Eight years ago, and a few months after the birth of her first child, Nat was a tired and cold new mama who just wanted some sleep. Not planning on ‘co-sleeping’ as a lifestyle choice, Nat was getting weary from the frequent night wakings, so with husband Bob working away, she started bringing baby Phoenix into bed.
“We were not keen on the idea of co-sleeping before we had kids, or even once we did. It was just something that happened thanks to a combination of Phoenix breast feeding up to 10 times per night, the mid-winter temperatures and Bob being away.
“I initially started bringing him in to our bed when he was about four months old and it carried on for around two and half years until I was about to deliver our second child.”
The same pattern emerged with daughter Frankie and with third child Violet, born nearly three years later. As Nat points out, it didn’t happen at bedtime, just later on in the night for warmth, feeding and cuddles.
“We have always had a bedtime routine for the kids, meaning Bob and I have time together in the evening to talk or watch a show, and so we never go to bed with the kids already in our space.
“Most nights we hear little footsteps in the hallway at around 2am and Frankie and Violet, who share a room, jump into bed with us. Sometimes they are so quiet we don’t hear them and wake up to find them already in our bed like sneaky little ninjas.”
Why co-sleeping is no-sleeping. As every parent will know… this is the realities of co-sleeping.
Another couple, with similar night-time ‘musical-bed’ arrangements, are Lucy and husband Shane.
“Eddie is almost four and he will frequently hop into our bed at midnight, armed with a pillow and ten of his favourite teddies. Occasionally Shane will fall asleep in Eddie’s bed after a hard day at work, but mostly it has been Eddie sleeping in with us over the last couple of years.”
Unlike Nat and Bob however, Lucy and Shane only have a queen size bed and Lucy finds it harder to sleep with Eddie and his numerous teddies lying at odd angles under the duvet.
“This pattern of him sleeping in our bed, or us settling and then sleeping in with him, has come and gone in waves over the years. Sometimes a night passes where he stays in his bed, or there might be weeks where he wasn’t feeling well, or he had a bad week at daycare and needed extra reassurance.
“Whatever his reasons for seeking us out in the night, we have just relaxed and gone with it, as our night-time routine has never been that regimented.”
Carly and Dave decided against bringing 15-month-old Reuben into their bed after some initial experimentation when he was tiny. Carly admits however, that night-time waking and sleep deprivation can drive you to do crazy things.
“Reuben moved into his own room when he was four months and there have been times when I’ve slept in the chair or on the rug next to his cot, when he was very restless or sick. That tiny, furry rug on his floor felt wonderful when I was a walking zombie and could fall sleep anywhere.
“In the early days both Dave and I were petrified of squashing Reuben, so neither of us could sleep if he was in our bed, and to be honest he seemed to sleep better in his own cot. Now that he is a toddler, he joins us in bed for morning cuddles, which are precious.”
As Eddie gets closer to his fourth birthday, Lucy is considering becoming more proactive about helping Eddie to sleep happily alone in his bed.
“Both Shane and I would benefit from having more uninterrupted sleep and it is so important for our dynamic and closeness as a married couple that we have some alone time for us too!”
Both Lucy and Nat know from talking about this with friends, that they are certainly not alone with the bed swapping and cosy sleeping arrangements.
“Let’s be honest when you become a parent, it is all about the sleep. And the coffee, but mostly the sleep,” says Nat.
“Of course, we would have a better night’s rest if they weren’t in our bed, but I know that like their big brother Phoenix, the girls will eventually grow out of it and until that point we are just going to enjoy the cuddles for a little while longer.”