When I attended antenatal classes during my first pregnancy I scoffed at the idea of sharing a bed with my baby, of choosing to co-sleep – in my world a baby belonged in one of those Moses Basket things, on its own to sleep until it needed feeding or when I would have to pace the floor to get it to sleep again.
My baby was born at home at lunchtime and by the time we had finished with a hospital trip for stitches, tidied up and called family it was time for bed – and my baby was not leaving my arms, which posed a bit of a problem for me because I couldn’t fit in the Moses Basket with her! So we chose to co-sleep. For me, she was too vulnerable in her basket on her own and all my instincts screamed to keep her close and that is what she needed, that is where she settled.
But I kept fighting it – in my head I needed a baby who settled and slept on her own, it was my job to make that happen. Every day I tried to get her to settle away from me and everyday she resisted, she would only sleep snuggled up next to me. But still I tried to get her to sleep in her basket and her cot. For weeks this went on for. She would settle on me and as soon as I transferred her to her own bed she would wake up and I would have to start all over again. Every magazine I read talked about independence and sleep and I just felt more confused and stressed.
Several weeks in I was knackered, emotional and probably depressed. After stating once again that the books said it was important to teach her to sleep on her own, my husband asked me what I wanted – I wanted sleep and I wanted to co-sleep next to my baby. So that is what I did. We ditched the basket and we stopped fighting with our child. I started to read her rather than the books and I realised she wasn’t ready for bed until much later in the evening so she stayed downstairs with us until she/we were ready for bed. I relaxed and I started to enjoy the evenings again and because I was relaxed and I wasn’t battling with her, she went to sleep in seconds when she was ready to.
And rather than feel like I was failing, I really started to enjoy co-sleeping. Night feeds were a doddle and we slept, she became a much easier baby and I became a much happier mummy. I loved waking up next to her beaming face and, as she got older, to her kisses or slaps on my head! It was the best thing we did and I wouldn’t change it.
I went back to work when she was 6 months old – my biggest regret but that’s another story – and we continued to co-sleep so she could catch up on mummy time while she slept. She was the last thing I saw at night and the first thing I saw in the morning and I never tired of that. Despite the criticism and the questions of when she was going to be in her own bed, we continued to co-sleep for as long as we needed to.
Looking back now – many years later as she is about to turn 14 – I can truthfully say that co-sleeping didn’t break us, it didn’t make a rod for our back, it didn’t create sleep problems and it didn’t create a clingy child. She co-slept with us until she was three – yes you did read that right – and she is a smart, independent, happy child who went into her own bed in her own room when she was ready and has never returned to our bed, apart from during illness.
I wish I had ditched the books sooner but I learnt to trust my instincts eventually and I am glad she needed to cling to me in those early years – think of all the cuddles I would have missed out on if we didn’t co-sleep!
For the best information about safe co-sleeping: www.isisonline.org.uk