I wanted to try co-sleeping, but the disapproving feedback made me question my instincts, says
When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to share a bed with the baby at first. As far as I’m concerned, babies come out into the world after having been inside us for nine months. Their temperature has been regulated, they’ve heard the sound of our beating hearts and been gently massaged by the expansion and contraction of our lungs as we breathe.
So it seems mean to me to take a tiny baby from this soft and accommodating space and expecting it to sleep on its own on a mattress, far away from its mother. But there are those who strongly oppose the idea, which made me wonder if I starting out as a bad parent from the day she was born.
I did a bit of research into ‘co-sleeping’. Apparently I was not to use any soft pillows or duvets. What kind of bedding do these books recommend I use then? The baby wasn’t supposed to sleep between me and my husband, on the edge of the bed closest to the wall, or on the edge of a bed that isn’t next to a wall. So it seems that the only place to keep a baby safe in the bed is suspended above it. This is possible, I guess, with some sort of contraption, but hardly practical.
The books in support of the family bed cited arguments like ‘when we all lived in caves…’ or ‘we’re the only mammals that put our children far away from us…’ which made me want to respond, ‘but we don’t live in caves anymore’ or ‘we’re human!’
However, it is true that Westernised women belong to the only culture in which babies are put to sleep in separate rooms. Africans, Asians, Native Americans, Polynesians, all cuddle up with their babies at night. And while I am a Westernised woman, I can definitely see the benefit and appeal of the so-called ‘family bed’.
Angeline arrived in a hospital where skin-to-skin contact was recommended for the first 48 hours of life, so we didn’t dress our new baby, just left her naked and snuggled up against my chest, covered with a blanket.
And when we got her home, and we thought about putting her into her cot for the first part of the night at least, I baulked and sobbed to my husband, ‘I’m not ready!’ So, she slept curled up with me again, and there she stayed. Nights are for sleeping
The best part of sharing a bed is that after the first couple of weeks the whole family ended up doing what it was supposed to do at night – sleep. When Angeline got hungry, she and I would get up, barely awake, snuggle together for a feed, rearrange the pillows and get back down – all in about 15 minutes.
When people asked, sympathetically, how the nights were going, I’d say ‘fine’, and then felt compelled to confess that we were sharing a bed. The response was always a disapproving shake of the head, with the implication that I should be having a dreadful time of it now in order to preserve my future independence.
And it’s true – we reached a point at which I started to feel slightly frustrated at consciously curling up around my baby every night, and of having to go to bed with her because she was used to my presence. So at 3 months, we transitioned her into an Ambybed – a kind of hammock on a spring – right next to my side of the bed, so I could reach out and jiggle her if she stirred.
To my endless astonishment, she took to it straight away, with a bit of rocking and jiggling – and then proceeded to sleep through the night!
I felt that we had done exactly the right thing by following my instincts – keeping the baby with me at first, and then moving her away when she was a bit bigger and able to sleep through the night. I’m sure there will be many other obstacles on the route to a perfect night’s sleep and an easy going down, but I’m feeling more sure of my own maternal intuition, and will be more inclined to follow it in future. Is co-sleeping natural or foolish? What did you do with your baby?