I’ve alluded to the fact that we co-sleep with our kiddos, specifically our newly adopted children. But I haven’t expounded much beyond that.
In the past I’ve had a number of folks ask me how we manage so many little ones, especially at night. And with Tallula’s arrival, 8 months after Poppy’s arrival, we’re sandwiched between two kiddos. Literally.
So, seems like now is the perfect time to talk about co-sleeping. Because boy, are we co-sleeping.
First a little background. I’m a information-seeker by nature. So, years ago, when I was a new momma, I read all the books and did all the research. And I did co-sleep with some of my bio kiddos. Short term, I loved it. I was nursing, which equals tired, and co-sleeping seemed to be just the ticket. But long term, not so much. In fact, by co-sleeping, I felt like I actually created sleep issues for my kids. For one of them it was years before he could sleep through the night without waking at least a few times. And I am not fond of getting up at night any more than absolutely necessary.
Then we grew our family through adoption. And parenting adopted children can be counter-intuitive to parenting biological children. I can’t quite recall if it was on purpose or on accident, but we reconsidered co-sleeping. It seemed to be exactly what our kiddos needed. And now? We really wouldn’t do it any other way.
Here is why.
1. It’s good for them.
- The physical closeness has been a balm to the soul of our kiddos through adoption. Some of them have suffered neglect and lacked any physical contact. And some of them have been loved and that closeness is something they’ve come to know and cherish. Either way, co-sleeping works to satisfy that need for contact in a big way.
- Your little one needs physical contact and closeness to foster and encourage bonding. Getting to know you, your smell, your peculiarities during those hours you’re insulated from the rest of the world goes a long way in encouraging the process of not only becoming a family, but feeling like a family.
- During those first few days, weeks and months after coming home from China, your child is feeling completely overwhelmed and insecure (whether they act like it or not). Sleep is something that probably won’t come easily for them, and understandably so. I know if my husband is away, or even worse if I’m away without him, I sleep terribly. I wake up at every sound and then falling back to sleep can be impossible. This is how it has been for our kids when they come home from China – times 100. They’ve lost everything that is familiar to them. Sleep is elusive and good sleep is almost impossible. Co-sleeping has helped us immensely in encouraging a good night’s sleep for our kiddos – they wake up and are reminded, immediately, that they are not alone. They don’t have to wake up and cry, and wait for us to run down the hall. We’re already there.
- It builds trust between you and your child. By being there for them at night, it encourages them to let down their defenses (many kids have had to fend for themselves for way too long) and soon you’ll be able to see their real personality emerge. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that if you don’t co-sleep your child with never trust you. I’m just saying that co-sleeping can be a beautiful way to begin building that trust – with less effort on both of your parts.
2. It’s good for you.
- While you probably are not craving physical closeness like your newly adopted child, co-sleeping is the fastest way to a decent night sleep for not only your child, but for you. Note: I said decent, not good. But I’ll take decent over non-existent any day. And when you’re just home with your new little one, sleep can be hard to come by. So, if you’re just home from China, or about to travel, think of those first few weeks as the newborn period with a biological child… sleep when the baby sleeps (except don’t nap too long or you’ll never get over the jet lag).
- Unless you’re living the fairy-tale adoption that many of us dream of but few of us experience, you need time and opportunity to bond with your little one. In all of our reading about adoption and bonding, we – as mothers – focus on our child’s ability to bond with us and wonder, “Will it happen naturally? What can I do to foster attachment?”. But we rarely focus on our ability to bond with our new child. Attachment is a two-way street, and each direction is equally important. Of course, we are the grown-ups and we can rationally decide how we are going to act toward and around our child, but the response of our heart is sometimes beyond our control. Co-sleeping fosters a closeness that can speed along that process naturally.
- It has big payoffs during the daytime. Think of it as the ultimate in mothering multi-tasking… it’s like holding your baby for 10+ hours a day, without the back pain. With all of my kids, I’ve found that the days are much easier when my child has had me close by all night. Less crying, less whining and less need to be carried. Of course, I say less instead of no. But less is better when you’re trying to fold laundry or make dinner or love on another one of your kiddos. And when your little one is happier, you are happier.
3. It’s a good barometer of your relationship.
- Attachment is an ongoing process. It’s not something to be attained in the first few days or weeks or even months of meeting your new child. But sometimes, when the days are busy and full, it’s easy to overlook what might be missing in your relationship with your little one. If your child, who was once happy to lay close to you, now pushes you away, is combative or won’t look you in the eye, then there’s work to be done.
- If you don’t want to lay close to you child, out of exhaustion, depression or simply lack of bonding on your part, then you’ve got work to do. Sometimes it’s just a phase, but it’s best to be as pro-active as possible. There are attachment exercises and many other resources for families struggling with attachment issues. Co-sleeping won’t resolve all of your attachment issues, but it can help bring them to light so you can focus, and get the support and encouragement you need to improve your relationship with your little one.
Hopefully someone has found this helpful. I really prefer to be taught, rather than try to teach, so posts like this are not my forte. But I can say that right now, all our kiddos are sleeping through the night. They are all in their own beds (Poppy in a toddler bed in our room and Tallula in our bed) and, on the rare occasions that they do wake, they go back to sleep with a snuggle and kiss.
And doesn’t a good night’s sleep make us all better people?
So I want to encourage other mamas out there who are dreaming of a good night’s sleep… it will come. Co-sleeping with a toddler, or older child, can be daunting while you’re ensconced in it. Blows to the head and knees to the kidneys are not pleasant to endure. But it’s time well invested. The payoffs are long-lasting not only for your child, but for the mother-child relationship as well.
P.S. There are exceptions to this, of course. Sometimes co-sleeping just isn’t possible. Our Isabelle, who had almost never even been held, simply could not tolerate co-sleeping in her first few months home. Sensory-wise, it sent her through the roof. And I know there are other kids who simply refuse to allow that sort of closeness. But I’m just sharing what has worked for us. We’ve been able to co-sleep with all of our adopted kids, successfully, by following their lead both for when to begin and when to end. And it has resulted in kids who go to bed happily and sleep well. All night long. And that is why we co-sleep.