I get it. I really do. After all, I’m a mother myself. The absolutely primal and uncontrollable impulse to stay close to your baby is so deeply rooted in our DNA that it’s almost frightening sometimes. I’m sure evolutionary defensive instincts are what’s at play in this phenomenon, but it feels more like love to me. I just love this little human to the point where I want to be in contact with them 24/7, 365. And hey, the baby doesn’t seem to mind, and there’s just something so beautiful, so maternal, about sleeping next to your baby, that it almost seems crazy not to.
Or at least that’s how some of us experience it…
I know lots of families who co-sleep, some of them even have more than one child sleeping in bed with them and it works beautifully - If they enjoy it and they’re doing it safely, I say co-sleep your heart out.
“I think that children are supposed to sleep with their parents. Many of the sleep problems are to do with sleeping alone.” Margaret and Phil, parents of James, 20 months
However, I also know lots of parents who describe it more like, “Listen, I love you, you love me, that’s established. But I can’t sleep next to someone who hasn’t yet figured out the etiquette involved in sleeping next to another person. And jamming your thumb in my eye at 3:30 A.M. is just simply outside of the lines.”
“Thomas went into his own bedroom pretty early on – we couldn’t sleep and noticed when we went to bed we disturbed him” Sue and Thomas, parents of Thomas, 2 years
And I’ve spoken to more than a few parents who are big on co-sleeping but are shattered and need to get more sleep for the whole family's wellbeing and they want to know if sleep coaching will get their little ones to stop squirming or waking up fifteen times a night to nurse. Which, for the record, your eighteen-month-old does not need to do.
I really wish I had a more satisfying answer for those parents, because like I say, I completely get it. I understand wanting those two best-case-scenarios to live in harmony. Sleep next to your baby but have them not wake you up repeatedly through the night. That would be magical, no question
And it is possible BUT it is rarely the case for parents who are reaching out to me, for a couple of reasons. One, all babies are different some are very animated sleepers. It’s just a fact. They twist and turn and readjust themselves a thousand times a night and will often end up completely on the other side of a queen-sized bed with their feet towards the headboard – this works for your baby but not for parents. Two, some babies are really sensitive to their environment and when they wake up in the night and see you lying next to them, they get excited. They want you to interact with them so they try to engage with you and then what might have been a brief awakening turns into a full-blown wake-up.
So can sleep coaching alleviate this?
It’s possible that you could see some success in your child’s sleep habits by supporting them to fall asleep more independently at bedtime while still co-sleeping in the nights, set up a flexible routine in the day which optimises and priorities sleep and wean away sleep associations depending on age but if you’re having sleep struggles now with co-sleeping you’re not likely to see the same kind of results you will if you get them sleeping in their own sleep space, in their own room, without any distractions.
For those of you who are sad about giving up those magical cuddles in your bed, I have a suggestion that has helped my own family and many of those that I’ve worked with. Set aside fifteen or twenty minutes every morning, after your kids are out of bed and well-rested, and bring them into your bed. Cuddle them, play with them, sing some songs, play-wrestle, whatever their hearts desire. You can both still enjoy the closeness and familial bond that comes with sharing a bed without creating any associations that might mess with their ability to get to sleep at night, and without waking each other up. If you’ve already been co-sleeping for quite a while and have decided it’s time to reclaim your bedroom, but your little one has other ideas, please get in touch. I’ve worked with families to get them through this exact scenario with tremendous success and I can help yours too.