Confessions of a co-sleeper
Co-sleeping wasn’t a decision we made before we started this journey, it just happened along the way and now it has become a fundamental part of who we are as parents.
I’ll begin the story at the beginning, me in my small bed and Finn in his. Those first few nights in hospital I would lie awake watching the clock, waiting to be allowed to hold my son in my arms again. I didn’t care that I had endured over 24 hours in labour and had barely slept, my eyes were fixed on my little boy in his plastic crib on the other side of the room. I was unable to get up for several days and the machines I was hooked up to blocked the space in between us, all I could do was wait until he was ready for a feed and the nurse would bring him to me. Then finally we could snuggle down under the scratchy sheets together while the rest of the world spun out of focus.
When we were leaving hospital I could hardly believe we were taking our tiny precious boy home. The three of us piled out of the car and into our big bed and that is where we stayed while we slept off the last week in hospital and cuddled to our hearts content. But the picture from the parenting brochure haunted me, a big red ex through the picture of the parents in bed with their baby. A fear that was only strengthened by a visit from the maternal health nurse, who gently but firmly reminded us that if our baby fell asleep with us we should remove him to his own bed as soon as possible. However, none of us slept that well apart and on the rare occasions when we allowed ourselves to fall asleep with our son we all slept soundly.
As Finn got a little older my nightmares of smothering my child in my sleep eased and my resolve to trust my own instincts grew. After all, a sleep practice used the world over, surely couldn’t be so wrong, especially when it meant having my baby close to me where I could respond to him immediately. I worried about SIDs but in fact there is no proven link between SIDs and bed sharing and in fact some argue that co-sleeping may in fact offer protection against SIDS.
In saying that I am not complacent, I am aware of the dangers and Finn sleeps in the crook of my arm where he can’t shuffle under the doona or fall off the bed. I make sure he has warm pajamas on so that I can push the blankets a little further down, well away from his face. We are both non-smokers and we would never co-sleep with Finn after drinking alcohol or taking strong medications (not that I take anything stronger than Panadol or drink more than a glass or two of wine here and there anyway). Since I became a mother I have also become a very light sleeper so I just cannot imagine rolling on top of Finn, of course due to the position we lie in this would also mean rolling over onto my own arm which I also can’t see myself doing. If Finn wakes, I wake. So if he is hungry or needs comfort I feel him nuzzling around before he even needs to cry out. So neither of us need to fully wake up for him to feed and us both to go quietly back to sleep.
For a while, co-sleeping was something we didn’t admit too, for fear of being judged. Reactions varied from, “haven’t you heard how dangerous that is?” and “aren’t you scared of smothering your baby or SIDs?” to “your poor baby will not be properly trained to ever sleep alone”. We lived in denial even to ourselves, saying to each other, “oh well he is only in the bed because he is teething at the moment”, “most of the time he sleeps in his own bed”, “we will move him into his cot soon”. Six months was an age that we talked about him moving into his own room. When that time was almost upon us, beloved approached the subject. “Should we move him out soon?” I couldn’t bare the idea, I wasn’t ready, I wanted to know he was safe, I wanted to feel his little breaths puff against my face and feel his little arms wrap around my neck. I poured out my feelings to Mr J, worried that what I wanted might not be what he wanted. Luckily, he was on my side, he could see how much this arrangement was benefiting everyone, our little one was so happy day and night and we all slept well and woke up together.
So we relaxed and as time went on we found many reasons that we were glad of the decision we had made, like the time Finn woke up hysterical and almost unable to breath coughing, croup having come on suddenly and violently over night, or the times when he was teething, fragile or growing and needed cuddles and breast-feeds often throughout the night. But most of all our answer is in his bright little smile and the confidence he seems to have in the two people that are always there for him and never leave him to cry.
So that is my confession. This is what works for us.
Do you co-sleep? What is your story? Please share your thoughts with me in the comments section below.
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Ps. I apologise for the photo quality. Most of these photos were taken in the dark with a mobile phone.