On the many days leading up to giving birth, I had a lot of time to think. I thought I had it all covered. I set up the room, two bassinets, side by side ready to welcome the new arrivals. I had also pre-purchased cribs that were waiting in the closet for the right moment where I envisioned my kids transitioning from the bassinet to a larger, roomier wooden sleep system. Bottom line was, we were NOT going to be one of those parents who shared the bed with our kids. Our bed was for us only and the kids would just have to adapt to sleeping on their own. Plain and simple. Or was it?
Flash forward to the first month home from the hospital. Functioning on zero sleep, full zombie status engaged, we learned the twins did not sleep as well in their bassinets. They actually would sleep as much as an hour more in the Boppy Newborn Loungers we placed alongside our bed. It could have been the way it cradled their bodies or the cylindrical shape that enticed them, but they loved their loungers! At that point in time, virtually anything that would give us the luxury of an extra hour of sleep was welcomed with open arms. All those little promises I made to myself while planning the kids arrival suddenly took the backseat to one of our most primal needs. Sleep. I then thought, Hey, maybe the kids can start sleeping with us in the beginning and then when they reach crib-age, we can transition them to the cribs. As we approached 6 months, we assembled the cribs, bought new mattresses, sheets, the whole deal! They were still waking up about 4-5 times a night wanting bottles. After eating, we found they fell asleep much faster next to us rather than putting them back into their cribs. I may have been an early quitter, but when you’re waking up at 10pm, 1am, 3am, and 5am you’ll do whatever it takes! Long story short, half a year in, I wholeheartedly admitted it. We were officially co-sleeping parents.
Co-sleeping sure has its up sides and down sides. Below I will highlight a couple of each.
Kicking. Or face slapping, or body rolling, or all of the above. And it only gets worse with age! For some reason, regardless if the entire king size bed is available on both sides, the kids have to be touching me. And usually this means digging their toes underneath my back or sides. Not just two sets of toes, but four! Regardless if they are occupied with their books, iPads or Dora the Explorer, at least one body part needs to touch me at all times. And it doesn’t end there! When they finally fall asleep, toddlers don’t just lay still. They rotate. They flail their arms. They roll like bowling balls. You become a master in the art of falling back asleep as quickly as possible after being woken up so many times!
Cuddling. With kicking, also comes the far more enjoyable cuddling! Nothing feels better than snuggling up next to your little ones at night, listening to them close their little eyes and knowing that you are the most important thing in the world to them. On cold nights, it’s always a plus having two little balls of warmth curled up next to you. Funny thing is, I’m so used to cuddling with their little bodies night after night that it seriously feels as if something is missing when one or both are gone.
Patience. With co-sleeping you need to develop a great deal of patience. A few of our friends have kids sleeping in their own rooms at this age. They simply tuck them into bed, read them a book or two and then leave the room! Wow. When its bed time, I haul the twins upstairs, brush their teeth, hop into bed and then wait! Usually it takes about 20 mins to an hour for them to kick and roll themselves to sleep. They are so used to having me there next to them, that they have a difficult time falling asleep any other way! I used to let them watch educational videos on the iPad in bed, but it would keep my daughter up into the wee hours of the morning. Basically, all my household responsibilities need to resume after they fall asleep, so by the time that happens I am often too tired to go down and clean! End result = a messy house!
Convenience. The convenience of co-sleeping means less worrying. I am a total worry wart and I know if the kids were in their own rooms, I would be compelled to check on them every few hours. Running back and forth to check on the kids throughout the night would definitely equal less sleep for mom. So in the long run, it is much more convenient to have the kids right there next to me so I know where they are at all times!
Even though it does have its down sides, co-sleeping has become a part of my life, and my everyday routine. Everyone’s routine tends to differ depending on our individual lifestyles. In some countries, the entire family is in one room or hut snuggled together for warmth. And in some, the complete opposite happens where personal space is of importance and sleep is achieved better alone. The most challenging part will always be to transition from one ritual to another. Going from just my husband and I to making room for 2 other bodies was tough! My husband now sleeps on a separate queen mattress on the side of us, creating one large bed! What I have learned is, no matter what the sleeping situation may be, parents will do what is right for them. Everyone’s lives tell a different story and what may work for one family, is impossible for another. It is important to keep an open mind with parenting, because you really never know what’s in store!
Jenna Kagawa is a Bedding Specialist at SlumberWorld in Kailua Kona. She is the happy mother of twins, Hali’a and Makoa. When not busy finding clients the perfect mattress or chasing her little ones – Jenna enjoys making jewelry, reading, shell collecting, and eating really good food! She is a total social media addict and loves photographing life.