Controversial Issue. Lots of people have lots of opinions.
But we co-sleep. We're not hippies, we're not trying to go against the grid and rebel, we don't think our way is best. It just works for us.
With Drew, my first baby, I didn't know what to expect at all. I tried to do things the way they told us to at the hospital, I got frustrated, I can't do the "cry-it-out" method, and I felt like I was failing. I did finally get him to sleep in a bassinet, on his back, through the night, and that worked up until he started teething. Then he started waking up again. I had moved him to a crib in his own room, and I was a working mom, and I really need my sleep or I start not even being able to put a coherent sentence together. Getting up in the middle of the night multiple times and trying to stay awake and nurse him and make him go back to sleep in his crib was draining me. So when he was probably around 6 or 7 months when he'd wake up at night I'd just go get him and bring him to bed with me and I'd fall back to sleep as he nursed. It was great, and I felt so much better sleep wise. I also wasn't too worried since he could roll around and sit up and hold up his head, so felt safer to sleep with him then. When he turned one we moved to a new house, and I got pregnant with Isaiah. Once I couldn't nurse Drew to sleep anymore I rocked him instead. He never fell asleep without being in someone's arms. Sometimes I even climbed into his crib with him til he fell asleep. (Sadly we don't have any pictures of this, haha) We would rock Drew to sleep at night and then lay him down and he would sleep in his own room in his own bed. (I would also like to say that we tried the cry it out method once with Drew when we "decided" that he should be going to sleep by himself. We tried it for two weeks. It did not work for us.) Enter Isaiah into the world. Our first night home from the hospital with Isaiah in a bassinet in our room, and I remember Shaun saying he just couldn't leave Drew down the hall in his own bedroom by himself. So he went and got him and brought him to our room. And for the next year and nine months both of our boys slept in our room, eventually both in our bed. (Thankfully, we at least have a king size bed.) People thought we were crazy, but it seemed totally normal to us. I also still rocked both of them to sleep at nap time. Yes, it took up a big chunk of the day to always be the one helping them to get to sleep, but it was such precious time with them both. Holding them in my arms as their breathing slowed and their little fingers relaxed and their eye lashes rested so sweetly.... Oh my goodness I'll never ever regret it. My only concern: Would they ever be able to go to sleep on their own? And how?
When Drew was a little over three and a half we went to the beach for a week with Shaun's family. He skipped quite a few naps that week and would fall asleep SUPER fast at night then. When we came home from the beach it was hard to get him back into the regular napping routine, plus I was pregnant with Jaden and my growing belly was making rocking him to sleep uncomfortable for both of us. So I stopped making him nap. Amazing thing happened: he would be ready for bed earlier, and he would fall asleep on his own as soon as we got him in jammies and laid him in bed. Also, because of my pregnancy it was getting too crowded for us all to be in our bed, so we put a double bed into the boys room and moved them in there to sleep. They were already used to sleeping side by side in our room, and we often find them all snuggled together. So cute. We read to them and then sometimes one of us will stay in until Isaiah falls asleep. (Also, whenever Drew gets to the point that he really needs a nap he'll just go lay on the sofa, or my bed and take a nap. That's only maybe twice a month though.) Oh my goodness! Our four year old, who was always nursed or rocked to sleep and who co-slept for a good two years at least of his life can go to sleep on his own. Doing things this way doesn't mean I'll have a high school age child who still can't go to sleep on his own and wants to sleep in our room! Woo Hoo!!
Enter baby number three... I can't possibly parent my extremely energetic boys all day if I'm not getting sleep at night. SO. Jaden has co-slept from the beginning. We discovered early on that he would sleep between every feeding through the night as long as he was being held. (However, he would be awake between every feeding if we tried to lay him down by himself.) We are now at the point where after my last feeding of the day I can lay him in his bassinet and he will sleep for about 3-4 hours or so before he wakes up wanting to nurse again. Then the rest of the night he sleeps in bed with me. People ask how he's doing at night and when I tell them he still nurses 3 or 4 times a night they look shocked and ask how I'm getting any sleep, but the truth is I feel great! I'm really not tired at all, because I don't have to turn on the light, or walk down the hall, or sit up in a chair and forced myself to stay awake the whole time he nurses. I am a really light sleeper, and I sleep with my arm around him with his head up on my shoulder next to my face. I love sleeping on my back anyway, so it works perfectly for us.
All this to say... if you co-sleep with your baby and are worried they'll never outgrow it, don't be. They will. (Most likely getting rid of nap time will assist with this.) And also to say that if you co-sleep and feel embarrassed or don't want to admit it, don't be. Our country is one of the only cultures in the entire world that says that you should put your newborn baby, who is used to being inside you, and is living only on milk, into another room by themselves and then expect them to sleep through the night without being fed as early as possible. There are actually studies that show that co-sleeping helps babies learn healthy breathing patterns, increases their feelings of security, promotes growth and provides more nutrients as their nursing time is not limited only to day time hours, and may actually reduce sids. (Basically, sids can occur whether you co-sleep or not. I am, however, extremely cautious of blankets, pillows, the position he's sleeping in, etc. and try to let Jaden sleep with me as safely as possible.)
However, if you don't co-sleep, don't start doing it because of this blog. If you've found methods and things that work for you, or if you can do the "cry-it-out" method and not have it last hours and not feel your blood pressure going through the roof, or if you need the time by yourself or your husband isn't supportive of co-sleeping, don't do it.
I read this essay online the other day on a new mom's take on "expert" sleeping advice for babies, and it is hilarious. (Thank you Rachel Ashbrook for posting that!) Basically, my conclusion is that YOU are the expert on YOUR baby, and you will discover what works for them and your family, and you should not feel guilty just because the way you do things doesn't look like the way someone else does them.
One more disclaimer: I think everyone's first question that they don't want to ask about co-sleeping with your babies is the same. So, instead of making you ask the question you don't want to ask, but want to know the answer to, I'll just answer it discreetly. No, our marriage did not suffer because of letting our babies sleep in our bed. If it had, we would have found another way to get everyone to sleep at night. I mean, just think outside the box. Your bed is not the only place you can strengthen your marriage... And that is all I will say on that topic. :)