It is a monumental fact of parenthood, that as soon as one utters the phrase ‘I will never….’ karma shall come back and bite one on the behind and say ‘Oh really? Never say never….’
I once uttered such a phrase, stating that I would never, EVER co sleep with my children. Ever. Note that for the hilarious irony of this post.
Ironic because I now share my bed with PB, two cats… and our newest edition, 5 month old George.
I always felt that our bed was our bed and that babies stayed in their beds. The idea of sharing even more of my personal space, lets face it, my most treasured place of personal space, was completely horrifying to me. Pair that sacrifice with the genuine fear that we would squash and suffocate the poor thing and I was set against the whole thing.
Our eldest, Teddy, never once spent the night nestled between myself and PB as a baby. One of us (or on the really rough nights, both of us) would get out of bed and take him into our living room for a feed before settling him into a sleepy state and depositing him into his own bed. But therein lies a whole other set of circumstances that meant that the whole co sleeping thing never became encouraged. For one, I bottle fed him. He didn’t take to breastfeeding as well as George has and that meant both myself and PB could share the night shifts, not to mention that at the time when Teddy was really little, we were living in a one bedroom flat so going into the living room meant going into the room next door. Now we live in a house with a pretty treacherous and somewhat creaky wooden staircase so the notion of walking up and down them in the wee hours of the morning hasn’t really appealed. And, like I say, I am exclusively breastfeeding George. Which is fab, I am really enjoying it and it has been worth every moment of frustration, discomfort and self doubt.
But oh my word is it tough being the sole provider of nourishment for a baby?! I started off as before, keeping my bed for myself and PB only, no babies allowed unless it was past 7am and we were trying to eek out a few more minutes of slumber. I propped myself up on pillows and whiled away the feeds on my phone, looking at the most random and useless newsfeed articles on social media and trying all tricks in the book to keep my heavy eyelids from closing. Then, gradually, the sleep deprivation kicked in to the fullest and I would doze off and find myself waking with a start to find a full and contented George sleeping against my chest. PB caught me sleeping during and after nursing a few times and advised me to get up and sit in a chair but there comes a point when tiredness is just too much and you can’t fight it any longer. Perhaps its because now there are two little cubs to look after and it has upped the anti on how much we exert our energies or something. Either way, I knew that even if I fed George standing up like a horse, the chances were I would still fall asleep and then I would most definitely hurt the poor boy.
So I lost the mountainous scaffolding of pillows and decreased it to two sturdy ones instead and read up on co sleeping positions and safety advice… just for the hell of it and to stop me from possibly dropping him on the floor when tiredness overwhelmed me or from rolling over and squishing him into oblivion. On a run of nights where PB was working, I gradually tested the new set up to see how it sat with my inner critic. And, do you know something? I have actually really liked it. I still panic that he will get squished and that I shall wake up to every mother’s worst nightmare in the morning. But then I realise that, in some part, instinct is there and it allows you to sleep but keep some consciousness deep inside to prevent you from rolling over and squishing them. That, and also the fact that I adopt the ‘Crescent Position’ when co sleeping, which consists of me lying on my left side so that he can nurse but I arc my left arm across the mattress above his head which sort of anchors me in place and stops myself from turning over, whilst also stopping PB from getting to close to baby George and it creates a little nook for him to slumber in with plenty of space.
If I am completely honest, I don’t think that co sleeping is my completely ideal option. Guidelines state that especially in the first 6 months, a baby’s best place for sleep is in a cot in your room. I would definitely encourage these guidelines to be adhered to, but like a lot of things in life, circumstances dictate that they sometimes can’t be. I am also a fan of my own personal space. I spend all day attached to George, and as much as I adore him, I liked having a little piece of time in the space of 24 hours where I could sprawl out and stretch about in my own patch of air for a bit. I still put George to sleep in his cot at the start of the evening. And on the odd night where I am not a complete sleepy goose I will settle him back in his cot after a feed and have our bed back to being just us two adults again. He seems to settle quite happily either way. Which is good because it kind of debunks my fear that co sleeping would make him more dependant upon me to be able to settle.
It is just nice to cut my weary self a little bit of slack and embrace a new approach to night time through co sleeping. I am finding that I am feeling much more energetic during the day because I am clawing back much needed sleep and it has also meant that breastfeeding hasn’t become a chore or been something I have had to contemplate stopping because I couldn’t hack it. We have even allowed Teddy into the bed as well on the odd occasion that he has woken up a bit fretful or cold. He doesn’t stay for long, just until he is heavy eyed and then he is happy for us transfer him back into his own room. Just as well because with him in tow, our kingsize does feel a little bit on the crowded side. But it is still so lovely. I remember the feeling of being allowed into my parents bed for a cuddle when I was little and I still value the feeling of warmth and safety it gave me. To provide that same feeling for our two is so nice and, ultimately, I have to have a good word with myself from time to time and remind the irrational side by rationalising that both boys shall not be nestled amongst our sheets at the age of 18. It is at that point which I shall most likely cherish the fact that I slept beside them for a time. I may get fed up with it when I find a foot in my face or an elbow in my stomach at some point, or when I wake up shivering because I am perched on around 4 inches worth of mattress without a cover to be seen! Or I may never grow tired of it! Who knows?!
Like I say, never say never.