Why We Co-Sleepby Sarah Hurst
Before I had my own children, there were so many things I said I’d never do as a parent. Co-sleeping was a definite no for us. Every time I’d heard someone mention it, it was in a negative light. Even our NCT sessions seemed to gloss over it fairly quickly and talked about the risks…reading between the lines it was easy to come away with the feeling that this was very much frowned upon and definitely not advised. Media stories about fatalities also lead us to believe that the risks were just too great – as if all babies naturally slept in their cots and cribs and allowing them to sleep anywhere else was poor parenting.
And then it happened. A non-sleeping child. A baby who cried ALL night. A small human with colic and reflux so severe that he needed to be held upright for 40 minutes after every feed, day and night. Sleep was a rarity. He spent most of the night in my arms, and I spent most of that time trying not to fall asleep with him in my bed. On the rare occasion, I managed to transfer him to the cot next to my bed, I’d fall asleep only to wake in a panic minutes later…scrambling around the bed and searching under the duvet in fear that I’d suffocated him.
Finally, after weeks of listening to the viewpoints of others, struggling to follow ‘guidelines’ that weren’t working for me and reminding myself that I wasn’t a bad parent just because my child didn’t sleep…I decided to follow my instincts…
After researching bedsharing, co-sleeping and gentle parenting methods, we started on our co-sleeping journey and didn’t look back…
When is it not safe to co-sleep?
Before I continue, there are some guidelines that are really important to follow, as to when it definitely isn’t safe to co-sleep or bedshare with your baby:
- If you, or anyone else in the bed with your baby, smokes
- If you, or anyone else in the bed with your baby, has consumed alcohol or taken drugs
- If you are severely sleep-deprived
- If your baby was premature (before 37 weeks)
- If your baby was born a smaller size/weight (5.5lb)
- If there are excess sheets, duvets or pillows on the bed
- If you are sleeping on an armchair or a sofa
How can I co-sleep or bedshare safely?
- Keep your baby warm by dressing them in a sleeping bag rather than your duvet or blanket
- Lie your baby on a firm flat mattress – either in a co-sleeper crib or on your mattress
- If you are bed-sharing, adopt the C shape, with your baby level with your chest under your armpit, your arm stretched out across and your knees tucked up. Your baby will be lying within with protective ‘C’ shape of your body, and with your arm stretched out this way it would be very hard for you to roll onto your baby.
- Make sure your baby’s space is clear, with no excess bedding, or baggy PJ top from you.
- Make sure your baby is not at risk of falling out of bed or getting stuck by the wall
- Lie your baby on their back.
Some important things to remember:
- There will always be people who disagree with your parenting choices. Every child is different and their parents are best placed to decide what is best. That’s YOU.
- You won’t be making a rod for your own back
- Sleep breeds sleep – do whatever it takes to maximise on it
- Things change quickly as a baby develops, keep assessing what works for you
- Good attachment and security does NOT breed ‘insecurity’ – rather it helps to build confidence and independence, not just now, but later on in life too.
- It won’t be forever. They won’t be climbing into your bed every night at 18 years old.
- One day you will miss waking up to their little face next to you
- You won’t ever look back and regret the time you spent comforting them and helping them to sleep more peacefully
- You’ll wish you could go back to these days when they’re out with their mates past midnight and you’re sat up waiting for them to get home safely.
- More people co-sleep than you realise. Most of them won’t admit it until you come clean first.
By the time I had my second child, I had a co-sleeper crib at the ready, and we either co-slept or bed-shared from day 1. Both of them still creep into our bed in the middle of the night, and I see this as a blessing…they know where to go if they are worried, frightened or struggling to sleep. They know that I am still here as their parent whether its 4 am in the morning or 4 pm in the afternoon, they have consistency….and there is something very peaceful about lying in bed with your little ones, listening to their breathing, knowing that you’re all safe and all together.