The (Unintentional) Family Bed


She’s back in our bed. I don’t even know how it happened. Okay, that’s a lie. It’s just that it happened so gradually, I didn’t see it coming. Although I should have.

I was so proud of the fact that I had a toddler who would go to sleep at night with relatively little fuss, and, for the most part, would stay in her crib all night. (Notice how I carefully qualified those last statements!) We worked hard to get to that point.

But then it happened. It started with her waking earlier than I wanted, around 5:00 AM. It would be close enough to wake-up time that it was easier to get her and bring her into our bed in order to get a peaceful last few hours of sleep. Gradually, that wake-up time started to creep up to 4:00 AM, and then 3:00 AM. I’d wake up to her crying, and with bleary eyes I would walk down the hall to her room intending only to console her. But I found it hard to resist the smile that would replace the wailing as soon as I walked in. She would flash a big smile, point to our room and say, “Bed?” Okay, kid, ya got me! Daddy, being a bigger marshmallow than I am, was no help whatsoever. Sometimes Daddy would get her; sometimes I would. We were equally complicit.

The wake-up time crept even earlier. Eventually, before I knew it, I was convinced that from a sound sleep in her crib, she could sense the exact moment I would be turning off the television to go to bed myself, and rather than fight the crying, I would just get her and bring her into bed with me, leaving me no alone time in my own bed. Dammit! It was so NOT how I wanted things to be.

I have a friend who is a proponent of “the family bed” as it’s lovingly called, and I when I was pregnant, I would just shake my head and think Oh, hell no! She’d smile back and say, “Just you wait.” Now, two years into motherhood, I understand. I’m not saying it’s what I want or that I have been converted. I am just saying that I understand. The family bed is one of those things that stirs up huge controversy, and strong emotions and opinions abound. Some people are huge advocates of the family bed. Some are vehemently against the idea. And there are even those who keep their family bed a secret to avoid both late night sleep battles and the judgment and scorn of others.

In many ways it’s a comfort to have our daughter in our bed. I love to cuddle with her under the covers and stroke her hair and whisper, “I love you, Charlie” while we both drift off to sleep. I love her warmth. I love to watch her breathing and sleeping so peacefully. She’s right there, and I only have to open my eyes to know that she is okay and safe and oh so content to be right beside me.

But I also know the precedent it sets. I know that I sleep better when she is not in our bed slowly pushing me so that I only have a few precious mattress and pillow inches to myself. I know that for me, it is important that she learn to sleep by herself, and that the older she gets, the harder that will be for her to learn. So last night we began the process of “Ferberizing.” If you’ve seen Modern Family (easily my favorite sitcom of the season), you’ve heard the term that originated from the popularity of this sleep training book written by Dr. Richard Ferber:

Some people think his methods are cruel because it involves letting your baby cry (which is admittedly HARD), but if you read the book, it explains why that’s honestly not a bad thing. Anyone I know who has used this method and followed it to the letter say the same thing: it works.  We did it, and it worked.  Well, until the gradual regression, but as the book will tell you, refreshers are sometimes needed.  (“RE-Ferberizing,” if you will) Personally, I preferred this book:

It offers very similar ideas and strategies, but the book is much more reader friendly.  Sleep training your child is a lot like exercising: you HATE it during the process, and it’s even painful at times, but you know the end result will be worth it. Once again we’ll endure the nights of listening to the crying down the hall. It will suck, I know. But with any luck, after a few nights, we’ll be rewarded with quiet, restful nights and our own sleeping space once again. At least until we have to make the move to a toddler bed…


  1. LeeWee says:

    one word… Samantha!


  2. Irene Landon says:

    It is so easy to be a marshmallow and so hard to be the bad cop. Good luck!


  3. Helenie says:

    Kellerooooo? As you say, people have STRONG opinions about this. I am one of them. BUT, my strong opinion is for ME, not every other mother and father on the planet. I, me, JUST ME, never had my kids in bed with us. And there’s many reasons for this, not the least is that without a good night’s sleep I could NOT have been a good mother! But there’s another reason, and I liken this one to, ummmm, Shrek? No, he’s not green but he is BIG and he is gruff on the outside and a mush pot on the inside. And there had to be a choice made, HIM or the kids because there is no way I was dealing with both. And since I thought, at the time, that when they are long gone I’m still going to be sleeping with Shrek, I chose him. And funny thing… the kids ARE long gone and I’m still sleeping with Shrek. And he’s even gotten a little greener over the years too.
    Opinions I have a zillion, but one of them is that it’s no one’s business but yours. I just know it would not have worked for me.


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