Saying Goodbye to Co-Sleeping


We never intended to be one of “those” co-sleeping families. Before I got pregnant with my daughter, I was a relentless proponent of safe sleep practices. From my time as a daycare teacher, I had the rules drilled into my brain during my yearly professional development. I’d even roll my youngest students, and later my nanny kids, over onto their backs during naptime

When I saw the brightly colored posters reading “ALWAYS BACK TO SLEEP” and “NOTHING IN BABY’S CRIB” above my daughter’s hospital bassinet, I nodded along. I could still recite all the safe sleep rules like the back of my hand. I assured myself that my husband and I would not be foolish enough to risk our daughter’s safety over a few hours of precious sleep.

For a while, I was right.

Our daughter came home from the hospital and rested in a frilly Minnie Mouse bassinet beside our bed. At three months, when she started yearning for more space to stretch her tiny arms and legs, I tearfully transitioned her down the hall to her very own nursery. 

For those first few nights, I woke up dozens of times and fumbled with the baby monitor in the low light just to make sure she was okay. The transition seemed like it was a lot more difficult for me than it was for her. My mom tells me that happens a lot as kids grow up. 

Fast forward five months to my honeymoon with my husband. Our first two nights of uninterrupted slumber since our daughter was born were a luxury worth its weight in gold. We felt like new people when we came back fully rested and showered.

And we met, what seemed like, a brand-new, angry baby.

How we started co-sleeping

Our 8-month-old daughter did not take the separation well. She wailed for hours each night we were gone. My mother had raised four kids of her own and knew every trick in the book to get a cranky baby to sleep. She tried warm bottles, baths, singing her favorite lullabies, or letting her snuggle with her favorite stuffed toys. Nothing would work until my little firecracker exhausted herself from all the crying and finally fell asleep and snuggled in my mother’s arms.

From then on, anytime I tried to place my sleeping baby down, she simply refused. Somehow, no matter how long she had been asleep or how tired she was, the second I placed her down, she would know. Her little hands would clench onto the neck of my shirt and her little face would turn purple from the force of her earth-shattering cries. Looking back, I think she was afraid her daddy and I were going to leave again. 

I tried night after night to get her back into her old routine. I told myself this was a temporary sleep regression and we would make it through if we just stayed the course. But those days and nights add up and weeks passed, with none of us able to get an ounce of restful sleep. 

So I did what I promised myself I wouldn’t and we started co-sleeping as a family.

Our time as a co-sleeping family

A few years have passed since then. That baby is now a spunky 2 ½-year-old. Despite the sweet sleepy cuddles and her breath on my chest, sleep eluded us all. 

Every night became a battlefield between me, my husband, and a torrent of wriggly toddler limbs. For a few hours every night, my daughter would stay cuddled up to one of us before she’d start to squirm. 

It became common to wake up to a foot beside my face, and a toddler snoring in the center of the bed, wrapped in most of the blankets that we own. My husband clinging onto the edge for dear life and all our pillows strewed across the bedroom floor, lost overnight in the space battle. 

We tried to make do, but my husband and I were exhausted and were arguing over the most mundane things. Plus, my toddler wanted to take 3-4 hour naps every afternoon to make up for the sleep she wasn’t getting at night. None of us were happy co-sleeping anymore.

Time to say goodbye

So we took the plunge and ordered a toddler bed complete with a pink Disney princess canopy and brightly colored royal sheets.

Just like before, it was a much harder transition for me than it was for her. When she saw her new bed, her face lit up with excitement. She began rolling around among the pink bedsheets. She beamed at us as she pointed out all the princesses on her new comforter with her sticky little toddler fingers. When bedtime came around, she was happy to end her nightly routine. She would crawl into her bed and listen to her daddy’s nightly retelling of our life together.

I still haven’t had the heart to move her bed back to her nursery down the hall. Why? I can’t really say. Maybe in the near future, one small toddler princess surrounded by too many stuffed animals to count, will move back down the hall to her room. But for now, I can say that we are officially over the co-sleeping phase of our parenthood journey.

And we’re all getting MUCH better rest.


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