Monday, May 10, 2010

Thoughts on co-sleeping

Trawling our massive YMCA charity shop the other day (yes, even charity shops are going super-sized), I found a book which causes Jamie to giggle every time he catches sight of the title: Three in a Bed by Deborah Jackson.

I've nearly finished it now, and it's been an illuminating read. The book pulls together anecdotes, research, advice from parenting manuals and the author's own experiences to give the historical and societal reasons for co-sleeping with your baby. Co-sleeping was never an option for us, as Jamie wouldn't wake if a fire alarm was going off, and has been on pretty heavy duty medication since before J-cub was born, which is a big no-no when it comes to safe co-sleeping. Regardless of this, the book has made me want to go back in time and enjoy the comfort and ease of being right there with J-cub all the time.

It would definitely have made our lives easier when J-cub was tiny, as we ended up taking it in turns to sleep with him in our arms on the sofa (him sleeping, me watching Friends DVDs or Jamie watching The Wire) or bounce him in his bouncy chair. I fed him in bed plenty of times, but started waking up screaming "Get the baby! I've dropped him!" having dreamt that I'd fallen asleep with him on me underneath the duvet (even though I never had him under the duvet), and the stress was just so much that it was easier to bring him downstairs to feed.

I found it very difficult to sleep in the same room as him, as I was constantly woken by his noises, and found it hard to fall back to sleep. Again, the book covers this, suggesting that after a few days, the mother becomes so attuned to her baby's noises that they don't wake her at all, and as she doesn't need to sit up or get out of bed to attend to the baby, she never wakes up fully, and so is more rested in the morning. That would have been amazing, and I wouldn't have to carry around the guilt from all the night's I spent sleeping in the study, while Jamie stayed with J-cub.

When he was a bit older, and still sleeping in a crib at the foot of our bed, I would feed J-cub to sleep lying on our bed, and often fell asleep there with him. Jamie would come up to find me, as my dinner was ready, and I'd stumble downstairs after him, sleep-drugged and on an oxytocin-high from the breastfeeding.

I've already started entertaining fantasies of setting up a separate bed for me and the next baby, maybe a mattress on the floor of the nursery, where I can sleep with him or her, and breastfeed all night, so I never have problems with engorgement and mastitis and latching. I'm an eternal cock-eyed optimist.

The book talks at length about how by sleeping together, the infant never experiences separation anxiety, and grows up to be more confident and to sleep without any battles, as they've never had to fear the dark or being alone. I think we're lucky in that respect - yes we've had our fair share of battles with getting J-cub to sleep, but it's been more of the rocking-him-for-hours kind of fight, rather than leaving him to cry. We've never left him to cry for longer than the time it takes to dash upstairs when we hear him over the baby monitor. He is secure in our love, and now (mostly, teething episodes aside) falls asleep within seconds of being put in his cot.

This evening I've been back through our archives of photos, trying to find some of us sleeping together. There's only a few, but they're so lovely and so evocative of happy memories.

On our last day in hospital, I went for a shower and came back to find my two boys sleeping together

At my mum and dad's house, where J-cub did not sleep at all well at night, Jamie found this chair in their conservatory was comfy enough to catch up on some sleep

One of the hottest days of last year, J-cub had screamed and screamed for hours in the heat of the house. Mid-afternoon, I opened all the windows and turned on the ceiling fan in the study, and we both fell immediately asleep. Jamie found us here several hours later

This morning, after a Skip-worthy fainting spell caused by a) my new anti-depressants and b) trying to decide which bag to take to work, I called in sick and snuggled up with a very-glad-not-to-be-going-to-nursery baby

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Today's Look Up picture comes from the archives, J-cub reaching up to catch a balloon his Daddy is about to drop on his head. In his stash of toys we have 4 or 5 balloons from his first birthday party - pretty good going bearing in mind that he turned 14 months old today. And bearing in mind that he likes to a) sit on them b) drop heavy toys on them and c) bite them.


Isadori said...

Oh this post makes me think of your 'are we leading parallel lives?!' comment on the BLW forum! I've had exactly the same thoughts about sharing a bed with the next baby (although that'll be a long way off yet!) and I had exactly the same scary panics that I'd fallen asleep and squished Thomas - I really freaked my husband out one night shouting at him to take the baby off me when the baby was happily asleep in his basket. We're also the same with Thomas - never leaving him to cry and practically sprinting upstairs when he does.

I love your pics :-)

Hope your meds settle down and start making you feel better soon xx

Heartful said...

I used to have those waking up moments during the times I was still breastfeeding Jake. I used to feed him to sleep in our bed, then transfer him to his cot. And every single night after I'd gone back to sleep, I always woke up thinking he was still in bed with me and I'd smothered him under the duvet!

We did co-sleep on and off until Jake went into hospital. And now we're doing it again. Just put our mattress on the floor and his cot mattress next to ours. He's always slept in the same room as us since he was a newborn, except when he was in hospital.

Hope you feel better on your new meds too. x

Glovecat said...

Hmm, very interesting, and it does look like you're getting broody again! :) I've been thinking about how to arrange the sleeping scenario when Squiggles is born, and have heard great accounts of having less broken nights and a more contented baby when the baby is right next to the bed... But I can imagine the potential anxiety about falling asleep with the baby still in bed, somehow trapped under the duvet - argh! I definitely don't want to put the poor mite in another room for a long while, but I guess I'll have to see how everyone feels when the time comes.

Beth, I'm sorry you're having difficulties with these anti-depressants, I didn't realise you were feeling low, I hope you feel much better soon. As you know I've been quite depressed (and online have discovered various references to ante-natal depression - the shy sister of the better-known post-natal variety), but somehow I never feel that a trip to the doctors would DO anything - I suppose I am afraid of pharmaceuticals at the end of the day, and would (apparently!) rather suffer in silence. Well done for going to see a professional about it. That took balls! :) I'm enjoying your posts very much, it's great that you're managing to post so regularly again, HORRAY! Keep it up.