When They Need You to Fall Asleep:  Self-Soothing and Other Myths

By Wendy Wisner

Does your baby or child need you to fall asleep?  Is nursing the only thing that does the trick?  Rocking?  Back patting?  Cuddling?   Holding hands?   Just lying there silently in the dark?  Have you been told you just need to leave the room at some point and let your child learn to self-soothe?  Have you been told you are doing your child a disservice by not teaching him or her this very important life skill?

I remember when my first child was a newborn.  Like most sleep deprived parents, I googled stuff about infant sleep.  Was he getting enough sleep?  When would he sleep longer stretches?  Was there anything I needed to do to make things better?  Basically, would I ever sleep again, and if so, when and how?

adrhyMy big boy and me.

Every single website that came up said I was doing it all wrong.  By nursing him to sleep (even at just a few weeks old) I was creating a bad habit.  They said he would never learn how to “self-soothe,” fall asleep on his own, or sleep through the night (because I was — gasp — nursing him every time he stirred, to comfort him, not just to “feed” him).  I was supposed to put him down “drowsy but awake” and then he was supposed to figure out how to fall asleep himself.  This might involve some crying or fussing, but I was supposed to “tough it out” for the sake of fostering “good sleep habits” in my baby.

I spent about an hour freaking out about this.  I knew I would never do any of it.  I was brought up with a family bed, and parents who taught me that children need comfort at night as well as during the day.  I had fond memories of falling asleep in the big bed with my mom and sister.  But as a sleep deprived new mom, I was pretty concerned about this being the only solution out there for me to get some much needed sleep.

I somehow slogged through the first few months, listening to my instincts and continuing to nurse him on demand, both day and night.  By six months or so, we had a good routine going.  I would rock and nurse him in the rocking chair, and then bring him to bed.  It often took him awhile, but usually he was asleep in thirty minutes.

Of course, some nights were really hard, hours of incessant rocking and nursing to get him to sleep.  I would get that itchy, restless feeling in my body.  I’d want to jump out of my skin.  But my instincts told me that this was what he needed, so I did it.

The frustration was just as quickly replaced with joy: feeling his body give in and fall asleep in my arms, his deep sleep sighs, kissing his dreamy head.  I realized (and I continue to realize every day of being a parent) that it was ok for me not to like every minute of it, that it was ok for frustration to exist with joy.  Just because you sometimes experience negative feelings about parenting, doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong or need to change anything.

And as for my kid, was I doing harm by never teaching him to “self-soothe” or sleep without nursing?  Would he be dependent on me for longer than he was supposed to?  Well, it depends on what your definition of “supposed to” is.

asfghOur awesome famiy bed (and our little guy napping).  My older son has a bed in our bedroom and in his own room. 

I nursed him to sleep till he was about four years old, at which point, he would nurse, and then pop off to cuddle and talk.  He weaned from breastfeeding completely at five years old.  But even after he weaned, he still wanted me to cuddle with him as he fell asleep.  And at seven years old, there’s much less cuddling, but he likes me to stay in the room with him until he’s all the way asleep.

I recently wrote a piece on my blog about lying with him until he falls asleep.  I was surprised that this was a bit controversial to some people!  Commenters and on and offline were concerned that perhaps he was a little too old for such “hand holding” and that the fact that I was expressing any mixed feelings about it meant that I should just cut myself a break and teach him to go to sleep on his own.

Well, it probably goes without saying that what I do with my kids is what works for me and my family and may not work for yours.  Really, as long as you are giving love to your kids, whatever that looks like, you are awesome.  I admire all kinds of parents, many of whom make different choices than I do.

But a seven year old who still wants mommy to put him to sleep?  Crazy?  Weird?  Not quite right?

How about normal?  Do you know that he’s not the only one out there?  I know many, many two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds, six-year-olds, and quite a few seven-year-olds who need their parents to put them to sleep sometimes or always.  Like extended breastfeeding, it’s just not something readily discussed but it happens all over.

And you know what else?  I used to be one!  My husband used to be one!  We both “weaned” from needing parent help at bedtime in our own time.  We both eventually did sleepovers with our friends, went to sleep-away camp, went to college.  We’re champion sleepers but we still both prefer to have another warm body to snuggle with as we drift off.

It’s interesting that writing about lying with my seven-year-old until he falls asleep is such a “confession,” because, when you think about it, is there anything more normal and natural sounding than that?  We just lie there and talk.  He falls asleep.  I leave the room and eat a sandwich.  It’s a funny world we live in.

Do you still parent your toddler or older child to sleep?  What works for you and your family?

 

***Wendy Wisner is the author of two books of poems, Morph and Bloom (2013) and Epicenter (2004), as well as a chapbook, Another Place of Rocking (2010).  Wendy is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and blogs about breastfeeding, motherhood, and writing at www.nursememama.com.  She lives in New York with her husband and two sons.

You can find Wendy and her work at the following links:

http://www.wendywisner.com/books.html

https://www.facebook.com/morphandbloom

http://www.amazon.com/Morph-Bloom-Wendy-Wisner/dp/1625490410/

http://nursememama.com/

Comments

  1. Great piece!! Really, what could be more normal? Your bed looks wonderfully cozy. Thanks for sharing:)

  2. Great piece! I find it ironic that its perfectly acceptable for an adult to find sleeping alone uncomfortable, lonely and upsetting but somehow our emotionally immature children arent allowed to have those same feelings? I really think the point of parenting to give our children a stable emotional platform to stand on. Thanks for putting my thoughts into far more eloquent words.

    • Christina says:

      That’s exactly what I was thinking as I read this! I don’t like sleeping alone so why should I force my children to do it?

      • Elizabeth says:

        I think also that may be why so many of us need to have a warm body next to us as we drift off to sleep…because we as babies were never given the tools needed to develop healthy sleeping habits alone. I don’t mind though. My son is 2 and he sleeps with us.

        • Ugh! Baby helping… Love that comment! ^^^

          • I went through the same with my daughter and everyone made sure that I knew their opinion on the matter. But I tell you, my daughter is one of the most confidant and vibrant child in class. I nursed her until she weaned at around five years old and she still today co-sleeps. Much of that is due to the incredibly high costs of two bedrooms, but even so it’s an arrangement we both enjoy very much. Many nights she goes to bed with out me. She has no trouble putting herself to sleep. My parenting choices have not inhibited her growth and development. If anything, they have contributed to a very adaptable and confident, bright young woman. I am so happy to hear I am not alone in this world!! It’s truly like confessing and it shouldn’t be. I shouldn’t have to ask for permission to parent differently than the books say. Honestly, I think it’s borderline abusive not to tend to the emotional needs of your children. They are babies. They cry because they have a basic need that they are looking to be met!

    • I was sooooo thinking the same! My cousin’s son also aksed one day to his mother :”It’s not fair, how come you and daddy sleep together and I have to be alone?” He is so right! I remember I was so scarred to sleep alone when I was young, I ended up sleeping in my brother’s room (or him in mine) for many, many years! We get so caught up on what’s supposed to be normal and not, that we forget to think for ourselves. I am sleeping with my 3 year old, she still needs me. She does sleep through the night now, finally lol my husband sleeps in another room because he snores way too much lol and we are comfortable like that. Thanks for reminding us it’s ok! I know I get judged all the time for sleeping and still helping my 3 year old to sleep. The only thing I wonder is do your kids ever have a babysitter?

  3. My two-and-a-half-year-old nurses every night before bed, and I stay with him until he falls asleep. He usually goes to sleep holding my hand. This is what he needs right now, and I have faith that he won’t need me there forever; after all, not so long ago he couldn’t fall asleep unless he was nursing, and he made his way past that on his own terms. Thanks for writing this; like so many other things we do as parents, just hearing about others acting the same way helps to feel normal and to stop worrying about what others might think.

  4. My daughter did co sleeping and nursed her child to sleep. She was told by everyone, including health visitors that she was doing it wrong and it would become a bad habit. My grandson decided for himself when he was ready to settle himself and kicked my daughter out of bed. Baby knows best.

  5. I have a 3 year old and relate to everything you’ve written. As hard as it can be sometimes I know that going against my heart and instincts would be much harder. Thank you for helping me feel less alone in my convictions.

  6. hi! our seven year old often sleeps in our room. he has a “floor bed” there since there isn’t room for another bed, along with the crib (for his one year old brother, who sometimes sleeps with us) and the co-sleeper for his newborn sister. i should have bought a king bed so the boys could have both been in our bed. for now, room sharing seems to work for everyone!

  7. Thank you for saying it’s ok to have negative feelings when they’re nursing incessantly! I’ve only recently (ftm to 9 month dd) begun to accept my lo won’t go to bed when I want and it’s like you’ve pinged a light bulb in my head! Jenny, Ireland

  8. Thank you for saying it’s ok to have negative feelings when they’re nursing incessantly! I’ve only recently (ftm to 9 month dd) begun to accept my lo won’t go to bed when I want and it’s like you’ve pinged a light bulb in my head! Jenny, Ireland

  9. Ahhh…..I love posts like this. I am nursing my wee little one to sleep every night (and during the day). And she stays with me in my bed all night. For my baby being as young as she is, we both get killer sleep at night because both our needs are being met at the same time. I wished I would have been more educated about breastfeeding with my 7 year old when she was a baby, but she snuggled with me every night until she started kindergarten. And she did it on her own when she was ready. I miss snuggling with her now. I will never regret my decision to co-sleep.

  10. My 6 year old was my husbands baby. I joke that I was the one who grew and fed him only because my husband phyiscally could not. They are very attachted to eachother. He will still climb in his lap when he’s had a long hard day gets overly tired. He wants daddy to just sit and hold him to sleep. He will even ask him to sit down so he can curl up in his lap. These nights are getting to be less and less. But he still asks to be tucked in. During the day is the most independant little boy i have ever met!

  11. I loved this article.
    I am tired of hearing how “wrong” I am for nursing my daughter to sleep or for co-sleeping. It gets to the point where I really hope they don’t bring up sleeping habits at her doctor visits, so I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who has ever been guilted for the way they put their child to bed.
    I, too, was brought up in a house where we all slept in a common place and that was normal for me. I eventually got used to sleeping on my own when I was ready and so will my children.
    I’m also glad to see that I’m not the only one who deals with seemingly endless nursing in order to soothe my little gal at night, I thought that I was doing something terribly wrong, but now I understand it’s probably just what she wants/needs.

  12. I do the same. I just got my five and seven year old out of our bedroom into their own rooms. It was hard for us all but in the end they still have their mom to cuddle with and make sure they fall asleep with me there. I now have six month old co-sleeping and sometimes bed sharing because its just easier to nurse. i nurse her to sleep as well and wouldnt change it for the world. Someday there going to be older and not need me so mich and I’M the one thats going to miss it and need them. I cherish every minute, even the ones when i do get frustrated with the constant nursing.

  13. I needed to hear this! I know perfectly well that it is 100% normal for my 29 month old son to nurse to sleep,and even wake to nurse at night,and most nights I love it, we co-slept full time until he was two, and now he has his own full size bed in his room,and in respond to him the second I hear him, but some nights are brutal and I am frustrated and tired and thankfully he forgives me for being grouchy the second he is nursing,and usually its not long before he rolls over and cuddles up to me,he just wants to know I am there!!

  14. Just a wonderful post – I lay down with my 3.5 year old to cuddle him to sleep every night because it is often the only time we get just us as he has an 11 month old brother (who is also nursed to sleep and nursed in the night whenever he needs it, and who sleeps with me more often than not). I refuse to be ashamed for loving my children and giving them affection when they are little and need me most, and posts like yours are such a boost in a world of parenting ‘advice’ which goes against almost every instinct I have.

  15. I currently nurse my almost three year old to bed and then leave the room, when she wakes up she crawls into bed with me. We used to co sleep up until this point where I was only sleeping maybe two hours before she would wake me to nurse and it every two hours it would be till it was time to get up. I felt she was ready for her own bed. Its working, some nights she will sleep till seven in the morning, sometimes she wakes up at two. I loved co sleeping but it was time for us to give her, her own space!

  16. Thank you for this. I often don’t even bother telling people I still nurse or co-sleep. It is very hard to not receive support from your partner or family, but I have continued to listen to my gut and my instincts and my heart. Reading stuff like this is always a good shot in the arm that I am not doing anything wrong. My daughter is 3.5 and she still nurses and still needs me at night. Thank you.

  17. Mallory Sherrill says:

    I loved reading this. I did the cry it out thing with my first baby because that’s what everyone said I was “supposed” but I usually ended up in the rocking chair nursing him half the night. I wasn’t listening to my instincts and was only making both of our lives harder!! I realized when baby #2 was born that I had been doing it all wrong. I am now on baby #3 and am a proud bed sharing mommy! My husband, our 4 1/2 yr old, our nursing 2 1/2 yr old, nursing 6 week old and I all fall asleep every night very comfortably in our Cali king bed! I do move the older two to their beds after they’re asleep for lack of space but bed time is so much happier. It still hurts my heart when I remember listening to my first baby boy crying in his bed when all he wanted was to be close to me… I wish I could go back and just bring him to my bed and cuddle him 🙁 I will never ignore my instincts again.

  18. Michelle says:

    Love the article. Nursed both of my girls to sleep until they weaned at 4 1/2. My baby is almost 8 and I still sing her to sleep every night. I did the same with her sister who will be 15 this month. Sadly for me, she doesn’t need me to help her fall asleep anymore hasn’t since she was about 8 years old too. They grow so fast, follow your instincts and savor every moment.

  19. I am not a mother, but had to look after my niece and put her to sleep a few nights a week when she was between 6-24months.

    She was bottle fed as she couldnt quite get the breastfeeding thing down pat. She was my sister’s first child and needless to say we had a tough time getting her to sleep: we tried the “tough love” approach (put her in cot and let her find her own way to sleep), cradling her and walking around…it got quite stressful for my sister and her husband (they’d get angry, get a bit teary) so then I would take her and attempt to help her sleep (just to give mum and dad a time out).

    My approach was this: I’d calm my self down, lie down and let her lie on my chest- and have a bottle on hand. Sometimes it would take more than an hour for her to calm down but eventually she would fall asleep (and myself as well)- when she’d wake up, I would let her have some bottle and she’d usually fall back asleep with it in her mouth. Then mummy would gently take her into bed with her.

    My sister is now onto her next little girl- who is breastfeeding. And the above method (with inclusion of the breast, and exclusion of the aunt) seems to be the best method again with my sister sleeping with her little lady every night.

    In both cases: the methods are never foolproof. But one thing seemed constant- nursing helped no matter the teething, the girls being sick or simply the girls not sleeping.

    Although I’m not a mother yet but am definitely planning to be amd am expecting that motherhood will never be a “perfect” structure.

    From my experience: keep calm (I’ll insert laugh here as I know it can be extremely hard), and dont pay attention to the books or the online “instructions”…they’re guidelines and as we all know every child is different when it comes to bedtime and nursing habits.

    I would also like to say- my sister and I love this website: breaks the stereotypes, and gives insight that every parent needs.

    Also a shout out to my sister Bids- the most badass breastfeeder I know

  20. Love this! I’m so sick of everyone’s snap judgment of my decision to bedshare with my daughter… the “oh, you’ll never get her out of your bed!” Seriously? So what? I don’t particularly care if she sleeps with me until she’s ready not to. IT WORKS FOR US. She doesn’t ever have to self-soothe, as far as I’m concerned… that’s exactly what Mama is there for. She sleeps so well *with* me; I can’t imagine how difficult my life would be if we weren’t bedsharing!

  21. Sierra Wendorff says:

    My step-daughter just turned eight years old this summer. She still insists on having time with her dad until she is droopy eyed. She also co-sleeps with us regularly. I co-sleep with my 6 month old son, and have no plans to change that. I am not concerned with the fast that he needs to be rocked before naps or that he nurses to sleep. I enjoy our night time routine. I look forward to it. I will not stop “spoiling” my child and step-child.

  22. So glad to read your story! I often feel ashamed to tell people I nurse my almost 2-year-old to sleep, or my husband or I stay with him next to his bed till he sleeps. When he wakes around 5 I let him drink and we sleep another hour or longer.
    It never felt wrong, only peoples comments on it do. So thank you for this story.
    Love from the Netherlands

  23. I have 4 kids and I guess my question to nursing for 4 years and sleeping with your 7 year old until they fall asleep or sleep with you is apparently you all who do this only have one child? I nursed each of mine as long as I could but didn’t go 4 years in between kids to continue to nurse a kindergartner and I don’t exactly have the time to snuggle each of my children until they fall asleep when they are in different rooms. There isn’t room in my king bed for four extra people, and I actually prefer adult snuggling with my husband as well so that typically would take precedence to sleeping with my child in my bed. Do you just pick your favorite child to do this with or do you only have one because your child sleeps with you and it takes you an hour to sleep with your kids so you never had the opportunity to create more children? Sounds to me like you’re setting your kids up to need someone in their beds and I’m hoping my kids don’t want to sleep with someone else until they are well into adulthood so hopefully when they are in college they aren’t sleeping around just to have a warm body in their bed. I never let my kids cry it out. I never ignored their cries. I nursed them to sleep many times and snuggled their heads. I enjoyed nursing each and every one of them. But I also want time with my husband and I also want them to be independent adults. I still snuggle all my kids to bed, my 8 year old included, but they fall asleep on their own.

    • Many of the commenters on this article expressed that they do have more than 1 child and although it may be easier with just one, they find what works for them as a family. This may not be the way for you and your family but for others, it’s a normal and completely acceptable way of parenting. As for the personal relationships, I don’t really think that is anyone’s business but theirs. Some people don’t need to have sex every day and/or maybe they choose to do it other places than at night in their bed (good for them if they do!). Co-sleeping will not lead to promiscuity as you are suggesting, in fact, it can lead into a much more independent and secure child which is generally a trait of the less promiscuous.

      It sounds like you have a wonderful bedtime routine that works for you and kudos to you for that. Hopefully you can realize that others have different routines and for them it is just as wonderful and healthy.

  24. My girl turns 3 in three days and she falls asleep every night on my lap on the couch and I put her into her bed fast asleep. I really don’t care how “normal” that is. As with most things parenting, it feels right for us so we keep doing it. I can’t imagine any other way, even if I get touched out sometimes. I love her little head getting heavy in the crook of my elbow <3

  25. We have a similar routine going on. First my.baby girl and then my three and a half year old boy. Or sometimes at the same time. We also get comments about the older one. This works for us and we are happy to do it this way. I always ask people why they consider it as a problem. It’s not that they have to take my kids to bed. So why worry about it? : )

  26. tina mccallum says:

    Oh my gosh I get crap now and my daughter is only 22 months. I am weaning her now but I still like to cuddle and rock her to sleep. I get the “you baby her” comments and I so mad. I am trying to figure out a polite but firm way to shut the comments down. When I’m silent I feel like I’m not really standing up for myself. Any advice?

    • First of all, you are supported! Do what YOU feel is best for you and your family. And just say exactly that to those people, “This is what I feel works for us, I understand your point of view but I would appreciate if you would accept that my way of parenting is different than yours”. And you don’t owe them any explanation!

      Please do not ever let anybody pressure you or make you feel like you are doing it wrong. Good luck to you!

  27. Our sons – 7 & 2 need parents to fall asleep. The older one has his own bed in his room, but I sit with him untill he falls asleep & usually wake up co – sleeping as he comes to our bed when he wakes up & needs us. The younger one doesn’t even have a bed, it’s too early for him. I guess some people are so scared of “spoiling” their kids or “losing” independance that they see children’s needs as problems or obstacles. I find it sad – and as I (surprisingly ;-)) haven’t lost my independance, I don’t care what they think. Our boys are happy, they feel loved. These are our priorities.

  28. Thankyou for posting!! like you I was told the same thing about “not teaching my son a life lesson ect yadda yadda yadda”but you know what …. IT WORKED FOR ME!!! my co sleeping experience all started when my Son was 4 months old and I woke up “THANK GOODNESS”to him in his cot on his belly( in a swaddle sleep suit so he couldent use his hands” and he was gasping for breath..
    NOW that is scarey!!!! ever since that moment I was too scared to put him in his own bed he HAD to be next to me, I did my research on safe co sleeping and in fact by I had a similar set up to the picture above once he reached around 2 years old lol.
    his car bed was right next to mine and I used to hold his hand while we slept. and I dont regret a thing, even had 2 more kids and did the exact same thing ( my 2 year old still sleeps with me) but I dont feed her any more as I needed a break from breast feeding.
    im 26 weeeks pregnant now and unfortunatly I live in a smaller house this time so cant really have her in a bed next to mine so im trying to work out what im going to do with her, Maybe she can just stay in my bed after the bubs is born lol.
    my 2 boys are 3 and 4, they now have their own room and I get them to bed with the tv and a half hour timer on it.
    ,my house is a very controversial one BUT IT WORKS FOR US!!! so anyone with an opinion on what I do with my children can go jump because I feel like im doing the right thing for them and im their mum, no one else.

  29. I went through much heartbreak and stress with my oldest child, I wasn’t allowed to Co sleep (following the rules and husbands feelings). And my poor wee lass had undiagnosed reflux so couldn’t settle anyway. Interestingly she started thumb sucking again (she did in utero) @ about 4months and I always felt this was too help fill that void. She is now 6 and in an attempt to protect her growing gums etc she is trying very hard to stop (the first time I have ever let anyone influence this because it was her one comfort I felt). I found that by simply climbing into bed and cuddling her to sleep she started to be able to transition much easier. So it’s never too late to follow your instincts.

  30. Ok, so I am totally supportive of co-sleeping to a certain age if done with the proper equipment to keep baby safe. But you have no scientific research to support your position on your blog and breastfeeding your boy until 4 years old lends to even less credibility to be honest. It would be interesting to follow your boy to adulthood to see what kind of mommy dependency he grows up with. All I have to say is look around you for evidence of what is really happening out there. Kids these days are growing up way too pampered and call on mom and dad for everything. Helicopter parenting is not a good thing. I have the same desires of wanting to make sure my kids are happy and secure, but if they are insecure with depending on themselves, then they become co-dependent on others as adults and teenagers which is extremely unhealthy. There is a problem with this upcoming generation and attitudes of entitlement which makes it difficult for them to “play nice” with others in the workplace and in their own relationships. When kids self sooth it teaches them that mommy isn’t going to come running to fix it every time, Most of a kids mental development happens before age 5. (that is supported with scientific research) There is a reason self soothing is supported by doctors and physiologists. Under the direction of my pediatrician I taught my kids to self sooth and sleep through the night by four months. It was really hard for me but they took to it quickly. My kids are now 8, 10, 17, and 19, The older ones have grown out of the cuddly, but are both loving and sweet yet very independent, highly intelligent and very secure in who they are. The 8 and 10 year old are still very cuddly and sweet both are extremely intelligent and secure in who they are and who they want to be. You only have at most 16 years to mold your kids to be successful adults for the remaining 59 years of their lives (on average) . Most of what I read here is self-serving because the “parent” can’t control their own desires when it comes being with and doing things for their kids. Yeah, its really, really hard on a parent to let go a little and teach your little ones to be independent, self sooth, etc. It takes a lot of self control to be able to do it. I know because I have done it myself. However, the rewards of seeing my kids well-developed wings stretch out and fly strong as they leave the nest is and was all worth it.

    • I think it is wonderful that you found sleep methods that worked for your family, and that you have 4 beautiful and thriving children. But there are many studies on the topic of infant sleep, and many conflicting conclusions. It seems that most parents here have developed a different conclusion than you, and it does not mean they will necessarily raise ill-adjusted children. Some recent studies have shown that “self-soothing” is not as healthy for brain development as once thought. Yes, most of the brain is developed before age 5, and when a child is left to cry, it induces stress on the brain, so the brain is developing under stressful conditions. One study I read showed that when a child was left to cry-it-out, their cortisol levels were heightened indicating stress. After a few nights, the child no longer cried or displayed outward signs of stress, but the cortisol levels were still elevated indicating the child was no less stressed, but had learned that their crying would not get them any soothing and should stress in silence. Responding to a baby teaches them trust, and causes them to form a tighter bond with their care givers and a secure attachment. Spoiling and over-indulgence don’t become a problem until after infancy and toddlerhood. (I know many sleep “experts” disagree on the cortisol study.. but there are many “experts” on BOTH sides of this discussion. A decision a family makes for their children is for them alone to make, as they alone have to live with it.)

      Attachment studies have also shown that the more attached a child is to their caregiver, the MORE independent they become later in life. When the studies were first conducted, researches expected to find the opposite conclusion, but they found that attachment parenting does NOT in fact produce co-dependent adults. The closeness and bonding and responsiveness a caregiver shows a child actually creates a more secure child, which then gives them the confidence and freedom to explore the world on their own terms. It may sound counter-intuitive, but giving your child more attention at the beginning creates a more independent child later. Also, bed sharing and nursing past infancy are norms around the world, and throughout history.

      As for worrying about creating a society of self-entitlement, I agree that our society seems to going down a path of creating entitled children. But I disagree that co-sleeping or nursing is causing this. Statistics on breastfeeding show that almost 50% of the world is still breastfeeding their children after the age of 2 (http://kellymom.com/fun/trivia/bf-numbers/). And the less developed the nation, the higher the percentage of breastfed toddlers. So I can’t see the logic behind thinking breastfeeding can cause entitlement, as I don’t see developing nations as having bigger entitlement issues than my own culture (I’m from the USA). And co-sleeping is so common.. around the world and throughout history. People used to have 1 room houses (or no houses) and lots of children.. and grandchildren all sleeping together. It is not new, and not a unique phenomenon to the entitled generation. I agree that parents need to set limits for their children. When a child asks to eat cookies with every meal, or for a new toy every time they go to the store, the answer should be “no”. But the limits for each family are different, and just because one family decides to have a family bed does not mean the children will not learn limits.

      http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/attachment-parenting/attachment-research
      http://www.simplypsychology.org/mary-ainsworth.html

  31. “We just lie there and talk. He falls asleep. I leave the room and eat a sandwich.”
    Yeah. What the hell is wrong or weird about that??!!

  32. My first one only slept when she was being held and still at 7 usually spends half the night in our bed. My second could put herself to sleep early on and only wants to cuddle in bed when she is sick.

  33. Why do people always feel they have to have a say in other people’s parenting. What works for me may not necessarily work for the next family. There is way more to parenting then just self soothing or Co sleeping. Also I do not believe Co sleeping is the reason kids are growing up with this generation of children’s feelings of self entitlement. Some ppl these days are so quick to want there kids to grow up, self soothe, deal with problems themselves, and then they give their kids everything they want to keep them happy. If u ask me Co sleeping sounds alot better. My son is 12 yrs old I raised him mostly on my own with the help of my parents and siblings. My son did not breastfeed but to be completely honest we slept together in the same bed until last yr when we moved in with his father. Our bed time routine was our daily special moment were we spoke about the days events till we both fell asleep. As an adult I hate sleeping alone and I never Co slept with my parents. I still lay in bed with my 12 yr old son and talk about the days events until he falls asleep. I also wake up and lay in bed with him every morning for 5 min before the day begins. Ppl can say what they wish but this is what has worked best for us. My 12 yr old son is very independent. He has had chores since he was very little. He cares for his pets, takes out the trash and recycling daily, he does laundry on fridays among many other things. He is well adjusted very respectful to everyone around him, and is by no means spoiled or self entitled. He is an only child (I just haven’t had another) & has never been selfish he is very giving and loves to share. As far as dependency issues my son does run to me for everything he tells me everything and asks for my advice. How is that a bad thing? I am his mother that is job, that is what I am here for. I will always be here for him no matter what. My son knowing he can always count on me isn’t a dependency issue. I am not going to run and solve all his problems for him but I’m here for him and the fact that he never feels alone is a great thing. I don’t think Co sleeping till the age of 10 affected him poorly in anyway. I may be bias because he is my son but I did what worked for us and I know my son turned out just fine because I have parent him beyond just Co sleeping, I have taught him and disciplined him as best as I could.

  34. I thought it was pretty fitting that I read this what laying with my 1.5 year old while he was trying to fall asleep. We are trying to have him sleep in his own room after sharing a family bed. I hate to make him cry himself to sleep so I sit in his reading area while he falls happily asleep.

  35. I am from India and in my culture its absolutely normal for a seven year old to be put to sleep parents. Nothing weird about it at all!

  36. I expressed on FB some exasperation about my 2.5yo daughter taking something like 2 hours to fall asleep one night last year–mostly because I’d hoped to get some stuff done before I got my pregnant self to bed, too–and a friend had the gall to write something about my daughter should be long past nursing to sleep &/or wanting me to lie down with her as she fell asleep. I was gobsmacked. I don’t think I even bothered responding, because my friends jumped all over him about his unhelpful & judgmental comment, and he seems to have unfriended me sometime soon after. At 3.5yo, she still wants me to nurse her to sleep, or sing her songs or tell her stories while she falls asleep. (I think we both really enjoy the one-on-one time, now that her brother takes a lot of my attention.) I also find I usually get my best hours of sleep after she climbs into bed with us, even though four of us in a queen-size gets cramped pretty quickly.

  37. In other countries,MOST parents co-sleep.Here in the Philippines,its a practice to sleep beside your child until about 5-7years old may it be because there is no other room available (remember we are a 3rd world country so many live in very small houses) or simply because they dont want their baby unattended throughout the night.I myself grew up beside my mom AND grandma.naturally i co-slept (still is) with my daughters. We train them for independence during waking hours (my 3 year old learned to put on her socks by herself before she turned 2). My point is I dont think co-sleeping should be that big of an issue. Whatever works for one may not work for another. No need to criticize. And believe me,co-sleeping doesnt mean you’re helicopter parenting! I am a product of co-sleeping and I am the most independent woman i know!

  38. Many, many other cultures do it this way and cosleep even longer than seven. I see teenage and older mexican boys holding their mothers hand while walking. This is not damaging. This is AMAZING! Why do americans speak such nonsense? You’re doing amazing. Dont worry what others say.

  39. I just love seeing how many people support co-sleeping and nursing their children to sleep. The people I do know that were strictly ‘let the kid cry it out in their own bed’ really have had a rough time with their kids. Gosh, if adults get lonely at night and need someone to help them sleep, why is it so wrong for a baby with immature emotions to need the same? I wonder where this culture has gone wrong. It’s not the baby’s responsibility to adapt to adult needs – the adults are responsible to adapt to the baby’s needs.

  40. I’m a supporter! Thank you for this article, I too get a lot of people who think I’m weird because my 3 year old doesn’t even have her own bed! She still sleeps with me and has never gone to sleep on her own and we just weaned off of nursing when she turned 3 and honestly, I kind of regret it now.

    Her room is the play room and I’ve even had a friend offer to give me a bed like it’s something I didn’t have because I couldn’t afford it or something. I know there will come a day when she will want her own bed but until then, I’m happy to comfort her just by being there (sometimes she wants to cuddle, sometimes not). This works for us and that is all that matters to me!

  41. Hi, this is a great article & I love all the comments too. It makes me feel wonderful as a first time mom to know that bedsharing & nursing my 9 month old boy still is very healthy & normal. I have lots of friends & family members too that give me a strange look like with almost serious scared eyes or look that ohh it’s not good to have him in bed with you! But it works for us & my husband loves that I do this for our baby. He says there’s nothing cuter than to see your baby sleep with his mom. That’s how he grew up. And I love it too. The issue I’m having though & I’m surprised that no one talks about this here. I’m assuming most of us have to go back to work eventually. I have 3 months left off work then LO has to spend his days in daycare. I’m not planning on changing our sleep routine but how will my baby nap during the day in daycare if he needs mommy & the boob?? I’m worried that he will end up being the problem child for the caregiver because of the way we sleep at home. How do you ladies deal with bedsharing/breastfeeding & baby learning to self soothe at daycare? Thanks for any tips!!

    • That is a problem and yes, depending on which daycare you use it could be an issue for them as well. Fortunately for me, I was able to have a close friend watch my little when I went back to work until she was 8 months old and then my regular daycare facility (KinderCare) would rock/feed her to sleep then lay her in the crib. If it’s a good daycare they will do their best to accommodate. Most seem to have the ability to do this because they have a lower ratio which is also why you pay more. Just check around and see which ones are sensitive to your needs.

  42. Wow I’m glad I read this. It’s as if I’m reading my own mind everything you said I been thru and still going thru 🙂 I get a lot of guff by still breast feeding and my baby is only a year and five months. I always co sleep with her I feel relieved and happy to know I’m not the only one. And I should embrace my skills as a mother I’m 26 and I love the choices I’ve done for my baby.

  43. Thank you for sharing. I get a lot of opinion from people about my choices regarding sleep time with my daughter. I have been fortunate to be able to lay with my daughter every night while she goes asleep. She is 4 years old, and I have listened to my gut this far and will continue to do so. When she is ready for a change, then she and I will know. It is fustrating some nights, other nights, I simply enjoy what I am able to give to her – which is comfort, security, love, and time. I love to read articles about this topic, because after all, I do doubt by self sometimes. Thank you!

  44. Thank you so much for this! I needed this tonight.. My son is still a toddler, but I foresee many years of me sitting by his side until he falls asleep. And that is ok with me, too. Seriously, what could be more natural?!? I love nursing him to sleep, and sitting holding him, rocking him, and just looking at him when he is so still and peaceful. Every night it just seems like a miracle that the ball of energy running through the house, screaming and pointing and rearranging every toy in sight could wind down into the peaceful sleeping child in my arms. He does sleep in his own room, but he wakes up before my husband and I and crawls into our bed to finish his sleeping with us. And this works perfectly for all of us. We each get some alone time and space, and then come back together to complete our dream cycles together. And I get to wake up every morning to this perfect smiley, giggly face! Best alarm clock ever!

  45. I think a lot of people forget that not everyone was raised like how they were. I remember when I was ten, my sister was seven and my father had left for Korea for two years, every night while he was away, my mother had let us sleep in the bed with her and we cuddled. Nothing is wrong with that. I also recall a time, I was twenty, staying at my parents for the weekend and something spooked me. Guess where I slept? In the same twin size bed with my mom. Why? Because that is where I felt safe. I was twenty years old and when an unexplained sound woke me up and gave me shivers, I went to my mom’s room and asked if I could sleep in the bed with her. Many will find it weird, but, it calmed me down and I fell asleep. I am not ashamed of it. And it isn’t a bad habit. Now, when I get scared, I cuddle extra close to my boyfriend, or I go and pick up my baby girl and fall asleep with their security blanketing me. It is just human nature to have a fall back. And if holding hands and talking to fall asleep, it just means that he will be a great husband in the future for talking to his spouse until the two of them fall asleep, because his mom found his self soothing of just talking until the sandman does his job.

  46. I loved this article and I can really relate to it, thank you! I was wondering if anyone has any experience with being away for a few nights from your baby and how that affected your relationship with them (nursing and otherwise). I am due to be away Labour Day weekend for 3 nights and am worried how my 20 month old will take it. She generally nurses before my husband puts her to sleep and he brings her back to me in the early morning hours to nurse and cuddle. My husband usually sleeps in her room and tends to her night wakings as the lack of sleep was beginning to affect my health. I then nurse her on demand all day long. I am planning on leaving milk for her but she doesn’t usually accept my milk from a bottle. I am planning on pumping when I am away so I do not lose my milk supply. Please share your experiences with this! Thank you!

  47. I co-sleep/slept with all three of my kids. They were all preemies, none of them made it over 35 weeks. Two of the three were too small to nurse without bradying (they actually stopped breathing when nursing). So I did A LOT of pumping and anyone who’s done this knows you’re awake…all the time. Co-sleeping just felt natural for us. My oldest is now six and sleeps in his own bed but he slept with me until his brother (now four) came along. They both find their way to our bed at night, the four year old more so than his brother, and the baby (she’s nine months) still gets cuddled with a bottle until she’s sound asleep.

    I wouldn’t change a thing in our bedtime routine. I think it’s helped with how well adjusted each of my kids are proving to be. They’re independent, confident, and emotionally stable and I think that’s partially due to the fact they’ve always known we’re here for them, even if it’s just for a random 4am cuddle.

  48. I love this! My daughter’s doctor told me that I needed to start “sleep training” her, when she was 4 months old, and that if I didn’t do it soon, than it would never happen. Forget that! We’ve bed shared since day one (she’s almost 8 months now) and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  49. Thank you! My 2 1/2 year old loves for me to lay down in bed with her until she falls asleep. It’s “our” time since her baby brother was born 3 months ago. We read books and her bible as well as say our prayers. She has co-slept until a month before her brother came. And almost every night she wakes up wanting me to lay down again until she falls back asleep. I love my snuggly babies! My son also nurses to sleep now. Just like my daughter did until she was 15 months old. My son sleeps in his bassinet next to our bed. Right now we all sleep in the same room. And I would not change a thing. My husband wouldn’t either.

  50. I still lay down with my 9 yr old daughter. Sometimes she goes to sleep on her own, sometimes she needs me to lay down with her. Thank you for writing this piece as it made me feel so much better! I’m not alone!!

  51. I’ve nursed all three of my girls to sleep… most nights, that’s our routine: I nurse and/or rock and/or lay down in bed with them until they were asleep. My oldest weaned at 14 months and switched to just getting a cuddle with her soother before bed; my second weaned at 28 months, and by then she was doing the same bedtime routine as our oldest (jammies, bathroom, stories and prayers, goodnight, lights out, door closed, mom and dad leave). Right now that’s still our routine for them, and I nurse or snuggle my youngest (16 months) to sleep. And that works for us. Sometimes I think I should have a bedtime routine, more “connection” time with my oldest girls before bed, but by that time I’m exhausted and “checking out” for the day and I just want them in bed because I need some quiet time. My mantra has been what you said here: We each have to figure out what works for our own family, and that might be different than what works for your family. As you say, I know other “older” kids who still need their parents to go to bed with them. If that’s the routine and it works, great. I also know a family for whom this wasn’t working… so it’s a balance, but as long as everyone is happy and healthy and sleeping well, keep doing it! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  52. My daughter is 21 months. I still breastfeed on demand. It is for comfort. I sleep with both of my girls, my older one is almost 5. It isn’t often that I make it to my own bed to sleep with my husband, but I feel like I am doing the right thing and he supports me in that. I was unsuccessful BFing my oldest, so I pumped for 10 months, I see nothing wrong with offering them comfort. They both are very active and could care less about mommy cuddles as they play outside and have fun. They have grown in to normal little kids! I have gotten a lot of comments a about that I should wean my baby. I am not ready and neither is she. Thanks for the support ladies! They are only tiny, once!

  53. My daughter is 21 months. I still breastfeed on demand. It is for comfort. I sleep with both of my girls, my older one is almost 5. It isn’t often that I make it to my own bed to sleep with my husband, but I feel like I am doing the right thing and he supports me in that. I was unsuccessful BFing my oldest, so I pumped for 10 months, I see nothing wrong with offering them comfort. They both are very active and could care less about mommy cuddles as they play outside and have fun. They have grown in to normal little kids! I have gotten a lot of comments a about that I should wean my baby. I am not ready and neither is she. Thanks for the support ladies! They are only tiny, once!

  54. Thank you for all your comments about my post. It warms my heart that so many of you are sharing your stories. xo, Wendy

  55. “We just lie there and talk. He falls asleep. I leave the room and eat a sandwich.”

    This is exactly what I do for my husband. Usually it’s a cup of decaf rather than a sandwich, but whatevs.

  56. I am planning on doing the same. I have a six months old baby and he nurses until he falls asleep or he likes me to carry him and cuddle him to sleep. At first I did mind. I want to do other things and I want to have time for myself. My sister and husband finally made me realize that in my son’s eyes, I AM EVERYTHING. It is my love and affection that he’s craving and wanting. Seeing me is what’s important to him. Why should I deprive him of that? One day (and time really flies) he’ll be old enough to take care of himself. He’s not gonna “need” me as much. I might as well enjoy this time. 😀

  57. Hi lovely article we are still feeding to sleep a nearly 3 y old & of course our 7mth old. How did I you get to the stage of feeding abit then cuddling & talking? Did You talk about first? I am looking to start doing something similar. Thanks Kellyn

  58. My mother still sleep together with my 7 yr old sister . I see no problem with it. Thank you for writing this blog post.

  59. This is exactly what I needed to read today. I’ve been inundated with information on sleep training and how feeding my daughter to sleep is bad for her…it’s good to see that we aren’t the only ones going “against the norm”. Thank you.

  60. Bed shared my first until this yr (8 yrs) only stopped bc new baby came and i’m not comfortable having both in the same bed. Do what is right for you.

  61. Why would it be weird for a child to want comfort while falling asleep but it’s not weird for an adult to want their spouse in bed to fall asleep? Doesn’t it make sense that a child with a secure attachment and want for comfort (at all times of day) will grow into an adult who can form secure attachments to a spouse and then to their children? I wonder if it’s weird for adults to learn to fall asleep with someone else in bed if they were left to fall asleep alone as a child. Anyway, this was a great read. Thanks for helping to normalize co-sleeping and also giving me hope that my boy will eventually (if slowly) become less dependent.

    • I personally sleep exactly the same regardless of if I am alone in bed or not. There are a lot of very needy woman on this forum. Why would anyone want their kids to need another human being there just to sleep? Isn’t that kind of dependency a little crippling?

  62. Bed shared my first until this yr (8 yrs) just halted bc new child came and i’m not open to having both in the same bed. Make the wisest decision for you.

  63. I wonder what some of you mean by “nursing.” If you mean nursing in that breast milk/nutrition is being provided along with the soothing that is accompanied by it, that is one thing and natural & healthy. If by nursing you mean your are just using your bare breasts and nipples as solely a soothing device well into elementary school, you are all rationalizing your highly probable lack of boundaries and bizarre behavior in your posts here.

  64. I nurse our 6 month old to sleep. I’ve been stressed about it, but only because I wonder what to do now that she’s eating solids and I don’t want to overfeed her by feeding her solids and then breastfeeding her again to sleep or what if we ever get a date night again? I won’t be able to nurse her to sleep, so do I just hope she can go to sleep for a family member or sitter? She does fall asleep on her own at times, but I’m a worst case scenario worrier, lol.

  65. Absolutely nutty. Moms who don’t want a life of their own. Much more needy than the kids.

  66. I was looking for information because my step daughter is six and sleeps with her mom every night. When she comes and stays with us she needs cuddles to fall asleep. I’m worried about her not being able to self sooth. There are comments regarding adults not liking to sleep alone. I find this worrisome. I don’t want her to need someone just to sleep. Especially as an adult. Is it too late to learn to self sooth at six?

  67. Beth Chapman says:

    It’s so lovely that you have those memories with your mother and sister.
    My childhood memories of going to sleep are hours and hours and laying awake in the dark in my own, not sleeping. I have serious sleep issues as an adult.
    I stay with my children til they fall asleep. We share a huge super king bed.
    During my pregnancy my husband put our son to bed and stayed with him until he slept, and I missed him so much! He was fine with daddy there though! Now I fall asleep covered in my babies and it’s lovely. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable getting a toddler knee in the back but the morning snuggles are worth it all.

  68. It’s great if this is working for you and your family! All the power to you! However, this actually doesn’t work for everyone. And in certain circumstances it’s just not safe. Those studies that state raised cortisol levels and that sleep training harms your baby are apparently debunked. I can tell you that my baby was happier and less stressed after some sleep training and yes she can “self soothe” and she responded so well to it. We continue to breastfeed and sleep training had no effect on that. I am a firm believer that every mother should do what she feels is right for her family. If you don’t want to be judged I would suggest not judging others, especially when you clearly have never been in their footsteps.

  69. I’m a single mom to a 9 y/o boy who would prefer to sleep with me, and even when he goes to bed in his room, he always ends up in mine. He also does not like to fall asleep on his own so most of the time I lie down with him until he’s asleep. I waiver back and forth between being okay with this and hating it. Part of that is because as a single mom especially, my work never ends, and by the time I get him to sleep at night I’m exhausted and barely have time or energy to clean up around the house or prepare for the next day. As far as the co-sleeping aspect, part of me thinks it’s silly for him to sleep in another room when he’s more comfortable in my bed, but I am not someone who prefers a sleep partner. I prefer to sleep alone, have my bed to myself, and wake up without back pain from someone having their knee in my back all night. So I go through phases of being extremely frustrated with my inability to get him out of my bed completely. Then I have those days where I think he’s almost 10 already, so our days like this are limited. Then I wake up with a crick in my neck or low back pain again and I’m over the nostalgia of it. lol

  70. Thank you for this article! I read it as I was lying in the dark with my 2-year-old daughter, waiting for her to fall asleep. I feel so much better now that I know it’s completely normal and many other families do this as well. In fact, now that I think about it, my mom stayed with me in bed every night until I fell asleep, all through elementary school. It felt completely natural, and I turned out just fine!

  71. Love this. In a world where this is considered “wrong” or not the norm, I continue to parent my three year old in the same way as you. Very refreshing 🙂

  72. As a grandma I often will cuddle, sing and rock my grandchilden to sleep if they are reluctant. I love that feeling of closeness but I am concerned I could be making life more difficult for their parents but Grandmas house Grandmas rules. They will grow up all too quick so I am making the most of our time together.

  73. I love this so much! I get so criticized because my almost three year old still needs skin to skin contact and puts his hand in my shirt (not my boobs). And my almost six year old still sleeps with me too. It’s a shame that loving MY children the way they need me to love them is “inappropriate”. I’m so glad you shared this.

  74. I sing my 7 years to sleep every night. I don’t know why anyone would think that was weird.

  75. Yes yes yes. EXACTLY. You’re so right. You’re the reason the world keeps turning and there are happy, confident children out there who grow into happy, secure and confident adults. Thank you for giving unconditional love to your child whenever he needed it, you are awesome. I have done the same with mine. I’m in the process of this with my second, she’s six months old and needs me to nurse her to sleep. And f***-me it is hard sometimes, and I am exhausted, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  76. Thank you so much for this wonderful article..yesterday night was so frustrating with my sixteen month old nursing for almost an hour before falling asleep and I was having so many whether to continue nursing her or just start weaning..your words put everything back in the right perspective..thank you so much for helping tired, weary mothers like me.

  77. I love laying in bed with my almost 4-year old at night while he falls asleep. I used to think that he “needed” to learn to go to sleep on his own, but realized he actually needed the presence of another human in order to go to sleep. My youngest, on the other hand, does better falling asleep on his own as another person in the room distracts him.

  78. I love this!! I have a 5 year old who breastfed until he was 2, when I was pregnant with my 2nd child…my daughter. She will be 3 in May and is still nursing and they both still sleep with me and need me to fall asleep. I have never thought it was not normal. Is it for everyone…no. But, it’s what I love and I will hang on to them for as long as I can. My husband loves that we have raised them that way.
    Thank you for your words!!

  79. Stephanie M says:

    I think if co sleeping works for you and your family it can be great, it may not work for all families, babies and children, but when it does it is a blessing. I think our children need our love and that through time we can help them become more secure about themselves, but that comes with time, how can we expect babies, toddlers, and young children to be independent? We are their whole world, and when they need us we should be there….isn’t that how trust and security is created.

  80. To say the least THIS article is WHAT I needed to read today <3

  81. I LOVE this my husband still puts our 17, 13,11, 1 and a half year old daughters to bed because they like his soothing gruff voice and way behold if he forgets me.

  82. Aleksandra says:

    Thanks for this article i really needed something like this. I think just like you. Even tho i get suggestions from different people mostly one side of the family that its wrong. I still think it is pretty normal. My son is 13 months old and yes i want to put him to sleep and be there for him. If we would look at nature, can you see any mother animal leaving their babies to cry it out. No, i don’t think so. Instead of enjoying every little moment we have with our kids, we rush to push them away. Recently i read that methods of teaching them to self-sooth like crying-out can damage their brain cells, and it effects them emotionally. Big hug to you and thanks for sharing! <3

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