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These parents share a bed with their kids and ‘don’t care what critics say’

"There’s no pleading for extra stories because they don’t want you to leave - we just enjoy the stories."

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Charlotte and Paul Lewis with their children Harvey and Izzie at home. (Photo by Anita Maric via SWNS)

By Charlotte Penketh-King via SWNS

A mom who shares a bed with all of her children and her husband has blasted her critics - and insists she got less sleep when they slept separately.

Charlotte Lewis, 33, says her eldest daughter Izzie, eight, had struggled to sleep on her own since she was an underweight newborn.

After years of trying different sleep methods to no success, Charlotte and her husband Paul, 34, decided to try co-sleeping after Izzie loved sleeping in a family room with her parents and baby brother Harvey, now four, on holiday.

The solution worked - and the family-of-four now sleep in a giant bed made up of two double beds pushed together.

Charlotte says the approach has its critics but she is not fazed - and said parents should do what works best for them.

The uniform company managing director, who lives in Coventry, England, with fancy dress shop worker Paul and their kids, said: "There were four in the bed and the little one said absolutely nothing because they all slept happily ever after!

"I wish I’d just listened to what my daughter needed in the first place rather than trying to fit into society and the expectations we automatically put on ourselves.

"If I’ve learned anything from being a parent, it’s do what works for you. There’s no wrong way if you get the answer you want! However you get there, you’ve done it - take the win!

(Photo by Anita Maric via SWNS)

"We must stop comparing. Stop judging, stop belittling, and stop stressing the unnecessary.

"Now, there’s no more musical beds, no more broken night's sleep, no more tears, no more nightmares and other fears. We’re all together, safe and snug, and I couldn’t be happier.

"I love waking up to my baby's faces. I love the snuggles, I love the giggles we have at night.

"There’s so much magic in it that so many are missing out on because they're fighting to keep going with the routine that isn’t working because ‘that’s what we’re meant to do’.

"Haters are going to hate but sleepers are going to sleep, so two fingers up to the Judge Judys out there! Do what works for you."

The sleep disturbance for the family started back in 2014 when her firstborn, Izzie, was born two weeks overdue but only weighing 5lb 9oz.

Doctors told the new parents that if their baby had been just one-ounce lighter, she would have been in the ICU, so it was very important for them to help her gain weight and therefore Izzie had to be fed every two hours round the clock for the first three months.

Charlotte said: "Right from the get-go, we disturbed her sleep. This was mistake number one.

"Izzie is now a healthy and happy eight-year-old but had never slept through the night.

"We were constantly told “once she’s on solids she’ll sleep, once she’s crawling and moving, she’ll sleep, once she’s in nursery, she’ll sleep, once she’s in school full time, she’ll sleep” etc, but the sleep never came.

"It took us years of different methods to try to just get her to sleep. It would take two to three hours on average in an evening before she would finally fall asleep, just to then wake continuously throughout the night, usually around once per hour.

"We tried her in her own room, we tried a bigger bed, we tried black-out curtains, we tried a different room - nothing worked.

"As she grew up, she could voice why she didn’t want to be alone or why she was scared, so we tried all different ways to arrange her room to eliminate one fear at a time.

"This included having the bed away from the window, her head not looking at the door, nothing hanging on the back of her door, a floor bed so nothing or no one could possibly be underneath and glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling.

"We tried only having toys downstairs, so her room was only for sleep. We then tried the total opposite to try to encourage her to enjoy being in her room playing during the day so it would be more familiar during the night. It made no difference.

(Photo by Anita Maric via SWNS)

"We had all the different lamps and night lights throughout the years, a light on the landing, gentle music playing, every different kind of lavender scented sprays on her bed and teddy, natural herbal drops to encourage sleep. You name it, we’d tried it."

In 2018, Izzie's baby brother Harvey was born and Charlotte found that Izzie would wake in the night, drag her bedding into his room and sleep on the floor beside his cot, holding his hand.

Izzie finally seemed to have found some comfort with this so her parents decided they should share a bedroom with their beds pushed up against each other.

This move reduced how much Izzie was waking up by half, but her sleep was still disturbed and she would end up waking up her brother by accident in the process.

Charlotte said: "He would fall asleep immediately and then everything got harder again as she was 'alone' when he was asleep.

"Her biggest issue then became that she didn’t want to be in her own room alone, she wanted a grown-up with her.

"Whenever either myself or her dad slept on the floor next to her, she would sleep soundly through the night. We even resorted to putting a mattress down in her room and taking it in turns to sleep on that."

In August 2020, the family visited the Isle of Wight for a holiday and shared a family room in a hotel.

Sleeping in a double bed with the kids in their single beds, Charlotte realized how thrilled Izzie was to have the family sleeping all in one room.

She said: "We used the double bed to safely block in Harvey's single bed so our now toddler was safe in his bed.

"This left a bed over the other side of the room but Izzie didn’t care. It was under a window and facing a door, but she didn’t care.

"It was a large room so she was a good distance away but she still didn’t care. She was over the moon.

"She was confident and excited and enjoyed setting up her bed with her things, putting her pyjamas under her pillow and tucking her bunny in under the blanket.

"It was like seeing another child come to life. She was so happy and she slept all through the night, every night!"

Following the success of the family room, Charlotte decided to try an experiment at home with two mattresses on the floor in her bedroom for a family sleepover for a month as a tester.

The experiment was a roaring success and the family-of-four now sleeps in a giant bed, comprised of two double beds pushed together every night with every family member sleeping soundly through the night.

Charlotte said: "Bedtime is no longer a battle but a joy.

"There’s no pleading for extra stories because they don’t want you to leave - we just enjoy the stories.

"They’re both safe, and secure and after eight years, we can finally close our eyes at night and say 'see you in the morning' instead of 'see you in an hour'.

"Since making this change, Izzie has found other things that used to be a struggle for her far less challenging as she had the comfort and safety she needed to sleep well and therefore had more energy the following day.

"It has improved every aspect of her well-being."

Despite the positive change in their lives, Charlotte has found criticism from extended family members over their decision to co-sleep.

(Photo by Anita Maric via SWNS)

Charlotte said: "All grandparents have been fully supportive, as they’ve had the kids overnight since they were born so they know we’ve truly tried everything.

"But there is extended family who don’t know the ins and outs who just see the situation as we’ve failed or haven’t tried hard enough or been consistent enough.

"They have made the odd comment and made it clear they have alternative opinions to us, but what works for one child doesn’t always work for another, so perhaps they haven’t had the same experience as us."

After initially battling shame over their choice, Charlotte has now slammed those who criticize co-sleeping and has no plans to return to their sleepless nights apart.

She said: "I wish we’d just done it years ago.

"I question all the time - why do we take a six-month-old baby and put him or her alone during the night?

"I know some are happy to let newborns 'cry it out' and leave them distressed. In my opinion, what this does is teach the child that no one is coming.

"Some people encourage kids to 'self soothe' but, interestingly, in other cultures, I’ve learned this is a form of neglect. It’s crazy how one world can be so opposite at times.

"Why do we all naturally follow this 'well this is what you ‘should’ do' rather than listen to what our child is saying and respond directly to that in any way that’s necessary?

"Once we decided to go for it, I owned it and told everyone what we’d done. So many of my friends said they’d done the same or something similar but never told anyone for fear of judgment!

"How awful is that? All these parents struggling and yet we feel like we can't tell those around us how we’re getting by. Why do we feel so harshly judged by others?

"For us now, so long as we get the result we want - a good night's sleep - then we’ve won.

"We haven’t given in, or given up. We won. Haters are going to hate but sleepers are going to sleep!"

And, asked about if the arrangement affects intimacy between her and Paul, Charlotte said: "As the story involves our children, it’s not something I’m willing to discuss publicly.

"It hasn’t, at all. It affected it more when we were up all night every night for eight years - we were both exhausted and also had a tired and unhappy child.

"We are really conscious of this being about making new parents or struggling parents aware that co-sleeping is an option and protecting our children in how this story is shared."

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