The Family Bed

Posted in Parenting on October 1, 2016 - by

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A while back while discussing the logistics of the family bed with a dear friend, I asked her how it worked in her house. Her answer: ‘it’s not pretty’. Of course she meant this only in the aesthetic sense, but as any co-sleeping family will tell you, her description is pretty apt on that front. Trying to cram in some bunk beds for the older kids and a bed big enough to accommodate her, her husband and their 2 year old is not going to make the cover of any house and home magazine anytime soon.

Our bedroom likewise hasn’t looked like anything expected of an adult couple in years (well to be completely honest, it probably never did). Currently we have two mattresses lying side by side on the floor, one queen and one extra long single. There is no bed frame, no box spring and certainly no expensive sheets to speak of.

What you will find instead is a potty beside the bed, cloth diapers, wipes, inserts, a change pad and various other baby paraphernalia strewn across the room. We’ve never used a crib or a change table and have never had anything akin to a nursery.

Since my first son was born, he always slept with us. Sometimes it was just him and I (depending on my partner’s work schedule) and sometimes the three of us. I remember in the early days being told that my son would never learn to sleep alone if we kept this up, but I simply couldn’t fathom putting a tiny newborn baby to sleep alone while my partner and I cuddled up together to share sleep. Also, I just didn’t believe this rather alarmist warning.

I can’t tell you what fond memories I have of falling asleep next to my son. He nursed to sleep until he weaned around 3 and stayed in our bed until a few months after his brother was born (when he was just shy of 4). We would have all stayed together, but he was being woken up by the baby so frequently that we had to make a change for his sake. He had also given up his nap the day his baby brother was born and as such the lack of sleep coupled with the new sibling meant something had to give.

The transition really wasn’t hard because my partner went to sleep with him in his room while the baby and I slept together. We also made a deal that when his little brother started sleeping longer, my first son would be welcome to come back into the big bed should he wish.

Of course, if my second son is anything like his brother in the sleep department (and he appears to be), a full night’s sleep won’t occur until somewhere around the age of two. Nevertheless, my first son does sleeps with my now 15 month old and I when dad’s away for work. I put him to sleep in his room so as not to wake the little one and then carry him into the other room with me when I go to bed.

It’s certainly not a perfect system. My partner and I are most often in separate rooms and when he’s away I’m lugging my almost 5 year old down the hall trying not to wake him or his brother. But you know what?

On those nights when I crawl into bed with a little boy sleeping soundly on either side of me I feel overwhelmed with gratitude. I feel complete. I feel awed and humbled by the gifts I’ve been bestowed. And while I know that I will be woken up more times than I care to count and be forced to rise much earlier than I’d like, I also know that this is only a season. Soon my boys will be sleeping on their own and I’ll look back and remember with a little ache in my heart the feel of sweet toddler breath on my cheek and the warm hands of my 5 year old reaching out for me in the night.

So while to the outside eye this setup certainly isn’t pretty, I know in my heart of hearts that nothing will ever be quite so beautiful.

Never heard of a family bed? While mainstream culture may think its strange, its actually more natural. There is plenty of literature out there. This is my personal favorite: Good Nights: The Happy Parents' Guide to the Family Bed on Amazon.

About Unschooling Mom

Hello all. I am a stay-at-home mama to two beautiful boys starting out on our official homelearning journey. We have always practiced attachment parenting and choosing to forego traditional schooling has been a natural outgrowth of our commitment to these parenting principles. No surprises here, we… Full author bio

2 Responses to “The Family Bed”

  1. Michaela says:

    What?? You shouldn't still be sleeping with your 5-year old. That's inappropriate.

    • Unschooling Mom says:

      I think that is something of an ignorant comment. Maybe you should do a little bit more research before you drop the word "inappropriate."

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