February 14, 2020

The Family Bed Concept: Sleeping Together As A Family

My family has been practicing the family bed concept and I took to Instagram to share pictures of our family bed fully prepared for what the outcome would be.

On my Instagram Stories, I shared a snap of my kids nestled in bed together, facing each other with their limbs entwined. I was prepared for some backlash, as the the family bed concept is always controversial (and we are in fact bed-sharing, not just co-sleeping). But that didn’t happen.

Rather, I got tons of messages from parents asking us how we started practicing the family bed concept

They asked if our kids start out the night in our bed, when we started, and loving the idea of two king-size mattresses in one room.

Every Once In Awhile the Internet Surprises You

This is truly one of those times… When I first had Grayson, I found that parents were extremely vocal on their views for or against things. You were either firmly entrenched in one camp or another, and parents just loved to expound on why what you were doing was wrong.

In the 8.5 years since Grayson was first born, the parenting space has become much more open and accepting, and I think social media is a large reason for that happening.

When I was researching mommy and me classes in Los Angeles (in case you don’t know, mommy and me is a THING here. Moms will sign up when they first find out their pregnant to be part of the “in” group) there were a few dominant styles. Attachment parenting, RIE parenting, and the more parent education focused classes that also form community.

I chose the parent focused classes as I have always been interested in community as a mama, which is the reason I originally founded my events company for moms and families in 2011 called Club MomMe. But even in these classes, there seemed to be a huge dichotomy between the “natual” parents and the less natural-inclined parents.

There was a HUGE pressure to breastfeed, and I often felt the need to state that the milk in my bottle was breastmilk. In short, the parenting space was not very accepting. There was tremendous pressure to have unmedicated, natural births, to be an attachment parent, and to do things a certain way.

Is There Only One Style of Parenting?

The issue I had with this emphasis on natural parenting was the tremendous pressure it placed on moms and parents. I had countless friends and Club MomMe members break down in tears crying when they needed an epidural, feeling like they were a failure as a mom, before their child was even born! I knew moms who were thrown into postpartum depression because their birth didn’t go according to their detailed, five page, single-spaced birthing plan.

What I started noticing is that we all have expectations of what motherhood is going to look like, but we don’t actually know what kind of parent we will be until we actually have kids and are confronted with real life situations. Sure, a rigorous sleep schedule sounds like a dream, but what if your child fights said schedule? Or you have a child who just needs something different?

Over time, I slowly learned that what works BEST FOR ME AS A PARENT IS NOT ANY ONE THEORY OR IDEA. But rather, doing what is best for my child at that particular time. Why are we forcing ourselves to abide by some theory like natural parenting just because it sounds good to us when our child may not be cut out for that?

There is NO ONE sleep training method that works for ALL KIDS. There are several of them (honestly, there are about 5 and everything else is an offshoot of these). The one I am going to pick depends on my child’s unqiue needs, not what a class or book says I should do.

I Found That I Have To Use Different Styles for My Kids And The Family Bed Concept Was One…

Grayson, my first child, is my attachment kid. He is extremely empathetic, very aware of his surroundings and observant. Grayson requires a lot of human touch, and he used to fall asleep as a baby and toddler laying on top of us. That was where he was most comfortable.

He fought every attempt to sleep train him, crying on the first night for over 2.5 hours. It was awful, and though he was soon sleeping through the night, he was never a great sleeper as a young child. He had many sleep regressions, and we had to re-sleep train him many times.

We realized he did best sleeping with us which introduced us to the family bed concept, When I had Harper, my husband moved into his room (we had a queen size bed in his room at the time) so I could nurse Harper in the middle of the night without waking him up. Gray usually feel asleep with my husband and moved into his own bed, but again, he was never a great sleeper as a young child.

Harper, on the other hand, was always an amazing sleeper from day one. She nursed laying face down, and could pull long stretches from her first week of birth. Like clockwork, I moved her into her crib at 5 months old and she promptly slept through the night. She was easy and a great sleeper.

Grayson Moved Into Our Family Bed After A Trip When We Slept Together

Around the same time that Harper started sleeping in her crib at night, Grayson moved into our bed. My husband moved back into our room once Harper was sleeping in her crib, and Gray followed not long after that.

It happened after a trip we went on to Walt Disney World. Despite having two beds in our room, Grayson would only sleep with me slept with me on the trip. I’m, not sure if it was being in an unfamiliar environment or what, but I tried moving to the other bed, and he always caught me!

Now I’m not the kind of person who likes to cuddle. I’m a hug and roll kind of a person, cuddles….okay now move along to your side of the bed and give me space. My husband is the same way, which is one reason we’re so compatible.

The Strangest Thing Happened

The strangest thing happened after this trip. I realized I actually loved sleeping with Grayson. Even though he was ALL OVER me, and I couldn’t do my signature hug and roll, I was happy.

He was sleeping amazingly well. And I enjoyed having him close. Even stranger, so did my husband! He is the lightest sleeper in the world, and uses a sleeping mask and earplugs every night. But we enjoyed having our child in our bed.

Shortly before we moved, I asked my mom friends in my community to check out their places to see which development we wanted to move in to in Playa Vista. I noticed the most unusual thing!

Many of the Parents in My Mommy & Me Class Used the Family Bed Concept

As I toured their homes, I started noticing a trend. About 60% of them had multiple matresses in their master bedroom, and their kids slept in the same room. I was honestly FLOORED! I noticed this trend most with the Asian mamas in my class, but it was pretty universal. Moms had mattresses on the floor for their kids, and some pulled one to two mattresses next to their main bed.

Some just put three large king size mattresses on the floor for an extra large, family bed.

The Family Bed Concept: Sleeping Together As A Family

As I started exploring this more, I learned more and more about the “family bed” where everyone sleeps together in one bed or in one room.

What I learned is that kids and parents sleep BETTER (not worse), and have less sleep disturbances. Often, kids wake up at night and end up in your bed, waking up parents and siblings in the process.

At this time, Grayson became the best sleeper in the family. To this day, he is a sound, deep sleeper. He falls asleep quickly, and nothing will wake him up when he sleeps.

And Then Harper Wanted to Join In on the Family Bed

Also at this time, we started discussing feeling bad that our younger child was in her room by herself, while we all slept together. She didn’t seem bothered by it, until we went on another trip together.

Once Harper moved out of sleeping in a crib, when we travel each parent sleeps with one child. It makes the kids feel more comfortable and safe when we travel (we sleep on the outside and place the kid by the wall).

After we came back home from this trip, Harper asked why she was not sleeping with us as Grayson had been for years. Again, we knew this would come one day, but we didn’t have any space for Harper in our bed.

Already, Grayson was growing long and lankey. My husband had started sleeping with his head at the foot of the bed to make more space for everyone. We were already tapped out of space, and we had upgraded to a king-size mattress already.

The Answer Came By Accident!

The answer to our problem came by complete accident. I had a mattress collaboration, and the mattress company set up my new mattress for me and left our old one on our master bedroom floor. I have no idea how exactly it happened, but somehow my husband started sleeping on that mattress with Harper.

Grayson and I continued sleeping in the other bed, though we were now suddenly plush with extra space to stretch out.

Harper felt included in the family bed and was happy.

Everyone was sleeping well.

Our Family Bed Concept is Now Two King Size Mattresses in One Room

And so, our family bed slowly turned into two king-size mattresses in one room. Over the years, we’ve changed up our sleeping arrangements a bit.

At times, the kids sleep together while my husband and I sleep together. While at other times, we each sleep with a kid. My son also spends nights at my mom’s house (he always has since he was a baby!) and one of us will get a bed to ourselves.

We’ve spoken at length about how much longer we want to continue the family bed, and at this point, we are cherishing every last minute that our children want to sleep with us. Our kids are spending more and more time with their friends and in activities, and Grayson isn’t the super cuddling toddler he once was.

Cons to the Family Bed

Of course there can be cons to the family bed, but as parents, I am sure you can easily resolve all of these. Sex does not happen at night in bed, but we have an entire house to do that in. Also who says sex only needs to happen at night, am I right?

Another con I’ve heard is kids learning independence. If you know me, you know the top value I have as a parent is teaching independence. My kids wake up, grab their own food, get themselves dressed and ready for school. I teach independence young and continue developing this skill every single day.

Sleeping together does not in any way hinder independence. If my kids need alone time, they still have their own room with their beds in it that they can retreat to. They just chose to never sleep there.

We all sleep soundly, and don’t worry about night wakings, etc. I go to sleep much later than anyone in my family and I am quiet at night, just as they are in the morning waking up and gently closing the door behind them.

I know one day, our family bed concept will end. But until then, I’m cherishing every last moment with our family close together. If you have kids who don’t sleep well, or wake at night and end up in your room, I highly encourage you to try out a family bed. It’s an amazing solution to feel close in this digital age.

Are you practicing the family bed concept in your home? How has this worked for you so far?

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