As with most tales of children not sleeping, the simple set up you see above all started because sometime last year, we knew we had to do something to at least try and get better quality sleep. For all of us.
My older boys have always shared a room, albeit in separate beds in different corners of their room, up until a year ago. But let’s just say one sleeps better than the other. Suffian, who is now five, can sleep through anything that noisy north London nights throw at him. But he wasn’t always like this.
When he was born, we lived on a main road right outside a bus stop, our bedrooms facing the street. It never even occurred to us that this might be problematic; but the first night we moved in, when our windows rattled from sirens that shook my bones and ambulance headlights cast eery, jerky shadows on the wall, I panicked, immediately thinking we’d made a big, big mistake. I thought none of us would ever sleep again, let alone our newborn.
As it happens, he was born a terrible sleeper and a constant night feeder, and it had nothing to do with the noise (although, in the end, we installed secondary glazing on our old leaky sash windows which helped a little). Then, one fine day when he was seven months, we sleep-trained in a day (I know this brings up all sorts of different feelings for everyone; we did it for us because we, I, simply needed to sleep again) and lo and behold, after ten minutes of crying he slept through the night and has done so ever since.
And boy, can he sleep - an enviably, deep, steady sleep from which he has to be stirred every morning.
We now thankfully live on a quieter, sedate road, where noise at night is minimal. Suffian sleeps. Jude, still breastfeeding but with no night feeds anymore, is now mostly sleeping through the night. But Sina, who is sprightly and all-in-all a happy-go-lucky little three-year-old boy during the day, had always found nights hard.
Sometimes, it was just excuses - he was thirsty, he was hungry, he wanted macadamia nuts at 3am (water I could do, nuts not so much). Other times, he’d be more upset. He used to get frightened and imagine spiders or ants in his bed. I heard him once telling his older brother, quite earnestly and a little worryingly, that there were monsters in our house at night. At their worst, his night terrors, for that is what they were, were indeed terrifying. They say you need to let them calm down themselves and try not to startle them; it was unbearable to watch him thrashing at some unknown in the dark.
It also didn’t help that Sina’s bed, a low Montessori-style floor bed, was right next to our hallway wall. Any time the doorbell rang after bedtime, I’d freeze, just waiting for him to howl. So when I was pregnant with Jude, we decided we needed to do something to help Sina sleep and also use it as an opportunity to refresh their room and make it special for them before their new sibling came along.
We considered a bunk bed but couldn’t find one that would fit without being custom made, something we weren’t prepared to risk if neither of them would take to it. So we asked them what they wanted to do. “Sleep together,” they replied.
And that, in short, is how we’ve ended up with our two boys sharing a bed. It was their idea.
When we considered it properly, we realised it might not be such a bad idea either. They would have each other for comfort in the night; it might just help with those middle-of-the-night wake ups. And also - how could we say no to them wanting to be together? But we did want to be sure this wasn’t just going to be a novelty, so first we trialled it with makeshift camp beds on the floor for about a month. When we asked them again after that if they still wanted to sleep together, the answer was still yes.
So then we bought a new junior bed for Sina, raised off the floor now, to match his older brother’s, and we simply pushed them together. We figured if it didn’t work out, we could at least pull the beds apart.
And that is, simply, the story of how they co-sleep. They’ve slept like this ever since. Sina only very rarely suffers from those overwhelming night terrors now and his other, more frequent wake ups have certainly notably diminished. Whether or not this has anything to do with his big brother next to him, I don’t know - but you sure can’t get lonely in a warm, shared bed sleeping next to someone you love who also happens to be your best friend. This is how this sleeping arrangement has helped us as a family:
six reasons why my children share a bed and how it helps us:
1 It makes morning easier
They wake each other up, and because our bedroom is right underneath, we can hear them having a little chat as they try to figure out whether it’s morning yet and if it is, what they should play. They don’t come running to wake us up because they are quite content to have each other’s company first.
2 It makes bedtimes easier
It’s simple for everyone to pile on to one big bed for story time (whereas previously, it was a point of contention as to whose bed story time was going to take place on).
3 It has simplified their bedroom
Instead of two beds at opposite ends of their room, we now have a defined sleeping space, made cosy with matching duvets.
4 We’ve gained more space
By shifting the beds together, we’ve opened up space. Where Sina’s bed once was is now a reading corner, their books lining the wall.
5 Co-sleeping makes travelling less complicated
Rather than specify children’s beds or worry about bunks, we just need another double or a twin where we can push two beds together, fashioning bed guards from rolled up cushions or blankets, and then we’re done.
6 It’s made them closer
More than any of the practical reasons, it’s this one I love the most. My boys are already close in age, at just over 19 months apart. They have always done everything together but, recently, school (for one) and nursery (for the other) has changed that. They are now apart during the day, whereas previously they shared playtime and lunch together at nursery, and this has been the hardest transition for them to get used to. Lately they’ve both expressed missing the other (and by the way, before this sounds too idyllic, they do have their fair share of squabbles and snatches too). But at night time, they always fall asleep as best friends who are back together again. They fall asleep safe and warm, side by side; one’s arm flung over another’s head. They may not always want to do this. And yes, sometimes, one complains that the other put his foot in his face in the night. But I’m happy to follow their lead on this until they’re ready to sleep apart.
As for their younger sibling - well, ever since he was born, they’ve been begging for him to sleep with them in their room too. When I’ve asked how they think they’ll do this, given that there’s not all that much more space, they’ve told me it will be easy. “He’ll just go in the middle. See Mama?” and with that, they haul their baby brother right between them, him with the biggest smile on his little round face. When I take him out again, there’s all sorts of mock-upset. Seems they’ve got it all planned out.
Have you every considered letting your children co-sleep in this way? Is it something you want to try but aren’t sure if it would backfire? I’d love to know if and how it’s worked out for you. Join in the conversation with me in the comments below, or jump on Instagram and find me here to follow along and drop me a message.