The Concerns of Co-Sleeping Dads

“A good night’s sleep” is a phrase I hear often in my house. Since our 18 month old enjoys a good night’s sleep most every night, it isn’t from her mouth that I hear the phrase (even if she could say it). Sometimes it is me making an excuse about why I felt unmotivated to get this or that done: “Oh, if I’d only had a good night’s sleep, then I would’ve . . .” But, more often I hear the phrase from my husband. We discuss family planning. This is never a good idea after we have not had a “good night’s sleep.” And, I’m learning, it isn’t a good idea to bring up family planning when my husband has had an overwhelming day at the office. On his more stressful days, he becomes passionate when the topic of sleep comes up: “I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a year and half.” Annabelle giggles at him as though she knows exactly what he is saying. I try to hold back a smile (because our wakeful little girl is cute and has stolen my heart completely, sleep or no sleep). And then, together my husband and I share a moment adoring our daughter and I know we’re both thinking, “Isn’t she worth it?”

To be honest, we are sometimes sleep deprived. But for the most part, I know that I rack up a decent night’s sleep and am able to make up for lost sleep during the day, with my daughter napping beside me. I realize that my husband doesn’t have that option. He’s not your regular George Costanza, crawling under his desk to get some shut eye. But, my husband is one of those blessed people who sleeps through storms, probably air bombs, and definitely through the wakings of a teething toddler. What then are his less than “good night’s sleep”? I am guessing those are the nights when I, the ever waking mom, startle him from his sleep and beg for mercy from our daughter. Annabelle nurses through her teething pain, and after a few hours, non-stop breastfeeding is uncomfortable for me, not to mention difficult to sleep through.

Right now we are at a stand still. Annabelle falls asleep in her crib and remains there for several hours until her first waking. Once she is awake, I nurse her or my husband soothes her and she goes back to sleep in her crib. On other nights, she demands a place beside her mom and dad in our family bed. We all wake up together in our bed just about every morning.

My husband, meanwhile, outlines his plans for successfully making it through the entire night with our daughter sleeping in her crib. In the back of his mind, I know he wants to spend more time with me, more time playing pool, and more time just well, sleeping in.

The way I see our sleeping arrangement is that our daughter will gradually become more comfortable sleeping away from her parents, but that it is our job to encourage her trust in her parents as well as her own self-confidence by staying with her through the night, reassuring her that we are there for her no matter what.

And my husband agrees with my point of view, the latter part anyway. He is a most devoted and doting father. I observe the two of them walking together and playing. His voice changes when he speaks with her; he becomes a younger, more carefree version of himself. Even his body language loosens up. He no longer thinks about what is going on at his office, what deadlines are up, etc. He focuses entirely on his daughter.
So I asked him one night, “Do you think that your bond with Annabelle has anything to do with co-sleeping? I mean, think about it. You go to work all day and don’t see Annabelle. Yeah, you have some time with her at night, but just think about how many hours you two spend together sleeping, not to mention how you play together when you wake up in the morning.”

My husband fights a smile. “Maybe I’m just a good father?” he says. He hates to admit that he could ever be wrong about something, but maybe, just maybe, he senses an inkling of truth when it comes to how co-sleeping has benefited his relationship with our daughter.

For those of you who are co-sleeping or are considering co-sleeping, below are several articles addressing dads’ concerns about co-sleeping, the positive effects of co-sleeping with our children, and how to co-sleep safely:

8 thoughts on “The Concerns of Co-Sleeping Dads”

  1. Thanks so much for this post! My DH is a wonderful loving father, but I have to admit that co-sleeping is not his favorite part of the AP equation. We have a real musical bed situation going in our house where Lily (now 2 1/4) starts off in her own bed and either comes to bed with us, or Matt goes to bed with her, at some point in the night. She doesn’t nurse at night anymore, just likes to sleep with someone else (can I blame her?), but she’s not the best bedfellow, so DH often goes to the guest room when she comes to bed to avoid being kicked or crowded by a baby who likes to sleep perpendicular to her mama.

    So your husband is not the only one dreaming of a day when baby stays in her own bed all night 😉

  2. My husband also claims to be bothered by the co-sleeping, yet on nights when I work he puts the baby to sleep with him! We have 3 (almost) former co-sleepers and, honestly, once the second one came around the first rarely came into our bed again. I think they enjoy having another person in the room with them. I often go into their room at night and find the 2 oldest sleeping in the same bed (even though they each have their own)! The “baby” (at 15 months) sleeps on a mattress next to our bed while we transition her to her room with her sisters. This system works wonderfully.

  3. We have found an extra mattress on the floor alongside our bed to be an excellent option not only for restless toddlers but also for exhausted dads (or moms) who have had enough togetherness for that night. 🙂

  4. Thanks to Melanie and everyone else. I am looking forward to sharing your comments and suggestions with my husband. It is a sensitive topic of planning a family and continuiing co-sleeping as is.

  5. I very much want to submit an article for the Journal about co-sleeping because it’s actually our favorite Principle. 🙂 Mind you, we started co-sleeping by accident and I cried and cried when my first son was 5 months old because he nursed every 90 mins, night or day. I was so exhausted and I just didn’t feel like I could do it anymore. Thankfully I think he sensed it because he dropped one nursing and it felt like heaven to me.

    Like Julie, we have done our fair share of musical bed solutions and we just finally decided to bet rid of our side-by-side double and queen (dh slept in the double and the boys and I in the queen) and get a king so that we could all be in bed together. We felt like it was sort of putting the idea out there that it was “us and him” and now we feel like it’s all “us”.

    My dh has gone through times where he’s wanted our bed back exclusively but he also feels, as Jessica suggested, that co-sleeping helps him share quiet, peaceful time connecting with our kids.

    Both of our boys still share our bed each night. We’ve never not done it and it’s the one main constant in our life w/ kids. While dh and I sometimes want to sleep in a position that was comfy before we had so many people scrunched up next to us, we remember that it’s another one of those phases of life that will be gone before we know it. I can’t believe that we now have an almost 5 yo or a 2 yo and that the baby hood days are gone. Our co-sleeping days will also become cherished memories but I’m glad that we will have them. I am alive and kickin’ despite the fact that I was sure I was going to lose my mind (back when my son was an infant) and have felt so grateful that our kids were in bed when they have had nightmares or developed pneumonia. It’s another way in which they learn to trust that others will always be close by when they need it.

    Jessica, your dh is so normal w/ wanting some good sleep and wanting a couple bed/room again and I’m sure that he’ll also be “normal” when Annabelle decides to move out and he has the wealth of memories to share and remember. 🙂

    I have no idea when our eldest son will decide to move to his own bed in our room or to his own room but whenever he talks about it he says “I don’t want to sleep alone. I want to be next to you. Your so warm and cuddly.” I just asked him why he likes to share a bed with us and he said “Because I don’t want to be alone. If there’s lighting and a storm and rain is hitting my window, I will be scared and I want to be close to my family.”

    Once Annabelle gets older it will be fun for your dh to hear the reasons that she likes to co-sleep with you. 🙂

    Thanks for the post and sorry for the long response. It’s a topic dear to our hearts.

  6. Thank you for sharing your reflections on cosleeping Mama2HoneyPies. I am looking forward to the day when Annabelle can tell us how much cosleeping means to her, and I agree that my husband is completely normal in his desire to sleep. What human does not like to sleep (except geniuses like Einstein, etc.)? I really believe that building trust with our children early on will reap benefits as they grow into older children, teens, and adults. Cosleeping is like a building block for a solid foundation in our family.

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