the precious tale of a mama on a co-sleepless night: the case for co-sleeping

Co-sleeping has benefits that we just can't even begin to put into words. Special little nuances that will only be remembered as the feel of our children in our arms as they went to dreamland. But co-sleeping has measurable benefits too, and they're worth sharing.

We often hear about the 'why-nots' of co-sleeping, but how often do we hear of the 'whys'? As many new mamas look more and more to the Internet to find answers, we wanted to revisit a sweet rationale of co-sleeping from one of our mama authors and share some benefits too.

There are many, including:
  • Infants who co-sleep often go to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  • Babies who co-sleep often get more rest, especially if they are nursing. When they rouse to eat, they are able to be soothed and eat without fully waking up, giving them more rest and less disturbance in the eating and waking cycles.
  • Co-sleeping often helps to promote breastfeeding because nursing is easier when co-sleeping.
  • Research suggests that infants that co-sleep have stronger emotional relationships with their parents.
  • Research has found that, with the proper precautions, that children who co-sleep are less at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
  • Extended breastfeeding through the first years often occurs when co-sleeping.

Related: How Co-Sleeping Builds a Connected Family

But the benefits for parents can't be ignored. There are several benefits to parents when they co-sleep, and they don't all have to do with the increased amount of rest that many parents (especially nursing mothers) get when they co-sleep. Some of the benefits for parents include:
  • Parents often get more sleep.
  • If you are breastfeeding, it might help to maintain your milk supply as you are nursing more often and more rapidly on demand.
  • It helps to decrease the risk of postpartum depression.
  • It may help to decrease the likelihood of an unexpected pregnancy and increase the age gap between children.
  • When you co-sleep you are more likely to stick with breastfeeding and you have a higher chance of extended breastfeeding well beyond the first year, especially if you continue to co-sleep when your baby is a toddler.
  • Parents are more easily able to bond with their baby and develop a stronger emotional connection.

The following is the remembrance of co-sleeping--or the lack thereof--and how sweet the memories are.

I can't photograph this. I can't take a video and post it for all of my friends and family to see. There are barely words. Despite being a stay-at-home mom, I am not always present. My mind wanders to my next chore or I daydream about not having chores. Sometimes my six-year-old catches me pretending to listen to his latest video game monologue and snaps me into real life temporarily. I can't be the only one who nods in agreement only to realize I've just accidentally promised extra candy to the sugar-fiend.

At night it's different. I'm breathing. I'm still and quiet. These are the golden dark hours where I can be the mom I always wanted to be. Tonight my daughter restlessly alternated between eating and twisting and rolling and we were bent likes pretzels. I was filled with joy to have this time to stare at her fingers and play with her hair. Soon she'll be big like her brother, but tonight I could comfort her with my body and my whole heart was hers.

There are always people on both sides of the co-sleeping theory. Some go into motherhood believing that they will never co-sleep, but then they find themselves snuggling in their beds late at night with their little ones to catch just a small glimmer of sleep. Others are strictly against it, believing there are inherent dangers to co-sleeping that outweigh the benefits of it. For many families, though, we sort of fall into this habit of co-sleeping simply because it works for our family. Maybe we start out of necessity. Maybe we start because that is the way we were raised. Or maybe we start because that is our style of parenting. But no matter our reasons, co-sleeping has significant benefits for both babies and the parents- and many co-sleeping families will tell you that it seems to benefit the parents just as much as the babies.

Six years ago I co-slept with my son out of necessity. I was single and cherished every second of sleep I could steal. He snuck into my bed until about a year ago and I only pretended to mind-unless he kicked me in the face or something obnoxious like that. I know this time around how fast the ride is from infant to independent. That knowledge is painful in a physical way. So I might stare at the tiny features of my daughter to capture the kind of memories you can't post to social media.

Related: Social Media Privacy: Where Do You Fall?

Her birth was a fairy tale that included lying in my own bed and being handed a swaddled bundle who slept until daylight. Every night since this is where we watch infomercials or dream. I certainly don't sleep through the night. Sometimes the diapers leak and I wake up to a puddle. Some nights both kids take turns needing me and I need a nap! There are real arguments against co-sleeping. I respect them. Good job to anyone who has taught their baby to sleep in a crib. I failed at that and it's okay with me.

I have these sweet little memories for this mental scrapbook I can never compile. As I type this baby is snoring perfectly. This is the music I want to fall asleep to. Who does co-sleeping benefit more, me or her? Knowing she's safe allows me to fall into the deepest sleep possible as a mother. Except for tonight...I had too much coffee.

Photo: George Rudy/Shutterstock