Brittany’s Sleep Story: How We Became a Co-sleeping FamilyJanuary 2023
Before having kids, I was definitely that person: the one judging sleep-deprived parents for bringing their children into their bed with them.
I swore I would never co-sleep. When I became a mom, I wouldn’t care how tired I was. Babies belong in cribs! Co-sleeping is a sign of parental weakness! I would never give in!
Yes, back in those days, I was a bit judgy and oh-so-naive!
So, naturally, once I had kids, I became an extreme version of the mom that I swore I would never be.
Motherhood, Day 1
I became a mom in the middle of the night on a typical November day. Little Ezri was perfect in every way. She had a full head of hair, and that brand new baby smell.
I had planned to have Ezri sleep in the little bassinet next to my hospital bed, but that felt much too far away! I needed to keep my new baby close. Much to the nurses’ dismay, I held her in my arms all night.
By the time we left the hospital, baby Ezri and I had spent a total of only 20 minutes apart. As much as I loved being close to her, I couldn’t wait to sleep back in my own bed.
When we arrived home, I walked right past the beautiful, brand-new nursery (the only “finished” room in our house, at the time) and brought Ezri straight into our bedroom. The nursery was only steps from my bed, right across the hall. But what if she needed me? What if I didn't hear her wake up? I thought, completely ignoring the fact that I’m a very light sleeper — so there’s no way I could have slept through my baby’s crying.
But at the time, I didn’t yet know what I know now. I just knew what I had been told and everything I’d read in the nine months before. I knew that the safest place for babies was in their own space, on their backs, and with no loose items in their cribs. I wasn’t yet familiar with the terms “bed-sharing” or “co-sleeping.”
However, I was very committed to breastfeeding my little bundle of joy — something that, luckily, came very easy and naturally to us. I think this is what led me to finally trust my instincts, but in those first few weeks, all I did was second guess myself.
Only later did I learn that there are safer ways to co-sleep, and that I could trust that I knew what was best for my baby.
Why Co-sleeping Worked for My Family
After a few days at home, I realized that I wasn’t experiencing the level of exhaustion that I expected with parenting a newborn. Between co-sleeping and breastfeeding, I didn’t lose nearly as much sleep as I had expected. When Ezri woke in the middle of the night, I didn't have to leave my warm bed, stumble downstairs to the kitchen, warm a bottle, change her diaper, and rock her back to sleep. Most often I just had to readjust, help her latch, and we’d both be back to sleep in minutes.
I realize now that I was incredibly fortunate in this respect, and many moms don’t have this luck.
My husband fully supported my decision to keep Ezri in bed with me. At the time, he actually trusted my instincts more than I did. When Ezri was a few months old, I thought I had to move her to a crib — so I did. Amazingly, baby Ezri adjusted to her new sleeping environment really well. I, however, did not!
When baby was in the nursery, although she was sleeping soundly, I would get up several times in the first hour, just to check on her. After a few days of hoping that I would adjust, my husband reminded me that we already knew what sleeping arrangement worked for us. Why disrupt it with a new, stress-inducing setup?
I immediately brought Ezri back to our room, and I slept like a baby that night. (Ha!)
I am happy to say that this was the moment I stopped caring what others thought of my parenting decisions. I knew that I was doing my best, and no one knows my baby (and me) as well as I do.
At that time, I worked a typical 9-to-5 job, plus a commute. That meant I was away from my baby for at least 9 hours a day. So co-sleeping wasn’t just a way for us to sleep better at night — it was also a way to reconnect, bond, and share special time with my child. I will always treasure that time together. It’s true what they say: you'll never regret spending more time with your kids. Even when you’re both asleep!
How We Practiced Safe Co-sleeping
Naturally, I needed to make sure all this extra togetherness time was as safe as possible. I always slept next to the baby and made sure there was no way she could roll off the bed. My husband usually slept on the other side of her. If he was sick, or if either of us were on any medication that made us drowsy (or if I had indulged in a Long Island), we’d adjust our arrangement accordingly to ensure that Ezri was safe. We also removed or secured any baby hazards, like heavy blankets and extra pillows.
Long-Term Effects of Bed-sharing
Around this time, I had another realization. Despite the old myths about “spoiling babies,” in reality, the opposite is true: parents who practice attachment parenting often report very independent children. This makes sense when you think about it. The child is confident knowing that their parents are always there for them, and that security allows them to feel safe exploring out of their comfort zone. This could not be more true for my daughter. She is Miss Independent and always has been! But at the end of the day, my little extrovert is happy to cuddle up next to me before drifting off into dream world.
I now fully support sleep-however-it-works-for-you parenting. I understand that co-sleeping does not work for many parents — just as not co-sleeping didn’t work for us!
Outgrowing the Family Bed
Ezri is now 11 and has slept in her own bed, in her own room, all the way down the hall (gasp!) for several years now. In those 11 years, we’ve added two little brothers to the family, which changed our whole co-sleeping dynamic. But I still treasure those rare occasions when I hear her sweet little voice ask, “Can I sleep in your room tonight, mommy?”
Of course you can, baby girl.
Oolie does not provide medical advice. We believe families should make their own informed decisions about sleep in consultation with their health care providers, sleep experts, and other trusted sources of knowledge.
Photos by Brittany Mathiowetz