The Reluctant Co-Sleeper


(Photo courtesy of


I am going to commit a huge natural parenting faux pas and admit something….


I kind of hate co-sleeping.


I don’t actually 100% hate it.  There are lots of beautiful things about sleeping with your kids.  But, since I am complaining (I will get back to the good stuff later) I should mention some things that make me think I won’t miss this stage.


  • Being squished
  • Waking up numerous times a night as each of the four children wander into our room
  • Sleeping sucking my stomach in with my arm at a wonky angle so that I can fit between two kids
  • Did I mention that my husband is  ginormous?
  • Having one half of my marriage sent to the couch because we don’t all fit in our bed


See, one baby can pretty much take over an entire bed!


I know a lot of people talk about co-sleeping like it really saves sleep.  This can totally be true, especially when a baby is little.  I loved having my first baby sleep with us.  Then when he was around six months he started kicking me in the back all night.  Then when he was one and I tried to move him out of our bed I realized that signing up for sleeping with a baby might end up being signed up for sleeping with a toddler.  When on earth would this end?!


Thus began my love/hate relationship with the “family bed.”  Sometimes I think that people who speak highly of it are just distant enough from it that they forgot about how little they used to sleep.


One thing that sucks about being me is that I always have to eat crow.  For the record, it doesn’t taste good.


I remember that distinctive flavor when I started to dislike co-sleeping.  I had told a friend that I didn’t understand why anybody would NOT co-sleep (this was probably BEFORE I actually had kids).  They must have been bad parents.  Oops … then I was one of them.


There has pretty much been a baby or toddler in our bed for the last seven years.  Let me tell you, it started to get old.  Every night my husband would take that long walk out to the couch so that he could get some sleep after a few kids had jumped on board.


And I would start to look forward to that far away day when just my husband and I could sleep in our bed.


And no, it would NEVER smell like urine.


But today, I got to eat crow again.


I went with my hubby to visit a friend who is in a “home.”  You know those places.  Elderly people who are “rehabilitating.”  A maze of huge hallways, strange noises, distinct odors, and often very lonely grandmothers and grandfathers.


We went late, since that was the only time we could get away together, and most everybody was already tucked in for bed.


I couldn’t help but notice that in the room next to our friend was a tiny grandma … but she was co-sleeping!


“What?!”  I thought.  “Why does this grandma have a baby?  And why is it in bed with her?”


A closer look showed that the “baby” was just a doll.  Little grandma was tucked in at night with her own life-size baby doll atop her.


Snuggled up, co-sleeping, even though … she didn’t have a REAL baby any more.


I showed my husband.


“We need to go home and hug our babies,” he says to me.


Oh, the things that get tiresome for parents of young children.


Always being needed.  Always getting hugs.  Always feeling loved.  Always being crawled upon.  Always having four people who need to tell you something IMPORTANT — right NOW!


Oh yes, and always having somebody who would rather be in your arms, than anyplace else.


Maybe someday I will be like that little old lady.  Maybe I will have my own doll to sleep with me when all my babies are gone and I am forgotten somewhere dreary and lonely.


I hope I at least can take with me warm memories of soft arms and dimpled mouths, and babies that felt best when they were snuggled up next to me.


(This post originally appeared on the natural birth blog, Mama Birth on January 25th, 2012.  The top photo was used on that blog post with permission from Kathelyn Demidow whose photography I highly recommend.  She is truly gifted and unique.  The author, Sarah Clark is a mother of four, a co-sleeper with many, and teaches natural birth classes and trains teachers for Birth Boot Camp.  She is even dumb enough to share her real feelings occasionally online.  It happens.)



Sarah Clark

About Sarah Clark

Sarah Clark is a mother of four naturally birthed babies, a wife, a birth instructor, and a board member for Birth Boot Camp, a natural birth company specializing in online and in person birth education.


14 thoughts on “The Reluctant Co-Sleeper”

  1. Thanks so much for this. As a co-sleeping mother of three I can appreciate everything you have just said. At the same time as my youngest who is four doesn’t seem to need us in her bed or ours quite so often, the night time routine that I started to dread is now something I am starting to miss.

    Thanks for putting this out there – I still feel normal!


  2. Love! All of this is so, so true! A struggle for me to even type this, as I have one little head resting on one arm, while the other arm is supporting a nursing 13-month old who is also sleeping. And nursing. And nursing. And nursing. Feeling hot and cramped and frustrated that I didn’t ask my husband to turn the fan on before he left the room- for the couch! Wouldn’t trade it for anything, though. This time here like this is so small when part of an entire lifetime. I will miss their tiny little bodies cuddled up to mine some day.

  3. I have stumbled across a few of your submissions and do love reading them, thank you! This one really spoke to me mostly at the end. I’m constantly reminding myself that someday I may pass into obsolescence (or near obsolescence by comparison to my current motherly role).

    Even though I do not have a husband in my Cal King sized bed, I still have a full sized mattress thrown on the floor next to my bed so that I can escape the tossing and kicking 4 year old that feels more in his comfort zone in my bedroom than his. He reverts back to sleeping in my room with every cold or flu and sometimes transitions. Plus when guests come, his room becomes the guest room as he has a queen sized bed. Most often he just wants to sleep in my room because it has been his room too for so long.

    When I think of a full nights sleep without interruption, I start to get caught up in the dream of that and realize though that it will not be long in the course of a person’s life before he will soon enough be well past needing mom in his room at night. At some point, I will likely be the only one that remembers this period fondly.

    Thank you so much for sharing. This is really such a beautiful time in our lives!

  4. I am only confused about one thing with co-sleeping. I have only taken children into my bed when they wake up to nurse or later if they are really scared, as long as it doesn’t become a nightly thing. One reason is that my husband objected to it because the quality of his sleep went way down and he felt he shouldn’t have to leave the marriage bed. After all, we are married to each other first and foremost. But the thing I wonder about is how do you have multiple children if there is always one in your bed at night? I have seven, and I am pretty sure I wouldn’t if there had been children in my bed all the time.

  5. What a beautiful article. I have the same love-hate relationship with co-sleeping. I was moved to tears by the end of this story. Thank you for the important reminder that these days won’t last long.

  6. I like the idea of cosleeping … and I’ve done it in “emergency” sleep situations where I just had to get some sleep and the little man wouldn’t sleep any other way. But I’ve yet to hear a long term situation where it was successful. In fact, I hear the story of the teenage daughter who can’t sleep alone and now has a television in her room to help her go to bed.

    The toddlers and school age kids I get … I mean I crawled into bed with my parents sometimes (my dad hated it though). But as a regular thing? I just don’t think it’s a good long term plan, for anyone.

  7. This is so beautiful. I had a response to a post I wrote just today that sounds very much like yours. The idea that in our day to day, we often need reminders of what we have. And what we ARE grateful for, but sometimes forget. In this case, it was my pain that I shared, which gave another mom a reminder of what she is grateful for. Thank you for doing the same by sharing about the old woman. :)

  8. Thanks. So sad about the old woman. I heard somewhere awhile back, said by an elderly person, that the worst part of growing old is that no one wants to touch you anymore….

  9. That is a beautiful perspective on co-sleeping. I’ve been debating about whether to try co-sleeping myself. Whatever I choose, this is an excellent reminder to focus on the things that really matter during this time.

  10. If co-sleeping is too hard on you, why don’t you change it a little? Perhaps a big mattress on the floor for the older kids will do. They just probably want to be nearby. Or move your whole bed on the floor (no frame) and push another mattress beside it. Also, ask them not to wake you up when they come down. Some of these strategies worked for us and we all sleep well. No, I didn’t forgot about it, I am still in it partially and I wish co-sleeping would never end.

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