My Daughter Is Almost Five And We Still Co-Sleep

Co-Sleeping With Older Kids She was just about two-years-old when we realized the party was over. My daughter, who up until that point was the perfect sleeper, had developed a serious aversion to going to bed. And by aversion, I mean bloodcurdling screams in the middle of the night. At first, my husband and I figured some calming words and cuddles would do the trick. We were wrong. Her nighttime routine gradually became a hellish one. At first, we would get at least two hours of her sleeping before it all started. Then one hour. Then, it got to the point that we could no longer put her in the crib. Already the boss of the family, she was very particular on how she wanted to spend her night. She wanted to be on the couch and my husband would lie next to her on the floor. Yes, she would only go to sleep if my husband was next to her. On the floor. She wanted nothing to do with me, either. I couldn’t even get her into our bed at that point.

Sleep deprived and horribly overwhelmed by the situation, I began to look for a solution. My little girl had obviously outgrown her crib so I would get her a big girl bed. It was time. Yes, a big girl bed would be perfect! She loved Dora the Explorer, so a Dora bed it would be. It would be a wonderful surprise. The day the bed arrived, she shrieked with delight. After hours of putting the thing together (poor hubby), we all looked forward to a well earned night’s sleep. After a few days of no success, I decided to put a reward system in place. A full week of sleep would earn her a new bike. I came to her room each night, sticker chart in hand, serious as a heart attack. This was going to work. Miraculously, we did have a few sporadic full nights of sleep in her bed, but nothing consistent. With a new baby coming in a few months, she was regressing even more and I was worried. I had failed at this whole sleep thing. I was miserable and desperate. At this point, she would be sleeping on the couch next to my husband until she was twenty-five.

About nine months into our no-sleeping hell, our beautiful baby boy joined the family. Elated but overwhelmed, I knew we were in serious trouble. A new baby would only complicate matters. Why couldn’t this kid just sleep in her bed? What was so hard about this? One night, as I laid awake thinking about it, I came upon my answer. It had been right in front of me the whole time. My daughter was scared and wanted to be next to us. She didn’t like the dark, the strange noises and the loneliness that came along with the night. She was just like another little girl that I used to know. My sweet little girl was just like me as a child.

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  • Valerie

    Very nicely written. And my son turns 5 in June and while he has gotten MUCH better at staying in his own bed over the last year, we had co-slept thru much of his life. And like with your daughter, we came to the conclusion fairly early on that he just wanted to be with us and feel safe. He is kind of an anxious kid and I know being with us makes him feel better. He is tiny for his age and so precious- I am just trying to be grateful for his warm sleepy little body next to me while it lasts. And because he is tiny it really isn’t too bad when he’s in our bed but I will admit to grumbling when I get a kick in the back. I may look on this fondly one day but for now, it does sometimes suck. :-)

  • Kay_Sue

    Sleeping arrangements are one of those things where you can start with one set of intentions and wind up with an entirely different experience in the end. My mom had two of us that, while we didn’t sleep perfectly, slept in our own beds. My youngest sister? Completely different story. And she didn’t do anything differently among us–we’re just different people, with different sleeping habits.

    We have the occasional night that we have to share, though, and I honestly can’t imagine it full time. Both of our sons are crazy rowdy sleepers and on the nights they sleep with us, I get no sleep. So I am grateful that they are few and far between. But if it were that or having a screaming toddler all night…well, I’d be pulling them in bed with me too. They do crawl in bed most mornings, if they wake before our alarms go off, and grab some snuggles…that could be addictive if only they would do it all night…;)

    • Valerie

      Very true. I never thought we would co-sleep and our daughter has always been the BEST sleeper so that made it easy to stick to my guns. I was so smug when she was a baby thinking I must have done something awesome to make her that way. And then along came Ben. “I only sleep in 60-minute shifts” Ben. :-) He made me a very humble parent, that’s for sure.

    • Kay_Sue

      I had another #twinsies moment, because I describe my youngest as my “humble-me” child. It was really easy with the oldest to say “This parenting shit is easy.” He’s compliant, loving, generous, outgoing, smart, wonderful, and A GREAT SLEEPER. Aside from nursing difficulties, everything, including his labor, was textbook.

      Not so with my youngest, who has inherited his father’s willfulness (well, maybe a touch of mine too) and has quite clearly displayed it at every available opportunity since he decided to lodge his 10 lb body during labor and get stuck. He definitely has taken me down a whole lotta pegs. But, he too is a good sleeper–he gets my husband’s ability to sleep like the absolute dead, I guess….

    • Valerie

      Much #twinsies, for sure. My daughter is a clone of my husband personality-wise: kind, patient, easy-going, very low drama, loves her sleep. My son is totally all me: restless, a bit anxious, temperamental, impatient, outgoing, bad sleeper. :-) And my son was born via c-section but he was so far up my rib cage that I remember the gurney shaking back and forth while they wrenched him out. I wanted a VBAC for him but he would not drop and I never dilated even the teeniest bit. He was stubborn and clung to me from day one. :-)
      And I always tell people “there is a reason they are only 20 months apart”. Claire made parenting very easy. We thought we would have a whole litter! We call Ben “The Family Ender”. Hahaha. Not really….but our difficulties with him definitely colored our thoughts on having more children. I am just not sure I could last through another first 3 years like his. It was kind of torturous.

    • EX

      On the rare occasions that I co-slept with my daughter (past infancy, which was usually when traveling) I compared it to sleeping with a rotisserie chicken. She makes at least 4 full 360 rotations a night. No way could I sleep like that full time. Although I am firmly in the whatever works for your family camp!

    • Kay_Sue

      I’m in that camp too. My kids do the same thing. Sometimes it seems like the rotisserie has broken and is spinning in every imaginable direction….

    • Kathleen Sullivan

      Oh yes, kiddie sleepers are the worst! I am constantly moving my daughter off of me in the middle of the night!

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      If a rotisserie chicken could kick and elbow you in the head 15 times.

    • ted3553

      I had a fantastic plan to have my son sleep in his crib in his room every night right from Day 1 which turned into me quickly getting a bassinet in my room and cosleeping when I just really needed to sleep and the baby wasn’t going down easy. He has slept 12 hours a night since he was about 5 months old so there’s no permanent scarring. Like you say, sleeping arrangements are fluid. You need to do what works.

    • Kay_Sue

      Exactly. People have to sleep somehow, and sometimes, compromises have to be made.

  • Sexy Robotic Arms Dealer

    Me too! And I’m in my 30′s!

    • Valerie

      Aww, maybe you will outgrow it by 40!
      *fingers crossed*

    • Sexy Robotic Arms Dealer


    • Valerie

      I want to make little baby tm letters!

    • Sexy Robotic Arms Dealer

      I’ll have a special key on your Femputer™ Gynoboard®

    • Valerie

      Perfect. Put it right next to the in-keyboard tampon dispenser and right behind the little mechanism that spits out Dove chocolates.

    • Sexy Robotic Arms Dealer

      I might have to hire you as a consultant.

    • Valerie

      I have so many ideas.

  • WendieAlig

    If I were you, I would not be embarrassed or feel shameful for having a kid in your bed. I personally have always felt it was somewhat unnatural for a child to sleep alone, in their own bed. In other cultures, it is the norm. Maybe not in Western culture, but I think we are the minority.

    We have two girls who I like to call “social sleepers.” My older daughter slept in our bed from birth until 5 months. From 5 months until 2.5, she slept in her crib. Then, once she was in a toddler bed, she roamed into our bed every night, at some point in the evening. At first I fought it, but then I embraced it. It was annoying at times, with feet in my face, but eventually she learned to sleep without tossing and turning and all was okay. She is nine now and she weaned herself from our bed several years ago. I was kind of sad when that happened. :) We have a younger daughter who is seven and also needs us to sleep with her most of the time. She knows how to shimmy between my husband and I in the middle of the night — and not wake us up. I know it is REALLY comforting for her to sleep between us, and I know the time to cuddle in bed with her is fleeting, so I am cool with it. (Our one rule is that our kids need to go to sleep in their own beds at night. What happens in the middle of the night is fair game!)

    • Guest

      I’m trying so hard to remember the book I read that was a true story about a girl (in Asia) where the entire family slept in the same room. Some of the descriptive things she was witness to and pretended to be asleep during…literally I cannot unsee in my brain. Not that all cosleepers are getting it on next to their kids or something but apparently in other cultures that can be a normal thing.

    • WendieAlig

      I definitely did not and do not partake in that type of activity while kids are in my bed. :)

  • Katherine Handcock

    As long as everyone is okay with the arrangement, I think co-sleeping for years is great! I think it becomes a problem when someone is resentful. My son never officially co-slept, but there have been many nights he’s joined us halfway through the night or asked me to lie down in his bed. I do it when necessary but couldn’t do it every day – the kid likes to wrap himself around me like an octopus opening a clam, so it’s not very comfortable! But if it works for you, go for it! After all, as another commenter said, kids having their own room is totally foreign to the majority of the world.

    And for those who tell you it’s somehow “damaging” your daughter, I must confess I’d find it hard to resist saying, “Oh, where did you get YOUR degree in child psychology?” ;-)

  • Jill

    I have a hard enough time sleeping next to my husband to ever have another person in my bed. I’d actually like to upgrade to like a Cali King just to get MORE space. I’m sure if our kids have issues I’ll probably do what my parents did- you go to bed in your own room but if you wake up in the middle of the night and are scared you could bring your pillow and blanket and camp out on their floor.

    • Rachel Sea

      You want an eastern king for that. Cal Kings are extra long, but slightly narrower than Kings.

  • shorty_RN

    I still don’t like sleeping alone, and I’m an adult. I love the nights where I get to sleep next to my husband and my son. Your daughter will be just fine and will eventually sleep in her own bed.

  • SA

    We co-sleep a lot of the time. Never thought I would, but kid sleeps better with me. Sometimes she sleeps fine in her crib, but if she has been going through any type of sleep regression I don’t try to stay awake and soothe her in her crib…back to our bed she goes. Actual sleep is more important that the principle of staying in one’s bed. Any time she is sick I keep her next to me too that way I can be alerted to anything like temp changes, etc in the middle of the night.

    It does amaze me at how kids sleep like a fish out of water. If I ever woke up with my head at the foot of the bed and feet at the head and I was sober I would be freaked out.

  • rrlo

    I can’t believe you get looks. It is the norm in many, many countries.

    • Natasha B

      My MIL is Vietnamese, and it is def the norm in their culture. Whenever we visit on vacation, all the grandkids usually pile in with her and she loves it.

    • rrlo

      Oh yeah – my mother was a bit horrified when she found out we were planning on putting my four month old son in the crib – in a different room!

    • Natasha B

      Sounds like my MIL! When we moved the littlest out of the bassinet in our room to a crib in her own room, she was shocked. But hubs gets up early for work, and the dog can be restless and pace the floor sometimes, so she actually sleeps better there.
      But, with MY family/friends when they find out our 4yo still sleeps in our room, yeah, we get some looks.

  • Ptownsteveschick

    This is my nightmare. I was fine with cosleeping with an infant. But when my daughter started moving around, I started going slowly crazy. There are only so many times you can get kicked in the face mid sleep before you start to develop a twitch lol. After two split lips, I sat down with her doctor and flat out said “How long can I let her cry it out without it being unhealthy” He smiled, told me a couple hours, and then followed up with the fact his own daughter slept with them until she was 5.
    Thank god my husband was on graveyards, because being the big sap he was, he could have never handled the crying(I had to hide under my covers and pillows to keep from having an anxiety attack) . At 10 months, the bedtime routine was bath, pjs, story, bottle bed. Then screaming with a check in to console her every 10-15 minutes. By the second week, I was able to have a girl who went to bed without much fuss and I was feeling much less crazed. I don’t know what I would have done if she didn’t give in to the sleep training. I have serious admiration for people who have the patience to cosleep with their kids for a long time.

  • AlbinoWino

    Honest question as I just became stepmom to a seven year old. When you co-sleep, when do you find time for sex? When the little one is officially off to sleep, that is our cue to run off to our room and knock boots.

    • Natasha B

      We have a cosleeper, so the couch and guest bed see a lot of action these days. Creativity.

    • guest

      Yeah, creativity is the key. Sex doesn’t have to happen in bed at a certain time. I’d say cosleeping has actually made us more adventurous when it comes to our sex life!

  • IS78

    I think that whatever way is gettng you and your family some rest, is the right way. With two little kids, I’ve come to understand that sleeping arrangements are fluid. Sometimes all members of my family wake up in completely different places than where we first laid down. Who cares, right? They are only young once. Before I know it, my boys will be teenagers and calling me a bitch under their breath. I say enjoy the extra cuddle time with them.

  • val97

    My younger son used to wander into my room during the night. One time he slept by on feet and I thought he was the cat. I tried to kick him off and thought, when did the cat get so heavy? before I realized it was my toddler. Even now, almost 9 years old, he likes to get up in the middle of the night and sleep on the couch sometimes. He would have loved co-sleeping, but I have too many sleeping issues and couldn’t do it. I think it’s different for each kid. My older son slept through the night in his own crib since he was 2 months old without any problems.

  • Natasha B

    My oldest co slept from the day I brought her home until she was 4/5. When she was a baby, I was single mommin it and working full time, so to just roll over and nurse at night instead of getting up was so much easier.
    Our son is 4, and though he doesn’t share the bed with us, his bed is in our room. He’s just one of those kids that is terrified to be alone, so it works. We all get sleep that way, and that’s what matters.

  • scooby23

    Maybe it’s because I co-slept when I was little, but I’ve never really been bothered by co-sleeping. I’m just waiting here, though, waiting for some Judgy McJudgerson to start yelling “CO-SLEEPING IS SOOOO TERRIBLE IT MESSES UP YOUR CHILD FOR LIFE BLAH BLAH BLAH IT MAKES THEM OBESE AND GIVES THEM THE GAAAYYYYY BLAH BLAH OTHER CRAP I HEARD ON GOOGLE”

  • jendra_berri

    I tried to sleep in my mom’s bed when I was that age. She snored, so I decided to brave the monsters in the closet instead.

  • Reash

    I know this is only an anecdote and everyone has a different experience, but it was certainly enough to put me off ever co sleeping. My cousin co slept with her parents until she was 16. In the end, my uncle was on a mattress next to the bed he should have been sharing with his wife. To be honest, I don’t know how their relationship survived that. They couldn’t even go on holidays without her, because she wouldn’t stay at home without them (this is when she was a teenager, with 4 older brothers at home to look after her). Imagine you get a chance to have a weekend away, but your 15 year old, completely dependent child is in the middle of your bed.

    • Guest

      I knew some people whose relationship was destroyed by it. Daughter in bed with them. Daughter hit 6 and the father said, ‘she has to go to her own bed’. They bought her a bed. She was afraid to be alone so mother started sleeping in bed with her. Daughter is 9 and father said, ‘I’m lonely and if we don’t start having sex again I’m getting it elsewhere’. Daughter is now 13, and father gets his sex elsewhere. Mother is okay with it as long as she doesn’t have to know about it. Daughter is starting to want mummy out of her bed, but mummy won’t leave because ‘you need me’. Whole heap of crazy brewing there that goes a lot further than co-sleeping…

    • guest

      I don’t think co-sleeping is the cause of the problem here.

  • guest

    Thank you for this article. Before my daughter, 6 months old, was born, I had visions of her being a perfect sleeper, always in her own crib, never letting her form bad “habits” of sleeping in our bed. She came out with a completely different set of ideas. She has hated sleeping on her own from the moment she was born. In spite of judgmental comments from my parents and facebook friends, I made a decision to stop turning sleep into a battle, respect her preferences and personality, and cosleep. She sleeps all night in our (modified for safe cosleeping) bed, I hold her in my arms for 90% of her naps, she nurses sometimes continuously through naps and at nighttime, and she is asleep on my husband as I type this. She is a person even if she is tiny, and she is a member of our family. As such we have learned to adapt to her needs for now instead of forcing her to conform to society’s expectation of sleep.

    I’ll probably always hear my mom’s voice in my head telling me I’m doing it all wrong, but guess what? Some days she sleeps for a while in her own bed and I actually miss her little snuggles, her sweaty bald head on my arm, and her warm little body limp in my lap. I know that before I know it she will not be a baby anymore and she will want her independence, so I just enjoy it while it lasts.

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