We're still co-sleeping at 6… with no end in sight

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Nwmama
Sleeping Beauty
By: Premnath ThirumalaisamyCC BY 2.0

Fifteen years ago when I became a parent for the first time, I wasn't familiar with the term Attachment Parenting or co-sleeping. I did know that my son was my world, and never having him far from me made sense.

Also, let's be honest — as a single mama who was wiped out most of the time, letting my baby come into my bed where we both slept peacefully seemed like a no-brainer. My son grew, and his need for his own space became clear, so the transition to his own bed was pretty non-eventful.

Now, two kids later and armed with a whole lot more knowledge than I had back then, my husband and I are still sharing a bed with our six-year-old daughter.

Like many parents, we didn't set out with a hard and fast plan — we sort-of developed into a co-sleeping family. My daughter had a crib, and for some of the time was happy enough to sleep there for part or all of the night. Around the time she was two, we noticed her needing a lot of time with us and having some struggles with separation anxiety.

We realized how hard it was for her to be away from us for much of the day. It was hard for all of us, but unless we won the lottery there really wasn't an immediate solution. During this period of time she transitioned fully into our bed. Yes, it is somewhat backwards from what most families do, but it was what she needed at the time. Having the nighttime to bond and snuggle with her has been invaluable. She needed to be close to her parents.

The three of us have learned to share the space, and everyone gets plenty of sleep. I can't count the times that she has reached for me in the night, and mumbled "I love you mama" in her sleep, and that is the most special thing in the world.

Hearing her sleepy voice telling me of her beautiful dreams is something I know is fleeting. My hope is that her ability to enjoy and embrace the quiet night hours will stay with her throughout her life, rather than feeling like the dark night is a scary and lonesome time.

Over the last couple of years we have broached the subject of when to move her into her own bed, and I know without a doubt that the day will come when she is ready to make that move. I also know that many people have strong opinions about children sleeping with their parents — I have heard many negative comments about this, and I no longer feel the need to convert anyone to my way of thinking.

I have felt judged by family members at times, but have found that the more I feel confident in what I'm doing, the less it matters when others criticize. I would never expect that anyone else should parent exactly how I do, and I'm pretty sure we are all trying to do the very best we can.

I am continuously surprised that when this subject comes up that so many parents admit to feeling badly when they do allow their child to sleep with them. Co-sleeping isn't right for every family, but it makes me sad to see parents that have been taught to punish their children for craving closeness, and have learned to ignore their own feelings of sadness at enforcing this.

Nurturing our children is the best way to help them eventually become strong and independent people. My daughter and I are very close, but she is absolutely her own person, and is changing and growing every day.

I hope that she will always feel respected and supported by us as she spreads her own wings, and know that no matter what happens in her life, she will always have a soft place to land.

  1. Love it. Our youngest is 5, nearly 6 and still sleeps with us most nights. Out of small bed factor we can only fit one at a time from the kids, so smallest gets most dibs, others jump in from time to time, and I am fairly sure that if we had a super duper much more than king size, then we would all six be in together every now and again.
    Our kids have all slept in with us from small, and now jump in with each other. I laughed so hard when I saw all four of them squished in one of the single beds.
    I love that my son will half open an eye and move to make more space when I come to bed. One of my girls will move to let me get in then fill that space right back in with the cuddle sleep. Our other daughter will give me a huge 'squeeze', tell me to face her way, then drift off to sleep, having nightfights with her dad for that inch more space. Our eldest, sadly, is now almost adult sized at 12 and will simply come and chat before sleep time and give the biggest hugs and a goodnight kiss. I miss her jumping in too.
    I, too, love those half asleep proclamations of love and dreams!

  2. what a lovely article… thank you. we do not co-sleep, at least not like you do it, so it was nice to see somebody else's view on that. mu husband coming from a family with kids not allowed anywhere near their parents bedroom (fairly emotionless family and I often wonder how my great loving husband could came from there πŸ™‚ ) and me coming from very loving enviroment where my dad would fall asleep with me in my bed every night and in the morning I would come and "finish" my sleeping in their bed (until I was 15 or so….wait, I still do it when I am there LOL) And that is how we do it here. our lil ones start their night in their bed/crib (which I have in my bedroom) and then as morning comes, they move/are moved to our bed.

  3. We don't co-sleep but my husband and I *often* talk about how we can't WAIT until we can have our son in the bed with us! He is 18-months now and has always slept really well in his own bed and his own space. Actually, we've tried a few times when he was sick or we were travelling and it always ends up in a nightmare. He really needs his own quiet space to sleep. However, I'll never forget the time when my son was an infant and he was sleeping in his own room and me, my husband and my two cats were all in our room and it just hit me that it felt wrong! I thought, "The whole family is in here! If even our cats feel the need to be close to us when we all sleep, how can we just let him be in there alone?!"
    Cherish those beautiful sleepy moments with your sweet child! You and her will decide when it's time to end it.

  4. We co-sleep with our 2 year old (and mostly always have) and I love that you mentioned some of the really nice parts of co-sleeping. I – the adult mama – absolutely LOVE cuddling with my kid at night. I LOVE waking up next to him on the weekends (on weekdays I am gone before he wakes up) and having him light up and say, "Mama!" and cuddle in happily. I love watching him sleep so peacefully if I'm reading a bit before I go to sleep. I love catching him talking in his sleep! Or LAUGHING, omg, that is the best thing in the world. Just last night I was readjusting and saw him WAVE in his sleep. It feels good to be near to him. And I am happy to watch him grow into his own person and make his choices and leave the family bed, but it isn't often enough that people mention how nice it can be.

  5. We're "in transition" and have been for 2 years (she's almost 4), but I'm not forcing the issue. My daughter has her own bed, in her own room, and over half the time she falls asleep without me staying with her, but usually wanders over to our bedroom at around 2-4 am and kicks her dad out of bed. This past week it's been 7am, which my husband is thrilled about, but which is bittersweet for me. I've enjoyed all of my snuggle time, and I actually sleep better with her there.
    Anyway, 6 is still very young, and sleep is a precious commodity, so you should do what works for your family. (If you wanted to give her a gentle nudge at some point in the future, a trundle bed would be a good stepping stone)

  6. We've been co-sleeping with our 6 month old from the very beginning and wouldn't have it any other way. Sometimes I get advice from people to never let our daughter come into our bed, not even once, or she'll always want it. Then I just smile and say nothing. My inlaws have co-slept with their children as well, and as my mother in law puts it, "children have to grow up surrounded by affection". We have no plan for how long to co-sleep, but I suppose at some point, she'll want her own room.

  7. I am still confused as to why people make an issue of where kids sleep. Do you ask two adults what their sleeping arrangements are when they are in a couple, or if you are good sleepers or insomniacs etc? No, because its none of your business and a weird question to ask. Suddenly there are children and its every persons business. Children are on loan to us, they are small for such a brief time before becoming their own people who don't "need" their parents so intimately. Enjoy that time in whatever way you can.

  8. My parents co-slept with me until I was about 4, then "upgraded" me to my own room, because I was a "big girl" (I'm guessing my parents wanted their bed to themselves…). I was none too thrilled by the transition, but gradually adjusted. Usually my dad would come to put me to bed β€” he'd play a few songs on the recorder (and as I got older, we'd play together, and he'd harmonize), and we always ended with the same one, and then I'd generally fall asleep with my head on his shoulder. I guess he slipped out once I was asleep. For several years, if my dad was away on business (not a frequent occurrence, but it did happen sometimes), I'd sleep with one of his sweaters (unwashed), since it smelled like him. That bedtime routine was really special to me. I can't remember when / why it ended… Another tradition we had was that in the morning when I got up, I'd go downstairs for breakfast, and snuggle on my dad's lap for a bit before moving to my own chair and eating breakfast. I'm married and living with my husband now, but I still snuggle on my dad's lap when I'm visiting my parents! (The first time that happened after I got married, my dad commented that he'd never had someone else's wife sit on his lap before!)

    • This really made me miss my Dad. He's been gone for 9 years and I used to love sitting in his lap, even as an adult. Thanks for helping me remember a wonderful memory.

  9. I didn't co-sleep as a baby, but when I got older and I spent many nights in bed with my mom. A lot of times we would end up watching tv in her bed, so I would bring in my pillow, and I would just end up staying there all week. I even did that in high school and when I visited from college.
    When my Mom was dying, a lot of my family members commented on how brave I was to climb into her hospital bed with her, and I could only reply that it was the most natural thing to do. It wasn't brave, but it was what we both needed. Up until her very last breath, I was cuddled next to her, and it's because I was never denied affection, no matter my age.
    So good for you for caring for your daughters needs, Mama!

  10. Good for you for not listening to all those people who seem to have soooo many opinions about how co-sleeping will just ruin children; turning them into spoiled,parent sucking, monsters. As long as everyone is getting a good night sleep who cares?
    My two kiddos each had their turns sharing our bed until they were weaned (near 2yrs old)–about the same time they developed pointy elbows and a strange need to poke their toes into my underwear while they were sleeping. Then they moved into their own beds. But even now, on Sunday mornings, I'll find my 15yr old son curled up at the bottom of the bed reading the funnies and my 8yr old daughter snuggled at my side. Best part of the weekend!

  11. We co-slept in our king size bed until our son was 10 months old. And then HE wouldn't stand it anymore, flopping and flipping, and so when we moved him into his own room (a twin mattress on the floor) he sleeps much better. He doesn't go the whole night, though, usually around 3am is when he wants me or daddy to come sleep with him until we have to get up for work. So far this arrangement is going okay, and he seems to be getting what he needs!

  12. Thank you for sharing. I had been questioning our half-night to whole night co-sleeping with our 10 month old for no good reason other than that it is different than what the moms around me are doing. Our daughter spends the first part of the night in her crib so we can have some time to ourselves, but we bring her into bed at some point in the night. It is wonderful and we are all happy. The time in the morning when she climbs around and makes faces at us is the best. I need to remember to be confident in what is right for my family. Also, I co-slept with my parents as a baby (and had many morning snuggle sessions with them as an older child) and grew into a very independent child and adult.

  13. Amen! You go mama! In my eyes, co-sleeping or kids transferring to the parents' bed during the night is one of the BEST examples of parents following their gut feeling, which is right in 99,5% of the cases.

    (Without judging people who don't co-sleep! For some people and kids, full time 'cribbing' can be a very logical option as well!)

  14. Love it!We have 4 of us in the bed now, me, my husband, my nearly 4 year old son, and my 18 month old daughter (who curls up at the foot of the bed like a puppy.) With our crazy work hours, this is how we get our "together" time.

  15. I love that your experience with your family has been so positive! Thank you for sharing.

    I didn't co sleep with either of my kids; I can't stand how little room there is, now smushed I feel at night. The hubs already hogs a lot of the bed so adding in our 6 1/2 year old boy, or infant daughter, is just annoying. The sleep I do get between the tentative attempts at making myself comfortable without waking up the baby, is poor as I end up with sore muscles. >_<

  16. –> Co-sleeping isn't right for every family, but it makes me sad to see parents that have been taught to punish their children for craving closeness, and have learned to ignore their own feelings of sadness at enforcing this. <– THIS!!

    The amount of 'you'll see' and fear mongering I got over bed sharing with our tiny baby was insane. She's now 9 months and has slept with us every single night of her life. At 6 months we side-carred her cot to give us all a bit more room, and some space for her to stretch out on her own should she want to. She still spends most of every night curled up on my chest, or nestled in the crook of my arm. I wouldn't have it any other way. When I go back to work in 3 months it will be fabulous for reconnecting after missing her all day. It's my number one recommend to any parent having issues with their child's sleep.

  17. As many have said before me, you gotta do what is right for your family. For my parents that meant having two beds in their room, one a few inches higher than the other for separation. The baby got to sleep in the bed for two or three years with mom and dad and anyone who needed or wanted to could climb into the other bed during the night. As we grew older I shared a bed with my sisters a lot, first by necessity and later because we preferred it. When my dad was deployed for a year there were four of us still at home, ages ranging from 10-18, and my mom hardly ever slept alone. Now I'm grown and married and can say that I don't think I'm maladjusted or have any kind of Oedipal complex or whatever people say will happen. The only effects I can really see from our bed sharing is that we are very close and comfortable with each other as a family, and my husband (who grew up sharing a bed with his brother and sister) and I didn't have to adjust to sleeping with another person at all. In fact we couldn't wait! So if you and your husband are getting enough sleep and finding time for *ahem* privacy, then you're doing just fine πŸ™‚

  18. I don't know why people care if your kids sleep with you or not! That's so weird! My son slept with me on and off til he was 12 or 13, until I met my husband (single mom before that, just my son and I). I took a lot of flak from family for that. Fast forward, I now have a 5 year old, who after the first several months of sleeping with us, went to his own bed and room, and things couldn't have been better for all of us, because I believe the "whatever works" philosophy strongly! One day, when he was around 2, he took a nap with me in my bed, and ever since, has wanted to sleep with us, which we didn't mind at all…until it became clear that he is an acrobat while sleeping, and does a lot of hitting and kicking as well. We kept trying to make it work, but it just didn't. We had to "transition" him back to his bedroom (he would NOT sleep in a bed in our room, or the floor, had to be OUR bed only), and it was a seriously painful week that we barely made it through. He is back to sleeping great in his room, for the most part, and we'll walk him back in when he comes in during the night. If he comes in in the morning, he can get in with us, because we know we're pretty much done sleeping anyway:) Whatever works!

  19. My hope is that her ability to enjoy and embrace the quiet night hours will stay with her throughout her life, rather than feeling like the dark night is a scary and lonesome time.
    Amen! I grew up being scared and lonely in the dark. My brother was born when I was 2, so my mom's nighttime parenting needed to go to him. (She says she did some co-sleeping with me as a baby, but of course that's not the part I remember.) My parents were certain that I needed an "appropriate" early bedtime and would put me to bed literally an hour or more before I got sleepy, so I had lots of time alone with my worries. πŸ™

    I did not want to do this to my child! But I assumed co-sleeping would end gradually when he was 2 or 3 years old. In fact, that was only the point when I stopped spending most of the night with him. He still needed a parent lying with him until he fell asleep until he was 7. It was a drag sometimes, but I'm glad we met his needs. He's very secure now and does a lot of things by himself, and he is NOT afraid of the dark like I was.

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