Our evening bedtime routine for our three children usually goes like clockwork. They have warm baths, we put on their creams and lotions and read bedtime stories.
After long goodnight kisses we tuck them in and they quickly drift off to sleep. My husband and I get some precious time to ourselves before we turn in for the night as well.
Our secret nightly ritual
In the early hours of the morning things go a little differently. At the quietest times of the night, half asleep, I can faintly hear the pitter patter of little feet crossing the landing and coming towards our bedroom. The bedroom handle turns slowly, and sometimes it takes a few tries before it manages to open and I hear the shuffle of little feet continue up to our bed.
A small warm body crawls in beside me and I hear a whispering ‘Mama, cuddle me’. It’s my youngest and this is our own secret nightly ritual.
She pulls at my arm until it folds over her little warm body and I hold her close. She reaches up her hand to stroke my face or twirl a strand of my hair. Her big wide eyes focus on mine and she smiles as she settles back into a peaceful sleep.
If I turn over to face away from her, her little arm pulls at my body, urging me back into the cuddle she needs. We sleep there huddled up until morning.
I never thought I would co-sleep
Letting my children sleep in my bed is something I vowed never to do. My bed was a place of sanctuary. It was a place where me and my husband could sleep (hopefully uninterrupted) and a place we could call our own.
I had spent many hours teaching my older children to settle to sleep and stay in their own beds. If they came to find us they were swiftly sent back to their rooms. I was so afraid of creating a habit that we would never get out of.
I was also just too tired to have them both coming into our beds at different times in the night. So I followed all the advice and kept them in their rooms. I still gave them cuddles and kisses and comfort but they always fell asleep in their own beds.
But times change
With my youngest though things are a bit different. I’ve seen the older two grow up and I know that the same will happen to her too soon enough. I see the end of the littleness in our home.
I know she’s the last we’ll have and that makes me want to bottle up every moment I get with her and cherish it. When it comes to sleeping in our bed it’s no different.
In the blink of an eye my little girl who needs me so much and who always wants me close will turn away and relish her independence. She will roll her eyes when I try to hug her goodnight.
There will even come a day when she’ll be old enough to go out with friends and I’ll go to bed before her. I’ll lie with one eye open and one ear pricked, waiting for her to come home from a party, not quite being able to surrender to sleep until I know she is safe in her bed.
And so, for now, I will cherish our own precious night time ritual when we are close and connected. I will never look back and regret the nights we spent sleeping side by side.
And I’ll never regret it
When other parents ask about how my children sleep I tell them that they sleep OK but we still co-sleep with our youngest for half of the night. I know I’ll get those knowing nods or smug smiles or warnings that it’s setting a bad habit. But I also know I’ll regret giving up these moments with her and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I will always treasure our cuddles as we drift back off to sleep together. I will always remember the incredible feeling of waking up and her smile being the first thing I see that day. Or reaching out an arm to stroke her back, clad in her brushed cotton pyjamas.
So yes we do co-sleep with our toddler, and I love every moment of it.