The Family Bed

Like many parents, we registered for a crib when expecting our firstborn. Though we liked the idea of cosleeping both my husband and I were deep and tumultuous sleepers and so concerned for the safety of one so small in our bed. Still wanting her close, we placed the crib within a couple feet of our bed. For months after Aria’s birth she slept in our arms or in the carrier or on our chests or in the stroller or the crib…but never in our bed.

Then, at six months she started getting sick. A LOT. Every three weeks for at least 10 days and more often two weeks, with the worst often hitting after about a week. They were bad colds and respiratory infections, with raging fevers topping close to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. We held her in our arms upright to help her breathe and monitor her, trading off sitting up with her. Once well, she didn’t have time to get used to her crib again before another round of illness hit. Finally, when she was 9 months old, I collapsed onto the bed one night in the wee hours and attempted to breastfeed lying down. We’d tried this several times before, but it had never worked for us in the past. Still, I was desperate for some rest. This time, she nursed like a champ.

That moment changed my life and my view of cosleeping. I needed some rest and having her in our bed and nursing allowed me that. We found guidelines for safe cosleeping and followed them strictly – no pillows, blankets below our waists, fitted clothing. We slept fitfully at first, waking to check on her often. But our sleeping had changed with her birth and we found it changed with her in our bed as well. We were aware of her presence. There were still nights we needed to sit up with her (she developed asthma at a year and symptoms peaked at 3am like clockwork) but in between we could rest knowing she was with us. She also slept better with us, an she was a horrible sleeper. We kept the crib up and still had her sleep there during naps and before we went to bed at night but she came to our bed more and more.

We welcomed our second baby into our lives when Aria was two-and-a-half. Aria was still sleeping part of the night in her bed and part of the night in ours. We gently urged her to stay in her bed all night to no avail. With three of us there was no room left in our bed so we purchased a cosleeper secondhand a few weeks before the birth and hoped to bring our newest to bed with us soon. Once born, though, Ani slept like a dream in her cosleeper; she LOVED it, falling asleep peacefully within moments of being placed in it sleepy but awake, and I loved that she was always within arm’s reach. She slept through the night almost from the start. We wanted her with us, but were not about to mess that up.

Not until around 9 months, the same age that Aria came to bed with us, did Ani stop sleeping well. With little room in our bed, I sat up nursing and tried to transfer her; more and more often, though, I would fall asleep with her in my arms, where she would sleep much better than her bed. She wanted to be near us. Aria woke every night crying and begging us to come get her or coming into our room herself. Keith was sleeping on the couch rather than getting socked by flailing toddler arms and legs. No one was getting the rest they needed.

Finally, after months of this and after getting Aria a big girl bed that she hates to sleep in, we gave up. Just last week, Keith and I took apart our bed and put the mattress on the floor. We blew up the air mattress for our travel cot and put it next to ours. We told Aria she could sleep there and that we would sleep next to her on our bed. Ani’s crib stayed up so she’s contained during naps but she has been welcomed into our bed. So far, it has been AMAZING. Our older girl that would sometimes take hours to fall asleep and would only do so with one of us always at her side now willingly puts herself to bed after a few books. She is sleeping peacefully through the night (mostly) with far fewer nightmares. Keith has his spot back and Ani is learning to sleep between us rather than in our arms as we sit up. There are some kinks we’re still working through: Ani is still very intrigued by the setup and often wants to play; also, she sometimes disturbs Aria when crying or trying to play but…We are all getting MORE REST.

It makes me wonder why we’ve fought this so long, why it was so important to us for the girls to have their own space, when they obviously just want so badly to be part of ours. They are still quite little and obviously need to be close to us, otherwise it wouldn’t be making such a difference. I’m not worried about their independence; Aria has more than enough of that and Ani will learn it in time. I’m not worried they will sleep too long with us; that will come when they are ready. For now, we’re enjoying the extra peace that has come with this new arrangement, peace that comes from everyone getting more sleep, from Mama and Daddy getting a couple quiet hours to themselves each night, from our girls feeling more secure.

Aria still has her room and her bed in it but it is not being used so much right now – mainly for the occasional nap or quiet time. And we’re OK with that.


2 thoughts on “The Family Bed

  1. My husband and I butted heads on this very topic before my son was born. We compromised on a co-sleeper, which worked great for us until my son outgrew it. Now it’s a mattress on the floor in our room. Now I’m expecting twins and I am very worried he’ll be kept up all night by crying, so we are trying to move him to his own room. If that doesn’t work, I’m giving up and buying a king-sized bed.

    1. We’re considering a king-sized bed too, just waiting a bit to see how it all works out. Also have considered moving her bed into our room and using that room for a play/craft room but keep thinking it’s important for her to have her own space as an option. We’ll see…

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