The one thing I dreaded to do when I first became a mum 3 years ago was to co-sleep. The one thing that has now taken over our lives in a good way. I wanted to talk about my experience on co-sleeping. I feel it’s probably one of the debated topics when it comes to parenting. It was something that I certainly overlooked, and perhaps over-read, but having just gone with my own mother instinct my thoughts have changed.
With Bear, I was quite adamant not to have her in our bed, from the day we brought her home from hospital. I suppose I just had a fear of her never wanting her own bed. It was not like I didn’t want to cuddle her, because I did, that’s all I wanted (and still want.) It’s more to do with what I was reading. With Bear I was engrossed in books and websites, never looking beyond them. Until one day (about a month after Bear was born) I decided to sod it. And I took Bear in my arms and let her just fall asleep there all night.
Throughout the night feeds it was just easier to breastfeed with Bear in bed with me. Although I never kept her in my bed for long. I was scared that I would fall asleep on top of her, the attachment thing had long gone out my head now. So after an hour I would pop her back to her crib next to me. But first thing in the morning I would grab her and snuggle in bed.
Months later, after we struggled to get Bear to nap. For the sake of getting her to nap, and for my own sanity, I will let her nap in my bed. And low behold, Bear napped like she’d never slept before. It worked a treat because sometimes I would sneak in bed with her and get those little cuddles. The whole nap-in-mummy’s-bed didn’t last long as Bear became more mobile I became too scared to leave her on the bed alone, so back to her crib it was. As Bear would sleep in her crib at night, the movement from bed to crib for nap times didn’t phase her much. To be fair, Bear was a baby who loved to be rocked to sleep, and once the lights were out, she didn’t fidget at all.
So with Bear sleeping in her crib/cot and I was going back to work after 10 months of maternity leave, I wanted to move Bear into her own room. Now a lot of people had said to me, she’s still young; how will she sleep without you. It was hard hearing all that. Definitely not something I wanted to hear. But I knew I needed to settle her into her new nursery, which Sunny and I had spent a long time planning and decorating. We even had a mural hand painted.
Bear was, by now, a fab napper and practically slept through the night. She was able to sleep in her own room. We decided to go with it and moved her in. Yes it was hard, for me. It took me a week to get used to not having my baby next to me. My room felt empty with no huge cot next to our bed. It was a horrible time, I’m not going to lie. But gradually I got used to the idea. Bear was not fussed by the move into her new room. She was already used to the room because we used to get her bathed and dressed in that room every night so she already associated it was “nigh nigh” time. Bear was sleeping even better because she wasn’t getting disturbed by Sunny or I sneaking in if we needed something from our room. Of course, every now and then, I did have a cheeky nap with Bear in my bed, and we would sleep for a good two hours! Yep, two whole hours, only issue was that I found it difficult to fall asleep at night.
This new routine worked well for the two and a half years. Sunny and I got used to having our bed to ourselves, getting out husband and wife time too, just those cuddles all night not suddenly letting go because the baby stirred. We had our evenings together, chilling on the sofa. We even managed to have some nights out, with my brother in-law babysitting. He had an easy job, as Bear would sleep 7pm – 6am flat.
Then two weeks before Boo, Bear changed her plans and refused to sleep in her bed. We had bought her a pink bed that she asked for, a few weeks before. But this girl was having none of it. She wanted mummy and that was that. I was luckily on maternity leave, trying to take things easy. But I couldn’t see my baby (actually my toddler) cry hysterically, plus we all wanted to sleep. So I brought her into my bed.
Along came Boo two weeks later and I still had Bear in my bed. There was no way she would move out now. Boo seemed to like my bed too. As a newborn she just wanted to snuggle right into me. I guess it was the smell of leaking breastmilk that got her going. So I had Bear to my left and Boo to my right (sounds like I’m about to sing “The Time Warp”)
It was impossible to have four in a bed. I mean, we have a huge King size bed but the amount of space small human beings take up is crazy. So poor Sunny was summoned to the spare room, not the comfiest of beds, but if he wanted sleep he just had to do it. Meanwhile Bear was going no where. We stuck a bed guard up as she had a habit of moving all over the bed, including sleeping on my face. Boo on the other hand was getting used to having cuddles and being put back in her cot. She didn’t like it, and would whinge. But I couldn’t have two small children in my bed, it was exhausting for me. I needed to stretch out especially after birth, your body’s all over the place.
As much I put Boo back, a huge part of me resisted every now and then and I would sleep the whole night with her. I didn’t want to push her away. And seeing that Bear had grown so quickly, I wanted to make the most of having this tiny baby. I knew that a night in bed with me here and there wasn’t going to do any harm. As long as I stuck to nap times in the crib she would realise that that was her sleeping zone.
Six months on from then, Boo is now 8 months old. We have since moved into what was the spare room, as we got our old room transformed into the girls’ new room. They will move in one day soon. Boo is a much needier baby than Bear was. She is currently struggling with separation anxiety. So the minute she cannot see or hear me, she cries, crazily. No one can console her other than her mummy. That’s how attached she is to me. And do you know what, I actually love the neediness. It’s nice to be wanted. Bear is a little independent girl, who still wants mummy but she is happy to play on her own, wherever in the house, doesn’t need me around. I’m not sure if Boo would be able to do that. I mean she will, but not sure when.
The last few nights have meant I am in bed for 8pm, a lot earlier than the 10pm that I got used to since Boo was 5 months old. Within 3 months, this separation anxiety has really go the best of Boo. She just wants me right next to her. As soon as I put her down, she screams. It’s so heart-breaking. I’m not really a Cry-it-out type of parent (that’s letting the baby cry not me). The odd whinge for a few minutes I can cope with. But anything more than 5 minutes tears me apart. So yes I give in. Plus I don’t want Bear to get disturbed, as she is taking even longer to sleep nowadays. I resulted in having fall asleep Boo in my arms for about half an hour whilst I sit in the rocking chair. Luckily Boo is not into being rocked she just likes a little pat or rub on the back. I then slowly I tuck her into her cot. I am just hoping that it’s a phase as I only have four months maternity leave.
So for the last 8 months we have been co-sleeping with our little girls. Sunny is back in bed with us, Boo is in her cot, eventually. It’s a struggle at times when we have Bear kicking us left, right and centre. But at the same time it’s so nice to smell my babies and cuddle them. In a few years’ time they’ll want their own beds, they’ll want to do their own stuff, they’ll not want those 24/7 clingy cuddles. So I am making the most of it.
Having been the critical one of co-sleeping, I actually like it now. I’ve realised that babies are not babies forever. They can be trained and adapt very quickly, so when the time is right I will be able to get them to stay in their own rooms. My children feel a sense of security in my arms, and that’s what I intend for them to feel. I will be there for them wherever, whenever I can, even if that means they sleep in my bed. Since having Bear, and the lead up to Boo’s birth I’ve seen a change in co-sleeping advise; whether that is on the net or from the health visitor. I look back at what my own parents did. In fact, speaking to friends and family form other cultures, it’s seems co-sleeping is done without second thoughts. It’s just natural.
And that’s how it should be. Natural.