Yep, that’s my bed I’m talking about. And if I am going to be completely honest and accurate there are really 5 in the bed if you count Teddy and Iggle Piggle. So that’s me, my partner, our 2 year old Sweet Pea, a loved and much worn teddy bear and a blue soft toy of indescriminate species, all sleeping (or not sleeping as the case may sometimes be!) in a queen size bed.
Before Sweet Pea was born I was adamantly against co-sleeping. My previous work as a grief counsellor with SIDS and Kids had strongly coloured my views about sharing a sleeping space with a baby. I have worked with many families whose babies had died as the result of co-sleeping accidents. Families whose lives have been ripped apart by the simple action of sleeping with their babies next to them. I do need to preface this comment with the fact that many of these families unfortunately had not known about, or had not followed, the safe sleeping guidelines for co-sleeping which can be found here.
Just after Sweet Pea was born by emergency c-section and I was struggling to come to terms with a screaming, hungry baby and my inability to move the lower half of my body I remember a midwife in the middle of that first hazy night telling to just lie my baby beside me in the bed and let her feed. I strongly protested this – I was terrified of rolling on her, suffocating her, falling asleep myself – all the situations I had heard about and witnessed second hand. My knowledge of co-sleeping situations gone horribly wrong would not, could not, leave my mind.
When we brought our little girl home her unsettled nature continued. She would not sleep without being in our arms and even then we would describe her as sleeping in “bursts’ – an not very bloody long ones! She seemed eternally unhappy, unsettled and upset – and so were we. I would attempt to “sleep” by propping myself up in bed and leaning against the wall with Sweet Pea tucked into the crook of my arm. All pillows were abandoned as I was beyond anxious at the thought of one covering her face and stopping her breathing. This went on for weeks and weeks and weeks… To say we were all exhausted would be a huge understatement.
Even as she grew Sweet Pea would fight sleep with all her might. I would rock and rock and rock often to only put her in her cot and have her straight away open her eyes and scream to be picked up again.
I was sick of fighting. I was sick of not sleeping. I was sick of hearing my little girl cry. And so I brought her into bed with us. And she slept. And we slept – well, some nights it’s a bit crowded and those middle of the night kicks to the face are a real killer, but for the most part we do all sleep. My hesitations about co-sleeping have dissipated now that Sweet Pea is older and bigger and my mothering instinct is not clouded by fear, memory and exhaustion. This is not a situation I ever thought we would be in as parents – I was always clear that my child would sleep in her own bed, in her own room. This is not a situation that I wanted for myself and my partner – we are working on ways to make sure we don’t lose our connections with each other as a result of our daughter sharing our bed. This is not a situation that I necessarily wanted but it is definitely what we need at the moment. Our Sweet Pea is happy (for the most part!) and confidant and bed time is no longer the almighty struggle that it once was. To me that says that something is working, and you know what they say when something is working…
How about you? Are you a co-sleeper or is it a no-no? I would love to hear your sleeping (or not sleeping!) stories