One of the more controversial topics in parenthood is co-sleeping. For those who are new to the practice, it’s when an infant or young child sleeps in the same bed as their parents (sometimes described as “bed-sharing”) or just keeping the baby in a crib or bassinet in the parents’ room.
Despite the increased risk for SIDS being linked to the it and the stress that is added to an already irregular sleep pattern, many parents find various reasons for co-sleeping. There is a belief that it can strengthen the bond parents have with their baby. Others just see it as convenient, as the infant is always within reach. whatever the reasoning, the amount of couples that sleep with their baby has been increasing for the past two decades, according to Psychology Today.
Since we strive to keep our marriage a priority, my husband and I are not among the married couples who have practiced co-sleeping with either of our children. Sleeping with your baby can calm your nerves, but it can also be a nuisance and cause disruption in your marriage.
For instance, when a baby enters a marriage, the couple becomes so busy in their role as parents that their intimacy can and will take a back seat. In his essay, “Decades of Studies Show What Happens to Marriages After Having Kids,” Matthew D. Johnson, professor of psychology and director of the marriage and family studies laboratory at Binghamton University writes, “The arrival of children predicts less relationship satisfaction and sex.”
This makes sense when you visualize the idea of a baby literally being wedged in between you and your partner in the bed, hitting and kicking you as you try to sleep. Not only will you be too fatigued for intimacy, but you will likely also lose the desire to have sex with your spouse due to all of the responsibilities on your plate. There is nothing sexy about a 3-month-old drooling on his onesie and staring at you as you try to give the eye to your partner.
There is also the conversation about one partner feeling neglected when the other’s attention seems solely focused on the child, even in the bedroom. The fragility of a baby and fear of the unknown keeps parents on alert 24/7, especially first-time parents. While this is seemingly normal, co-sleeping will only intensify worries and anxieties, leaving at least one parent on edge, in anticipation of the next cry.
One husband, Jonathan Daniel Stern, explained in his article, “How Co-Sleeping Ruined My Marriage,” that his wife had taken co-sleeping to the next level. She chose to sleep in their kids’ room and had been doing so for years. Here, he describes a typical night of entertaining himself after his wife and kids go to bed:
I clean obsessively, watch Outlander and Penn & Teller. I listen to a ton of podcasts. (I like Alec Baldwin’s for his ego and StoryCorps because it makes me cry.) Around 11 p.m. or midnight, I trundle to bed, nursing a single malt Scotch and deep-seated resentment. This is not how I imagined my life would turn out.
Even if you’re not as attached as Stern’s wife, if your child is sleeping in the same room as you and your spouse, there is still a great chance that your ears will be constantly listening to your baby’s breath (to ensure life). If not that, your eyes will likely be glued to those precious little hands and feet, in constant admiration, therefore, taking most of your attention away from your other love – your spouse.
However, if you and your spouse are currently co-sleeping, there’s still time to modify your habits and make your marriage a priority. Susan Stewart, a professor of sociology at Iowa State University, studied the issue of co-sleeping and what worked for parents trying to find time for one another and included her findings in her book, Co-Sleeping: Parents, Children, and Musical Beds.
Stewart noted in an article on Science Daily that parents she studied gave several examples of setting up a time frame, such as telling their children they would have to sleep in their own bed once the school year began. She added that some parents were fortunate in the fact that their co-sleeping practice ended naturally and without much planning or much fuss. Still, that isn’t the case for many parents.
Babies are cute, however, sleeping with them isn’t. That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with co-sleeping. But it is to say that you can be amazing parents and keep a close eye on your kids while still maintaining a healthy marriage. All you need to do is put your child in their own room, or at least know when to say when and pull the co-sleeping cord.