In attachment parenting, there are four basic focus areas:
2. Feeding on demand
3. Holding and touching frequently (often attachment parents are seen using slings or wraps when out with baby)
4. Responsiveness to crying - as opposed to CIO methods.
- Source: Psychology Today. For more info:
We aren't militant APs as we both work and it was simply impossible to hold our kids all the time when they were babies. But we have co-slept with both girls since shortly after their births (taking the necessary precautions, of course).
After six years of what has become an increasingly crowded bed and routinely disrupted sleep, my hubby and I thought it was time to transition the children into their own beds. During the summer holidays, we decided, would be a good time and so we got a set of bunk beds and dressed them in new linens and bed covers. The first night we talked with both our girls about the transition. The bunks were set up in our bedroom so even though they would be in their own beds, they would still be in our room and close enough to hear us speak.
Needless to say, the idea failed to win them over. By the end of the night, both were back in our bed. The next night, I decided to go Super Nanny on them. I watched several episodes of the popular parenting show and decided that a soft but firm approach would have to work.
Super Nanny advises putting the children back to bed each time, throughout the night, even if it takes all night. Be soft but firm, keep conversation to a 'Good night, love' and don't engage when they whine, cry, throw tantrums, etc.
This sounds like great advice. But when you have a three year old who can throw up on demand and a six year old who can cry for an hour straight, its impossible to follow. I broke after just five minutes of hearing the three year old cry and her older sister begging for us to 'at least let her sister sleep with us.'
I planned to try again the next day. But in the morning, I overheard my three year old tell our nanny that: "Mommy wouldn't let me sleep with her because I was rude."
I don't know why she thought that. How she connected her being put into her own bed with bad behavior but the idea gutted me. I felt so guilty and as if I'd failed as a mom. I spent the rest of the day feeling guilty, pampering her and that night both girls were back in our bed.
So much for our adventures in separate sleeping.
The experiment led me to a question: Why do children so desperately want to sleep next to their parents? The most common answers I've read suggest that children want to sleep with us because: a. they are scared; b. its comforting and c. its natural and once they've gotten used to it, its hard to break the habit.
Those all seem reasonable to me. It is comforting and does feel more close and safe. It makes sense that its natural and I agree its a habit hard to break. But what is wrong with that? I know its stressful and difficult to co-sleep. Leave aside the lack of privacy and intimacy with your husband, there's also the reality that sleep is often more disturbed as the lot of you toss and turn.
But at the same time, having the kids feel safe and secure also matters. Going to bed shouldn't be a stressful and fearful event but something relaxing and happy to end the day. We won't continue to cosleep forever. Already our older girl is spending more and more nights in her own bed. And one day, I will miss them sleeping snuggled up next to me. Time flies and in just a few short years they will too old to snuggle with mom. It may not be easy (the only I've found about parenting that is easy is loving our kids) but for our family its worth it.
If you are planning to co-sleep, please make certain that the bed is safe for an infant or toddler and that you take all the recommended safety precautions. Also parents should never smoke in the house or bedroom around infants.
Sources for further reading:
Family bed safety checklist
Co-sleeping safety guidelines
Co-sleeping safety tips
Editor's Note: Originally posted in 2014, I am resharing at the request of a few moms in Kuwait now dealing with co-sleeping concerns.