4 Ways to Make Co-Sleeping Work for You
I love co-sleeping. But it hasn’t always worked smoothly for my family. We’ve had to learn what works for us, and what doesn’t. Here are four keys I’ve found to making co-sleeping a practical and enjoyable choice.
1. Share a bed time.
Like many parents, we’ve always put our children to bed by nursing, rocking, or snuggling. Many times, this works just fine, but during some stages we have found that trying to put our children to bed can take a very long time. When we started spending an hour or more each night getting our son to bed, we realized it was time to share a bed time. When you are going to bed at the same time as your child (or children), it’s much easier because you aren’t planning on going anywhere. Children seem to sense this, and fall asleep easier. Even if they take a long time to fall asleep, you’re getting valuable sleep for yourself instead of wasting your time waiting around. Another benefit to this is that when you all go to bed at a traditionally “adult” bedtime, say 9 or 10 PM, children aren’t likely to wake up super early in the morning.
2. Get a big bed.
Co-sleeping families need big beds. I mean, I suppose it’s possible to share a smaller bed and just be super cramped. But I want to enjoy my sleep! That’s why my family has a lot of bed. We have a king sized mattress with another twin sized mattress pushed up against it. With this setup, we are comfortable with two adults, one child, and one baby in the bed. If (really, when) we have more children, we will need more space. It’s surprising how much space children take up! We’re blessed to have a very accommodating master bedroom, but there are creative ways to fit a lot of bed in smaller spaces, too.
3. Be safe.
Co-sleepers can keep their kids safe by following a few guidelines. Avoid co-sleeping if you are using drugs or alcohol, or taking sleep medications. A glass of wine with dinner is probably not a problem, but if you aren’t safe to drive then you may not be safe to co-sleep. Avoid adding a lot of loose bedding to the bed. A fitted sheet and individual blankets for each person who wants one may work best. Keeping the room warm enough to be comfortable is also a good idea. Babies shouldn’t have blankets or pillows, and any blankets and pillows on the bed should be kept away from baby’s face. Of course, a bed rail, bed bumper, or simply pushing the bed up against the wall will keep kids safe from rolling off. It is also not recommended to allow older children to sleep next to babies. My family’s arrangement is: a bed bumper, then the baby, then me (mom), then dad, then our older son, then another bed bumper. Pets should not sleep on the bed with co-sleeping babies (but they can sleep with older children in a separate bed). Please read the full guidelines shared in the link above for more detailed information on sleep safety!
4. Be intentional about intimacy.
Contrary to popular belief, the family bed is not where a couple’s sex life goes to die. Well, it can be for some couples, but it certainly doesn’t have to be! When a family co-sleeps, the couple has to be intentional about finding time and space for romance and intimacy. It may not be as simple as making love in bed before going to sleep, but it’s really not very complicated either.
Despite a recommendation I have heard to have “silent, nearly motionless sex” in the bed while children sleep nearby, I really don’t recommend that. Not only does that sound very non-romantic and non-enjoyable, but the lack of privacy and the creepiness factor are serious issues. So in terms of location, I am definitely suggesting OUT of the family bed, and in a different room. Beyond that, use your creativity! A guest bedroom is easy enough, but a couch or even a cozy “love nest” on the floor are other ideas.
As for the time, there are a few options I have found. Some couples may be lucky enough to have a cooperative child who goes to bed before them with no problems, and they don’t have to follow my first tip to share a bed time. In that case, right after baby’s bedtime is prime time for sexy time! However, even if the family does share a bed time, that doesn’t mean it has to be every night. I’ve found that my children don’t notice if some nights my husband and I sneak out for a little while after they fall asleep. Another option is to take advantage of nap times, or sneak out in the morning when the kids aren’t up yet. Remember to lock the door wherever you are, to protect your privacy in case they wake up.
Co-sleeping doesn’t destroy intimacy, unless you let it. But in some cases, the decision to co-sleep may be a problem from the start. It is important for both parents to be on board, and both parents to want to share their bed. If one spouse resents the other in this choice, it is likely to cause intimacy problems no matter how intentional and creative you are about making it work.
On that note, both parents should be willing to hear the other out when it comes to sleeping arrangements. The desire to co-sleep is valid, and it has many benefits. But there are also drawbacks, and if one person feels strongly about them, that should be taken seriously. Remember that you are a marriage team, and a parenting team! Make a choice that you can both be happy with.