When I was pregnant, I remember being thrust a variety of information leaflets, all of which I read studiously before putting to one side. Some leaflets told me about breastfeeding, others told me about sleeping and yet more told me about weaning.
They all claimed to be the “right” and “only” method that any sane parent should follow.
Of course, when my baby arrived in the world I realised that no leaflet had the answer to every question – and it was very likely the leaflet in the GP surgery wouldn’t match the leaflet at the baby massage class or the leaflet at the breastfeeding support group or the leaflet at the baby sensory session.
They all disagreed, because they were all written by people with a different background and approach to the role of being a parent.
It was about the time of this realisation that I chucked all the leaflets in the bin and followed my wise mother’s advice, to “follow my instincts”. Because, really, as a parent those instincts are all you have. If going against them makes you upset or feel a strange knot in your stomach, then the approach you’ve taken isn’t working, so take another one.
I’ve battled against any attempts to “label” my methods when it comes to bringing up my daughter. I even shy away from the word “parenting” because, to me, it makes it seem like being a mother to my child is some sort of activity that I’m following, rather than just living life.
This time last year I wrote an article for a magazine about Baby-led Weaning, the route we took with our daughter. For my bio, I was asked to describe my “parenting approach”. I replied that I didn’t have an approach – or not one that could be easily labelled anyway. If anything, it was the “make it up as you go along” approach. That is still true today.
When my baby was but a mere slip of a thing, we packed her off to her own room, to sleep in the snore-free peace of her cot. Her long limbs meant she woke herself up kicking the sides of her moses basket, and her father’s blocked nose meant she was often woken mid milky slumber. This went against the “rules” in the leaflet, that you should sleep with your baby in your room until they were six months old.
I fretted a bit, sleeping with both doors to the rooms wide open and a baby monitor taped to the side of my head. Eventually the buzzing of the monitor and my softly sleeping baby told me to relax, and I accepted that moving her a bit further away, into a bigger bed, was the right decision – for us.
I sometimes felt a pang of guilt when other mums told me of their night-time cuddles with their babies in their own beds, often complaining with sleep deprived eyes that their baby “won’t sleep on his own”. I liked the idea of cuddling next to my baby, in my bed, falling asleep next to each other. But the reality – that my baby was a lanky little thing that kicked and squirmed and didn’t appreciate cuddles while drifting off to the land of nod – meant this thing called “co-sleeping” was never on the cards.
As Frog grew older, there were times when she would allow me to lie next to her, needing me close to her to help fall asleep. These times were rare and never ended with her in our bed at night. Often they’d see me lying on the floor of the cot next to her, holding her hand. Or lying next to her on my bed in the afternoon, trying to encourage her to give in to the exhaustion she fought.
And now, here we are.
Frog still likes her space. At 2 years and 2 months, she sleeps in a “big girl’s bed” and will often go from 13 to 14 to 15 hours a night. But there have been times recently – new times – where we’ve dabbled in a bit of co-sleeping action.
On holiday, for example. As fine as our glamping tent was, as sturdy and cosy and luxurious as the canvas walls were, they didn’t hide the noise of the seagulls at 4am. Or the wind flapping against the ropes outside.
So, for that week, my toddler fell asleep in her own bed and woke at around 3am, calling for me. Instead of battling with her to keep her in her own bed, scared of “making a rod for my own back” etc etc, I plonked her down beside me and drifted off with her curled against me like a cuddly little cat.
(Her dad, obviously, found himself relegated to the other bed. Being 6ft 5″ doesn’t suit co-sleeping, apparently.)
Fast-forward a few weeks later, to the last few days, and we’ve found ourselves in a similar situation.
Frog has woken up itchy and grumpy with chicken pox in the middle of the night, calling, “MUUUUUUMMY!” On these rare occasions, a flask of milk and a cuddle is usually enough to settle her and see her spend the rest of the night in her own bed. But the other night was different. The other night she got out of her bed and pushed open her door, before toddling into our bedroom and getting into bed with us at 4am.
It was rather nice actually.
And the following night when she woke up, I didn’t even try and get her to sleep in her own bed. I simply plonked her into bed next to me and we both drifted off to a contented sleep until proper morning.
But now I’m back to work. And proper morning for me IS 4am. So the co-sleeping has to be put on hold. As much as I like the odd nightly cuddle and the way my two year old reaches for my hand in the night, the thought of her getting up at 4am to face a day of grumpiness is not an option.
Luckily, she’s slept through the last couple of nights. It seems the chicken pox has done its worse and is leaving her be, for now at least.
So yet again, I find myself with a label I can’t stick to. I’m a fake co-sleeper. A fairweather co-sleeper.
But you know what? That suits me just fine.
Erm wow you are super lucky you started the routine so early as I ended up sleeping with O from a baby, falling asleep with him on the breast and it took YEARS literally to get him out of our bed! He’s never been the best of sleepers. Well done Mummy x
We’ve co-slept “wrongly”. Squeaky was in a moses basket, and then cot in our room til she was about 8 months, and then moved into her big girl room, still in the cot. But when she’s had a bad night for whatever reason, I’ve slept in a single bed in her bedroom, often with her for some or all of the night.
Now we’ve moved house & she’s got her big girl (toddler) bed, and there’s no spare single in her room. I’m dreading the next bout of illness or poor sleeping, because I’ll be on the floor. There’s no way I’ll manage to squeeze into her bed.
We co-sleep sometimes, like if she’s ill or had a nightmare. Does that make me a “co-sleeper?” I also have her with me constantly some days, depending on circumstances. Not all days, but some days. Does that make me an advocate of “attachment parenting?” I breastfed in the day and bottle fed at night – so was I a breastfeeder? I have no idea myself. Like you, I do what feels right at the time and I LOOOOOOONG for a return to simpler times when we didn’t have a bloody label for everything. ***Rant over . . . pours wine*** Great post btw 🙂
Agreed! I often shy from all the labels. It can feel like different “clubs” of parents and I have no idea which one I belong to. I’m just a mum, doing what feels right at the time. Is there a label for that?!
Kate Takes 5 says
I’m still co-sleeping with the almost 4 year old! I still love it but know it’s time to go back to the marital bed. With the snoring. And the stealing of duvets. And the…oh maybe just one more year 😉
Ha – that’s a good sell for it if ever I heard one!
We co-sleep sometimes, like if she’s ill or had a nightmare. Does that make me a “co-sleeper?” I also have her with me constantly some days, depending on circumstances. Not all days, but some days. Does that make me an advocate of “attatment parenting?” I breastfed in the day and bottle fed at nigh – so was I a breastfeeder? I have no idea myself. Like you, I do what feels right at the time and I LOOOOOOONG for a return to simpler times when we didn’t have a bloody lable for everything. ***Rant over . . . pours wine*** Great post btw 🙂
Bex @ The Mummy Adventure says
I do like the idea of co-sleeping too but it was never for us. All three of us are wrigglers and D also went into his own room early as he flung himself around the cot waking himself up throughout the night. Now he only wants to sleep in his cot and does it beautifully. I try and nap with him during the day but he does not want to be in my bed! Every now and again though he will fall asleep having a cuddle and I absolutely love it! We have done what is right for us though and I don’t regret a thing x
He sounds very much like F – it’s only recently she’s wanted the cuddles at night. And even then, I’m pretty sure it’s just cos she’s been poorly!
Liz Burton says
I love waking up next to my daughter. In fact I prefer sleeping with her than the Old Man – she snores less!
Ha – I can relate to that one!
Whooop for any co sleeping! It rocks! My mum co slept with me. I co slept with my eldest son although didnt plan to and by the time he was 4 he was spending all night in his bed and does now sleep in his bed all night every night and there weren’t any tears reaching that stage (in line with my hippy parenting approach ;-)). With my youngest I planned to co sleep and he has slept in with me since day 1. He still does 13 months on and we wont be purchasing a bed for him until 2.5/3. Hope you get more co sleeping soon.
It’s a really lovely thing to be all snuggled up with your kids, but I must admit I like my own sleep space and always sleep better when I’ve got more room in the bed. F also sleeps in longer when she’s in her own bed. The last few nights have been rather nice though. Makes a change – usually she’s too busy for cuddles!
I think every parent needs to listen to their own instincts and do what is best for them and their children. I have two daughters, and I co-slept with both of them with absolutely no problems (or regrets). My second daughter slept in my bed for much longer than my first daughter did, but in a (selfish) way in suited me because I enjoyed having her there.
Do what suits you, sod everyone else x
I think it’s a case of sometimes we have to do it and sometimes it can’t happen. My odd working hours and our less than huge bed mean it’s not a permanent option. Plus my toddler is such a fidgety sleeper that she likes her own space. But sometimes she needs her mum. And I’d rather haver her in bed with me and both of us get some sleep than stay up the whole night battling to get her back in her own bed. It hasn’t become an issue (yet!).
Grandma from the North says
It’s a brave thing to even admit what goes on at night…wait til the sleep walking starts!
That is a haunting experience to say the least!
doing what comes naturally is definitely the right thing to do ! x
Oh blimey, I can imagine. Please don’t let her be a sleep-walker!
Crystal Jigsaw says
What a gorgeous picture! I never co-slept with my daughter, she went into her own room at around 2 months old. She did the usual toddler trying it on when she was older and tried to get in our bed occasionally, but was promptly marched back to her own bed. I’m afraid I don’t agree with co-sleeping at all, it is making a rod for your own back especially if it’s started at an early age. I know I’ll get shot down in flames by the new-age parenting gurus, but what works for one doesn’t for another and in my opinion, parents bed should be child free.
Just goes to show how different everyone is. I really think that all you can do as a parent is follow your own instincts. I don’t think there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to do it particularly – except for maybe trying to follow a certain way of doing things that went completely against your own instincts. x
Ah, bless her little heart! I’ve done it differently with each one tbh, but they r all.individuals and I’m like you-know-what making it up as I go along. Bella and I do co-sleep and it works for us. Like you say, you have to go with your instincts.
Instincts are all we have really aren’t they? No amount of “rules” will work if they go against our instincts.
When Iyla is ill she usually sleeps in our bed and I love it! Although I definitely couldn’t do it every night! Glad Frog is over the worst x
I really think all kids and all parents are different. I love those moments of cuddles when she does sleep in our bed. But I know NLM isn’t keen as he usually ends up turfed out in the other room! For us, it’s not something we’d be able to do all the time, but sometimes is OK – for us anyway.
I tried co sleeping once, when she was in spica! That certainly wasnt a nice snuggly experience, big bulky cast legs at 180 degrees! Daddy and me precariously balanced on the edges! Own beds suit us fine too!