Why I’ll Lay With My Son To Fall Asleep For As Long As He Needs Me To

Night

“Let’s fall asleep”, whispers my four-year-old as he wraps his little arms around my neck. I feel the familiar sensation of the rise and fall of his chest pressing against mine as his body feels heavier and his breaths longer.

Minutes earlier he’d roused from his slumber. His ‘tummy was hungry’ so a midnight snack and a bedside picnic were in order.

As we turn out the light, he nuzzles into me, just like he has thousands of times before. My heart feels full as I’m cocooned with my young soulmate in our now perfectly messy bed.

So often during daylight hours, I find it challenging to stay in the moment, to just be without doing. But, tonight, in these dreamlike hours, all I want is to hit pause and stay here. A moment of gratitude has me delaying sleep as I know these precious moments with my son, who is growing oh-too-fast are numbered.

Surprisingly, quiet black stillness has become a familiar friend.

My fears and expectations about night time parenting have been completely shattered as I have found strength and solace in dark silence. As impossibly exhausting as motherhood is I wouldn’t miss a single wakeful moment. Because, it is also very simple; he needs me. His need for comfort is valid. No matter what our desensitized culture says, this is normal.

Claim your FREE Guide: The Lies Surrounding Infant Sleep That You Can Safely Ignore as a New (or not so new) Parent

The wakefulness of babyhood and the unpredictability of toddler sleep etched deep and beautiful memories on my soul; borne from the kind of experiences that change a person, reaching into a spiritual abyss that I rarely see.

It was in those dark moments that I strengthened my new maternal muscles, helping me find a resilience I never thought possible. The depth of these experiences have kept me by my son’s side as we’ve shared sleep every single night for the last four years.

Each time he’s fallen asleep I’ve been there; nursing, holding or laying beside him. Yet, everyone told me not to.

They said I needed to be tough or I’d create bad habits.

They said that I was a human pacifier, as if pacifiers were invented before mother nature gave women breasts.

They said he’d never learn to self soothe.

They said my marriage would fail.

They said babies and children need parents during the day but, strangely, not at night.

I confidently called bullshit as a new mother and I call it again now. Because, I recongnise that these comments come from a place of darkness. Of fear, ignorance and lack. And I choose light. I choose intuition. I choose science. I choose consciousness.

Because the tenderness of my motherhood doesn’t diminish when the sun goes down.

These quiet sleepy moments where my baby sought comfort and nourishment are now the moments where my child tells me his innermost secrets. These are the moments our trust reaches new depths and he knows, by my actions, that I will strive to meet his needs, no matter how challenging.

But, they were right about one thing – I will be tough.

I’ll be tough so my son can be soft.

I’ll be tough so that he doesn’t go without comfort when he needs it.

I’ll be tough so that my baby doesn’t go without nursing when his belly is empty.

I’ll be tough so that my toddler isn’t forced to fake a maturity beyond his years.

I’ll be tough so that my child doesn’t need to fear monsters under the bed alone.

I’ll be tough so that he has a solid foundation from which to grow into a confident and independent little boy.

I’ll be tough so that my son learns that vulnerability is welcome, that his needs matter and expressing his emotions is safe.

I’ll be tough and continue to listen to my son, to his soft whispers in his sleep, to his breathing and to my own heart speaking.

I’ve learned that night time parenting is about so much more than sleep. We have everything to gain by leaning in, by having the courage to surrender to the unknown and trusting our instincts. It is a rite of passage our modern culture has sadly disregarded but those of us who choose to follow ancient wisdom and our inner voices know the rewards.

I’m not saying that it’s easy, but I choose to accept that discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful motherhood. So, I will slow dance through my relationship with my son, day and night. I will lay with him to fall asleep for as long as he needs it because I know, that one day without warning he won’t need me to lay with him anymore. He’ll sleep in his own bed and my husband and I won’t believe how fast the nights of shared sleep passed. But, with gratitude, that day isn’t today.

This night is ours. This night is a gift. This night I share with my son.

Claim your FREE Guide: The Lies Surrounding Infant Sleep That You Can Safely Ignore as a New (or not so new) Parent

Join the Free Natural Parenting Superpowers eCourse and receive updates from Raised Good

COMMENTS
  • April 30, 2018
    Rose

    I had regularly laid down with my son until he fell asleep. He is 8 now and still sometimes wants me too when we don’t spend enough time together during the day. These are the SO precious years, why not enjoy them? Life is too difficult with work schedules and homework…. do what makes you feel good, don’t listen to any of the “you have to’s”.. and guess what, my son learned naturally to self soothe, I am still married, and he is very sensitive, tough, smart and a very happy boy. so it did not harm him at all.. and thanks for your note with pointers for starting a blog, perfect timing… courage!

    • May 01, 2018
      Tracy Gillett

      Hi Rose,

      Thank you so much for your honest and heartfelt comment. And couldn’t agree more – this time can add simplicity to our otherwise scheduled days. Love that you brought that up. Thank you! And super exciting about a blog…email me any time if you need to ask any questions. xx

  • April 30, 2018
    Beth

    I’m still laying with my almost 5 and almost 7 year olds. And no end in sight! Incidentally, they are the best sleepers I know, most likely because bedtime is cuddly and not scary. I encourage everyone to do this! They will one day not want me to do it, and it will come all too soon.

    • May 01, 2018
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience Beth and too true – it will come too soon. Enjoy your sleepy snuggles.

  • April 30, 2018
    LBW

    Ahh thank you for writing that and for everything else you have shared. I’m about to join my 2.5 year old twins in bed. Looking forward to snuggling in.

    • May 01, 2018
      Tracy Gillett

      My absolute pleasure Lisa and thank you so much for your comment. Enjoy snuggling in xx

  • April 30, 2018
    Belinda Chalmers

    What a powerful piece! Why do we listen to the opinions and criticisms that go against our maternal instinct. This article made my day, thank you!

    • May 01, 2018
      Tracy Gillett

      Oh, so happy to hear that! Thank you for letting me know Belinda. And the more of us that don’t listen the louder the quiet whispers of gentle parenting will become. Follow your heart, my friend xx

  • April 30, 2018
    Beth

    This is great! I have a 4 year old and still sleep with him to help him to fall to sleep (and usually longer as he goes to bed late and I am tired too!) . . . I seem to be the only one I know who does this. BUT . . . I am an older mom, we will only have 1 child and I travel for work . . . the ‘tuff love’/cry it out concept isn’t my thing. It is nice to know I am not alone in this and I agree that there will be a time when he doesn’t need me . . . we talk about if he is ready yet and he says no . . . Interestingly enough, I think my husband would like our son to sleep on his own BUT when I travel, he too stays with our son 🙂 so, I agree, there isn’t a ‘right’ or wrong–it is what works for each family!

    • May 01, 2018
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you so much for sharing Beth! We’re the same, one child at the moment and I think it will stay that way. It is so special to have these extra moments sprinkled through parenthood and so lovely hearing your husband snuggles in when you’re away 🙂 Funnily, it was always me who got my son to sleep until he was about 3 1/2 and then all of a sudden wanted it to be both of us, so all three of us lay in the dark and when I feel my son nod off I give my husband a thumbs up in the dark, he slips out and then I wait an extra ten minutes. I feel so grateful to be able to do this.

  • April 30, 2018

    Yes! I am so grateful to see that I am not alone in sticking to my belief that it is perfectly healthy to lay with my 3 year old each night until she falls asleep. Backstory is that my 11 year old was raised differently than his 3 year old sister. I didn’t know about anything that I know now. I let him cry it out when he was a baby, he slept alone in a room across the house, and his father and I used all kinds of unhelpful parenting tools to get him to sleep alone and through the night. Luckily a chance to heal all that came about after I divorced when my son was 8. He started asking if he could sleep in my room with his baby sister and at first I defaulted into the old story of “No, you are a big boy now and you should be sleeping on your own room” but luckily I saw it as an opportunity to rewrite the story and programming. He slept in my room with his baby sister for close to 2 years and it felt great for everyone. Despite the concern from well meaning family members, I stayed true to myself and my inner knowing that my children need me at night, no matter what their age!

  • April 30, 2018
    Max

    I read this with my 7 year old breathing a sleepy breath next to me as I share a bed….. And as I get an arm stretch over my face to block my view of said article!
    There is truly nothing better than having snuggle time. They love it, we love it and we will even share the the three of us if we can all fit in!
    People can say what they want but I have a child that sleeps amazingly. A 12 hour child…. Sleeping content and happy next to me or not.
    The times do pass so quickly and there is such a pace to life that to enjoy the hugs and the bond at sleep time is part of parenting a reward.
    I love your blog!

  • April 30, 2018
    Marina

    Just beautiful – thank you for sharing. I can always relate to your thoughtful posts. They are refreshing and reassuring to read. It is indeed one of the most precious times of the day, snuggling with your bub. In those moments of stillness and silence, I often feel deep gratitude for my girl, my husband and all that I have. I relax my mind and body, and connect with my girl on an energetic level, just simply feeling into the space and sending love, as she falls into a deep sleep. Precious moments I will cherish forever.

  • April 30, 2018
    Alexa

    What perfect timing for this article. My son is 20 months old. I have a queen bed in his room where we sleep together. He is a night nurser and last night I felt like I just couldn’t do it anymore. A typical night involves him waking every 1-2 hrs to nurse so I’m 20 months in with an average of 4 broken up hours of sleep a night. Every time I feel like I’m about to break I come across something like your article that helps me reset and remember these actions are because he needs the comfort and closeness and security and one day… as you say, without warning… he will not need any of that and I know I will miss these extra close, tender and gentle moments. I will repeat to myself tonight “this night is a gift”. Thank you.

  • May 01, 2018
    MCP

    Thanks for the article. I’m constantly devating on this topic, as night is were my partner and I have our adult time and getting our 6yo to sleep for the past year has been a struggle. We have decided to take turns on being with her in her bed until she falls asleep or is about to fall asleep. I some times count the minutes so I can go and do something else, but in most of the cases I like to be greatfull for this moment with her. This article made me relax about doing this and feeling accompanied. Thanks!

  • May 01, 2018
    Laura

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

    • May 01, 2018
      Tracy Gillett

      My absolute pleasure and thank you so much Laura! xx

  • May 01, 2018
    Tanya

    Thank you for your beautifully written work. My daughter has been sleeping next to me from the moment she was born and she will be 7 in October. The first 3 years included breastfeeding. It is Bliss. It feels like the most natural thing to do. I am so grateful for this gift. When I am snuggled in between her and my husband I call it my love sandwich and my heart wants to explode with joy in those moments. I know it will all evolve naturally just as everything has been since she was born. Nature shows the way. Yes conscious and connected parenting requires patience, presence and deep introspection when things get tough but it is all so worth it. I believe it is all about the parent-child bond and relationship. I feel so deeply for all the parents who go against their hearts because of fear. May everyone find their comfortable, natural flow and stand strong in it. Peace & Blessings to all.

  • May 01, 2018
    Carrie

    Thank you so much for the article and knowing that I am not the only mom out there that truly loves laying next to their child and soaking it all in when we lay there and cuddle for bed time! I am an older mom and I wish I would have done this with my now 26yo daughter. My son is a very affectionate and caring child. As to where my daughter isn’t as affectionate. Again thank you!

  • May 01, 2018
    Gaura

    This article echos my feelings. Feeling the nighttime sisterhood amongst all those mums who ‘sacrifice’ their sleep to give their child the most secure and loving upbringing possible. I wouldn’t have it any other way than share my nights with my son. He can stay as long as he likes <3

  • May 02, 2018

    So many adults sleep better when snuggled up to a partner. Why would the littlest humans be any different? I went back to work part-time after my mat leave. On the days now that I work 8 or 9 hours outside of the home, I especially love that we co-sleep with our toddler. I really cherish the snuggly time I have with her as she falls asleep in our bed. It gives us that extra time to connect when I’ve been away the whole day.

  • May 02, 2018
    Ashley

    I have girls who are 12 months apart. They are 7&8 now and bedtime is going much better as I rub each of their backs to help them to relax to go to sleep. I don’t sleep with them and never have except on special occasions. It seemed to always be a fight who could sleep with mom. Any suggestions for moms with kids close in age.

  • May 02, 2018
    D.O.

    The day is so busy. My 2 year old son is so busy! I love love love laying with him until he falls asleep every night. It is so precious to me. I thought I’d stop soon, but I don’t want to. I enjoy it too much and so does he. I love that he feels so safe with me. I love hearing his little breathing. I melt when he puts his little soft hand on my cheek. He loves me but I don’t find him overly or abnormally attached to me. He loves other people and plays independently all day. Thank you for this great read! Glad I’m not alone!

  • May 03, 2018
    Rosalie

    I’m staring at my middle child, who is 9 and sleeping in my bed as i type this, so I’ve never had an issue allowing my children in my bed if they need. However, having 3 children very close in age (24 months and 19 months apart), it makes it impossible to simply allow your first and second born to be coddled unconditionally. Teaching them to self soothe is truly out of necessity, because if i’m in the hospital giving birth and neither my husband or I are able to meet my toddlers every nighttime need, now I’ve failed them. And the nights that I have to pace while nursing a colicky infant, again, my toddlers had to learn to live without me. They have to learn patience, and that even in their own family, the world doesn’t revolve around them all of the time. I have 3 beautiful children, now 11, 9, & 7. My 9 & 7 year old still find their way into our bed occasionally and they are welcome, but I have zero guilt that they quickly learned that the traits of selflessness, sharing, and sacrifice when new siblings were born.

  • May 03, 2018
    Niki

    Some of my best and most honest communications with my now 11 year old girl happen on the nights when she asks me to lay down and snuggle next to her on her bed at the end of her day! She lets down her guard, she says what she really thinks and feels, she asks the tough questions and I answer with truth and love while she gently drifts off to sleep. It is a habit we started just like you, back when we were nursing, then at about 3 1/2 years it morphed into books and snuggles until she fell asleep. It changed again around the age of 7 when she decided she wanted to go to friends’ sleepovers and should try falling asleep alone after saying her prayers, and so I’m just going to keep doing what I do for as long as she asks me to, I don’t want to regret missing these precious times later!!

  • May 03, 2018
    Jennifer

    Love ❤️ this article! You are a wonderful writer who has perfectly captured how it feels to fall asleep next to your little one. I love feeling so needed. I also love to be able to support her all the time. It’s such a joy to be able to hold my daughter and breathe in her scent and feel her safe and secure. I wish I could freeze time. She’s almost 4. As a first time mom it was stressful hearing all the critism but your heart knows. Everyone should trust their hearts 💕

  • May 05, 2018
    Traci

    I have been laying down with my son the entire time and told everyone “he’s little once and he needs his mommy”. Strange, he’s 11.5 year old and very self assured so I know I haven’t spoiled him! Now, after talking about his day, devotions and prayer he might say “I would like to sleep alone” but not always…I stay until I feel it’s time to go (or when I wake up!) but I don’t regret it and I would do it all over again! Forget what “people” say and do what makes your heart sing!

  • May 16, 2018
    Allie

    What a beautifully written article! I absolutely love this. I have very similar feelings and experiences and love how you expressed yours.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Join the Free Natural Parenting Superpowers eCourse and receive updates from Raised Good