rush of anxiety and asked me to sit with him and hold his hand. I did so until he fell asleep. In the morning I heaped the praise on him for having successfully slept in his big boy bed. On the second night he just asked me to sit for a minute. By the third night it was a done deal, and he never had any sleep issues at any age, and is certainly a healthy well-adjusted adult now. So, in his case, transition to independent sleeping was easy. I do personally believe that 3 is a good age for this. Waiting until much older might be more difficult as older children have more of a sense of "this is how it's always been, and how it should remain", which babies don't. But putting a baby by themselves too young could cause nighttime anxiety that backfires. Do what feels right, and be sensitive to the baby's reaction. And if you get a chance, read some books or articles about sleeping conventions around the world.
posted by RRgal at 10:14 AM on March 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

I think I've shared this before but it really stuck in my mind - an old coworker was at an international conference in Africa, and was speaking with two other attendees from African countries (not sure which). At one point they were talking about their kids, and one of them sort of shyly asked, "hey, I have a weird question... is it true that Americans put their babies in cages?"
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:23 AM on March 15, 2019 [19 favorites]

People used to co-sleep for years as they only had one bed. If you're getting your rest, you are not stunting her development.
posted by jedrek at 10:28 AM on March 15, 2019

It is fine. You are fine. For most people in most cultures in most of human history, there have not been the resources to have one bed per child anyway, so if cosleeping was going to mess us up psychologically we'd have spent 99.98% of human history in said mess and only become psychologically normal in the last few generations. This seems unlikely.

You will hear people say that they've noticed a correlation between children who cosleep and children who sleep badly for years and years. Bear in mind when you hear this that it includes families like mine, who turned to cosleeping because our children were insomniac limpets. It is not evidence that you will be causing trouble for your child all your family if you choose to cosleep.

Also no matter what parenting decisions you make about anything, someone will be around to raise their eyebrows and mutter darkly at you about how you are destroying their future. If you then switch to doing the opposite of that thing, someone else will be along to do the same. It's not a game you can win. Just do whatever works best for yourself and your family.
posted by Catseye at 10:49 AM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yep you do you. For context, mine sleeps with us at two, I’ve know a few who went all the way until 4.

The modern idea of pushing kids away from parents is pretty insane from a long-term historical perspective, and even moreso from an evolutionary biology and ethological perspsctive.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:04 AM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

My child is 12, and still prefers to fall asleep in the bed next to me or his father if he has the opportunity. Those evenings when we lay down together and read and talk and he sings me songs are times I treasure, because with the lights low and both of us warm and comfortable and relaxed, he is more open with me about the events of the day, about his dream, his challenges, his victories, and his fears.

You're not going to spoil her. As long as everyone is getting all the sleep (and other bedroom activities, including privacy) that they need, you're doing it right.
posted by anastasiav at 11:11 AM on March 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

Look I think co sleeping is the latest baby raising trend and the next generation will have their own thing and try not to roll my eyes when people go on about it & even I think you should stick with it. She's safe (which many co sleeping set ups aren't) she likes it you like it & are getting enough sleep, your husband likes it & is getting enough sleep. So keep doing it if it makes you happy. The side cot set up makes it so much easier to train her to sleep in her own bed when you're both ready for it. You have this internet strangers OK to do it.
posted by wwax at 11:36 AM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

It’s totally fine to cosleep with your baby! It sounds like it’s working really well for all of you, which is fantastic. I know a handful of families where the kid and breastfeeding mom slept in a bed together for 2+ years and everyone is well adjusted.

It might be hard for her to learn to sleep in her own room/bed later, but it might not be. If it is hard, you’ll figure it out when you need to.

Breastfeeding is well established by a year in, so I wouldn’t worry too much about maintaining your supply as long as you continue to nurse at least once a day. At some point you may want to night wean, with or without continuing to cosleep. Your body will be able to adjust to make less milk at night but have enough to continue nursing in the morning and evening if you choose to.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:47 AM on March 15, 2019

I am a CIO fanatic but I say if you’re happy, why deprive yourself? It’s okay to enjoy parenting. If you were avoiding it even though you were desperate and miserable I’d say different. But you’re happy and you’re a good mother and you should enjoy this.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:52 AM on March 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

This is absolutely fine and much better for all of you as she's still breastfeeding. All of you are getting better sleep and have lower stress overnight. You and husband waking because she's fussing and crying loudly from another room is not good for anyone.
posted by quince at 12:00 PM on March 15, 2019

Also, even if you were to successfully do CIO now, kids change such a lot all the time. Two years later she could toddling right back into your bed, and impossible to dislodge.
Imagine having gone through all the stress and mini-heartbreak of CIO onlyto be right back where you started! Please go on doing what makes you and the baby happy. Things will change so fast.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:38 PM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

The so-many-calories-at-night thing is called reverse cycling and my younger kid (17 months) does it too. I see no reason to stop co-sleeping. My older kid moved to his own bed easily when he was weaned around 18 months, but ymmv - all kids handle this differently.
posted by valeries at 12:40 PM on March 15, 2019

I am the mom who hated breastfeeding and would have rather jumped out the window than slept with the kids (even having them on the monitor meant I did nothing but doze for four years straight, waking up with every noise or cough or sigh) and I have two amazing sleepers who put themselves to sleep on their own, in their crib, at 6 weeks.

Your situation would be hell on earth for me. But you know what? You're not me! If you're happy and she's happy what's the problem?

Honestly, it probably will be harder to train her to sleep by herself later, but that's not insurmountable. I slept with my mom until I was 13 or 14 (because of lack of space) and I loved the warmth and cuddles, but it was very hard to transition to sleeping on my own. And even that worked out just fine!

Go forth and cosleep.
posted by lydhre at 12:45 PM on March 15, 2019 [8 favorites]

I cannot think of a reason why it would be bad for her psychologically. As many people have said co-sleeping is quite commonplace all over the world and all through history. Sure, you need to have a physically safe setup but you have that. But, the point I wanted to make was that it's ok if something is more beneficial to you than your baby, assuming it doesn't actively harm them or make them unhappy. You matter as well.
posted by plonkee at 3:47 PM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Woman, my kiddo is 5 and we just moved her into her own room - basically because she decided to go because we got her a comfy new mattress. I enjoyed it but was worried - I heard what everyone said about having trouble later if you don't get your child to sleep in their own room as soon as possible.

But there came a time about two years ago when I realized that for the past 3 years I was freaking out about everything. And everything I freaked out about "aahhh, she will never.... take formula. She will never sleep through the night. She will never walk. She will never talk. She will never learn how to tie her shoes. She will never learn how to sleep in her own room!!!!" was so wrong (and my husband, who was so low key about it was like "I think she will,") it just got cartoonish. I was freaking out about sleeping independently until my husband just looked at me and said, "Nobody's going to give her extra points for being able to sleep in her own bed at 3 vs 4, you know. That's not a thing." I think I said something like "Well, I'm her mother and I read that it may stunt her developmentally," and he said something like, "yeah, well I'm a psychiatrist, so I'm going to go to sleep now. Turn out the light when you come in." And that was that conversation.

I thought about that for a while, and then I read an article about parents who when they were little, had just let their kids decide when they wanted to sleep in their own rooms (the mother was reflecting as their kids were coming home from college to stay for break and they all dragged mattresses in the same room and watched movies as they did when they were young). And that just sounded right to me. No weeping, no drama, no pushing kids unnecessarily. Just letting the kids decide when they were ready.

So I just said F it, if everyone is actually sleeping 8 hours a night, I needed to take the win and move on. When our daughter was 3, we moved a cot at the foot of our bed. Sometimes she slept in it, sometimes in her own room, sometimes she slept in our bed and sometimes she switched in the middle of the night. Now - thanks to that new soft mattress when she turned 5, she is mostly in her own bed. She just figured it out. And I got five years sleeping next to my little on and off, which I've got to admit, other than the sprawling legs and pointy elbows, was a lot of fun. She's not weirdly clingy. She's not maladjusted. She is not developmentally stunted. She demonstrates an appropriate level of independence ("I want to pick out my pants! Not you!; I wanted to close the car door!" etc.) She's your average 5-year-old.

I regret nothing.
posted by anitanita at 8:54 PM on March 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

I honestly wish I could give you a hug and tell you that you're obviously doing a great job, you love your baby, and you can trust yourself to figure out when it's time to change the arrangement.

This baby will only be this age once. Enjoy your time with her and trust that you will do right by her.
posted by emjaybee at 9:02 PM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

We were adamantly against co-sleeping... for us. And I could extol the many virtues of sleep independence but that's again just for us. You do you. If a couple kids have taught me anything it's that my judgement of parents as a childless person were laughably naive. Just do what works for you.

I will say I wouldn't worry about a toddler being in another room will disrupt breast feeding... that's not how toddlers have worked in my observation. A 100% more likely concern is a toddler pulling your boob out at an inopportune moment. Because they are a toddler, they know how shirts and bras work.
posted by French Fry at 9:44 AM on March 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

While reading your first paragraph I was waiting for you to say that your child was like 5 or something, but one? By all means co-sleep. From my own experience with babies, which is admittedly pretty small, you're not gonna mess them up by co-sleeping.

Anecdotally, I don't think I ever cl-slept with my parents whatsoever, and all it gave me was crippling insomnia. Whether that actually contributed is left as an exercise to the reader.

Although it's counter intuitive, odds are you're not gonna mess your kid up either way. So why not do it if it works for you as a family?

Good luck to you and yours.
posted by Sphinx at 2:48 PM on March 16, 2019

To be fair, I should add that my kids are5 and 7. I co-slept with both of them until they were...what, 2 years old? And they still come and join us in bed every darned night. I make them fall asleep in their own beds, but they are allowed to come visit in the night if they get lonely...and they do. Every single night. 4 of us in a bed meant for 2. What‘s more, my neighbour‘s kids are 8 and 10, and he told me it‘s the same in their house. I kind of hate it at times but also kind of love it which is why I haven‘t come up with an effective solution.

So, you know, fair warning, this is what the slippery slope might lead to! On the other hand, if I ever decide I really want to put my foot down about staying in your own bed, it‘s goingvto be a hell of a lot easier to explain it to a 5 year old than a 1 year old!

All is good!
posted by Omnomnom at 3:08 PM on March 16, 2019

Thanks everyone, this is great news! It's hard to separate want from need so I am glad to see that in this case there are no conflicts between my preferences and baby's development. I will continue to enjoy spending nights with her but as recommended will definitely be aware of any signs that she's ready to lead the way in transitioning to her own bed. She does have a beautiful room that she never uses, so I'm sure she'll be interested in moving at some point.

I really appreciate your opinions and anecdotes. It feels me with joy to hear that older kids still may want to spend the night as they grow. I hope she wants to do the same.
posted by Tarumba at 9:12 AM on March 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

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