Thursday, November 18, 2010

Co-sleeping and Marital Intimacy

There are a lot of people opposed to co-sleeping for a lot of different reasons, but one big one is the sake of your marriage. Every marriage book cautions against it. Obviously, if your husband is opposed to having the baby in bed (or in the room) with you, it would affect your marriage negatively, and should be avoided. But aside from that, I don’t think co-sleeping has to have a negative impact on your marriage and the intimacy you experience.

One thing people mention is that it’s always the wife that wants to co-sleep and in families where it happens, it’s because the guy just goes along with it. That might be true of many families, but certainly not all, and probably not even most. My husband desires it as much as I do, and he isn’t the only guy I know who not only co-sleeps, but advocates it.

It’s easy to see where people get the idea that it would negatively impact your marriage- you have visions of 30 years of marriage spent with a little one sleeping between you all night. Or for some people, an image of a rather old personage, still attached to their parents, comes to mind.

Viviana has slept in bed with us from day one. I switch which side of me she sleeps on throughout the night (I’d recommend considering a baby gate), but at least half of it, I’m the one next to Ben. Usually we didn’t snuggle much while sleeping before she was born, anyway, but it’s something we still enjoy for up to several hours at a time, when we want the extra touch-time.

Sex merely requires creativity….and last I looked, that’s not a bad thing in a marriage. With only one little munchkin, creativity is pretty simple, since after she’s down for the night or a nap, the rest of the house is ours. However, as more littles come along, there are still plenty of options. An air mattress or pile of blankets in a walk-in closet or your bathroom? Making use of your guest room, if you have one? (or the unused nursery….) For that matter, depending on how light a sleeper your baby is, a pile of blankets on your bedroom floor works, too, for a mix-in. In our “dream house”, I’d love a cubby-hole of a room off our bathroom (like a lot of people build as a nursery, except with a door on it), just for use and our enjoyment. But in the meanwhile, and if that never happens, there’s plenty of other options. My parents have co-slept for 20 years, and my mom’s always made it a priority to keep my dad well filled. After all these years of there being one or two extra people in bed, and nights of being crammed to the edge, my Dad still actively advocates co-sleeping 100%.

For me, co-sleeping just makes sense. Ben and I can spend as much time as we want to together after Viviana (and perhaps eventually other children) go to sleep, in any one of a number of creative places. When we go to bed, we can snuggle some more, unless we’re dead-tired enough to just fall asleep quickly. During the night, things don’t look all that much different from before. Ben sleeps in the positions he’s most comfortable in, I sleep in a variety of positions depending on where Vivi is. We touch occasionally, though we’re for the most part on our “own” sides of the beds- just like before. Meanwhile, Viviana’s getting all the benefits of 8 or so hours of touch-time while she sleeps- oxytocin, security, and so on. The benefits of touch are so plentiful, that this seems like a perfect way to make the most of time, to me. (That said, I don’t believe the benefits of touch necessarily call for 24/7 contact- Vivi, for instance, takes all her naps down, and is in bed for a few hours before we join her. Of course, not all babies are willing to nap down- different things work for different people at different ages.) Another benefit is that I don’t have to get up at all at night. When Vivi wakes up, I offer to nurse her, and she nurses and falls back asleep. Next time she nurses, I move her to the other side of me- and that’s the extent of our nighttime exercise. The very, very rare times she’s had to be walked (not counting her more difficult newborn months), Ben often picks up the tab…what an awesome husband and daddy!

Do what’s right for you and your family, but unless your spouse is opposed to co-sleeping, don’t avoid it just because it’s sure to ruin your marriage. Your marriage is what you make of it and how you construct it. Your sex life is what you prioritize it to be. Your relationship is the time you put into it.

1 comment:

  1. Our babies have always slept with us. When they began to stir in the night, I also nursed them back to sleep. Unless they were sick, my babies never kept me up at night. When I hear of mothers being up for hours every night to get their little ones back to sleep, I have to think that by the time the baby makes enough noise from another room to wake the mother, he/she is very wide awake. So it does take longer for them to go back to sleep. Each of mine in their time chose to sleep in their own bed. My two youngest occasionally still creep in at night, but I know that in time they will stop that. I miss it actually. Neither my husband nor I think that it has affected our marriage negatively. I actually think I was more rested by not having to get up every night and could be a better wife and mother.