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
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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.