Does Co-Sleeping With Your Toddler Really Work?

When I was well into my third trimester, I remember people telling me that I should “enjoy my sleep while it lasts.” Little did they know, sleep was a sore subject already. I was itchy, impatient, and terrified of accidentally going into labor at home. Also, I had a fully formed tiny human kicking me from the inside at 3 a.m. It couldn’t get worse than that, right?

Wrong. When my daughter was a newborn, sleep became a thing of the past. This time, I was waking up at 3 a.m.

for a new reason — the early morning feed. Plus, people failed to tell me that I’d be wide awake even when she was sleeping soundly, out of fear that something would go wrong. SIDS is a rare yet scary possibility. For paranoid parents, it’s enough of a threat to wake up every 20 minutes just to look at the monitor.

These days, I’m two and a half years in. My daughter can talk to me, tell me how she’s feeling and has a better idea of her sleep routine. Gone are the days of complete paranoia.

She knows that if she needs anything, her parents will be there.

But there is one bad habit that’s been hard to break when the 3 a.m. wake-up is now based around a nightmare or due to loneliness. Other parents might assume that I’m nuts — but I have no problem letting her sleep with my husband and me for the rest of the night.

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I work from home, but during the first two years, she was constantly by my side. To get her to nap, the only thing that worked was if she was directly on my chest. My heartbeat soothed her, and I was fine with it — I was able to work while bonding with her, so it seemed like the best of both worlds.

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Much like the pacifier, she started needing me there to fall asleep. Plenty of days and nights included me crouched up next to her crib, holding her hand to help comfort her. Again, I had mixed emotions.

I knew this may not have been the healthiest way to get her to sleep, but it was nice to feel needed.

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Rocking her, wearing her, and crouching down next to her crib did some serious damage to my back. So naturally, I tried to get her to sleep in my bed. When this arrangement first started, I figured I could transfer her to her crib once she was out.

But unfortunately, she always woke up in the middle of the transfer. She was incapable of getting back to sleep after that.

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I prepped pillows so that she wouldn’t fall off and made sure the room was dark. I also set Alexa to play relaxing spa-like music, in hopes that it would also calm her down. It worked — and usually, I was able to detangle myself from our cuddle and be productive during our time apart.

I still checked up on her frequently, but she was always OK.

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Nobody wants to make their child sad, but if she’s still a little antsy before naptime, or she wants to play (despite showcasing all of the standard sleep cues), a time-out usually makes things better. It’s rough. She’s only left to herself for five minutes, but it lets out any energy she had that was preventing her from shutting down.

Adding this to the routine means that there’s never a day she goes without a nap.

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My husband and I have a rule. If she wakes up before 12, he’ll go in there and try to calm her down. If it’s after that, we just bring her in.

The reason being, we need sleep, too — and we know she’ll be instantly out if she snuggles up to me. It may be the easy way out, but it’s working for us right now. Having limited bed space is a fine trade-off for actually sleeping a few consecutive hours at once.

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Of course, this arrangement affects me, too. She’s almost become essential to my sleep. When I wake up and she’s not there, I’m still looking at the monitor, making sure she’s OK.

Moms will (very reasonably) lament their lack of personal space, but I know that I’ll get it back in the future.

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Because she is 2½, we have more confidence when she’s in the bedroom. But we also co-slept when she was a lot younger. Most parents fear the idea, as I initially did since so much can go wrong.

But when it’s the only way the two of you can both get a decent night of sleep, it’s worth a shot when you know how to do it safely and correctly.