Monday, December 19, 2011

Just like that our co-sleeping days may be over!

Before we had our first boy, Erik, almost twelve and a half years ago, I'd begun reading about the philosophies behind Attachment Parenting. I was very taken by the concept of being emotionally aware of my baby and meeting their emotional needs as well as their physical needs. I had been very critical of my own parents approach to parenting (naively so) and had often felt my emotional needs weren't met to my satisfaction.

I have always been very needy emotionally, and this may possibly stem from as early as my very first week outside the womb where I was monitored in the safety of a glass box without meeting and being held by or making eye contact with my mother for the first few days (due to various medical reasons). I think mum and I had a difficult time bonding (which we have made up for in adulthood). Dad and I as well - for cultural reasons with him more than anything. The whole British Empire 'fathers provide and mothers nurture' approach to parenting was what my father knew and passed on to us.

So, I grew up anxious for attention, for recognition and for a deeper sense of connection with my parents. Difficult circumstances early on also led to extended separations from my parents where my grandparents (both sets) cared for me (and later my brother) while my parents struggled to provide for our basic needs as best they could.

Later I went to boarding school on two occasions as a result of my vision impairment and the lack of resources at the local schools to deal with the complexities of teaching a child who could not read the blackboard even from the front row.

So, as I was growing Erik, I read about Attachment Parenting and its promises to encourage the raising of emotionally whole children* and it appealed to me.

I was all for baby wearing, natural birth, breastfeeding, gentle discipline... The only thing I baulked at was co-sleeping. 'That sounds awful!' I kept telling myself, and the GOM wasn't inspired by the idea of sharing his bed with a fragile, soggy, squawking infant either. I was convinced I couldn't co-sleep. I needed my space. I wouldn't be able to sleep. However, I was willing to compromise and have the bassinet in our room - that bit made some sense to me.

So, Erik came home and slept in the bassinet next to our bed. He snuffled and squeaked and every other minute we started at noises unfamiliar to us. I was doubly convinced co-sleeping would never have worked for us. After four months we moved his cot to another room.

When he was ten months old, he started teething for real. He would wake and we bring him into our bed in the hopes he might be more settled with us, but he'd lay there wide awake and when we asked him if he wanted to go back to his bed, he'd nod - he was no fan of co-sleeping either.

During the long weeks of teething we looked at each other and committed to giving co-sleeping a go with the next baby, if only so they wouldn't resist it when they were sick.

When Lukas was born, he slept with us. Slept might be an overstatement - he didn't really sleep until he was three, several months after he asked to move into his own bed. Some might like to believe his sleep resistance came as a result of co-sleeping, but it started with severe reflux. I can't say I enjoyed co-sleeping those first 2.75 years, but we did it and I think it did impact positively on my bonding with Lukas because even after a tough day with him (and there were many in the beginning) I was able to watch him in innocent sleep and replenish that well of maternal affection.

Bryn slept well, and so I learned that it was not the co-sleeping which affected Lukas' sleep as much as his reflux maladies. With Bryn I still wasn't completely comfortable with co-sleeping, but I could feel myself relaxing all the same as the years passed. Bryn didn't choose to move into his own bed and five months after Ari was born, and co-sleeping with both of them, I finally had a deep and meaningful with Bryn about how the bed was very crowded and how much Erik and Luey wanted him to sleep in their room with them. At three and a half, Bryn started sleeping in his own bed.

Ari turned three a month and a half ago. We've had a bed set up for him since August and while he has always called it his bed, he has shown no real interest in sleeping in it. Ari sleeps solidly through the night unless I wake him with my own nocturnal wanderings so I've been wondering if he would be able to sleep in his own bed.

This last weekend we moved both the boys bunks into one room so the other bedroom could be used as a guest bedroom for the GOM's mum and other house guests. Then yesterday we discovered Ari is able to open the child gate into the boys' room. Yesterday, he was in and out of the room and talking about his bed a lot. He was very excited that all three boys were sleeping in the same room and that his bed was in there as well - I think he felt a bit like it was some sort of club he was finally part of. So, it occurred to me to ride this wave of enthusiasm and try him out in the bed. He must have been on the same wave length because at bed time he kept insisting he wanted to go to bed in his 'other bed'. We told him that if he went to sleep in our bed, we'd move him to the other bed when everyone was asleep and finally he agreed to that process.

Ari's Bunkers toddler bunk - with Bryn sleeping 'upstairs'
and Erik and Lukas sleeping parallel on the other side of
the room!

So, at 9pm last night after we were sure all the boys had nodded off, we transferred Ari to his toddler bunk. We held our breath waiting for him to stir and call out for us, but he didn't. I stayed up to watch Love Boat at 2am, and when to bed just after 3am and still no peep from him. I was tempted to go and check that he was still breathing (yes, I'm a sook) but resisted in case I woke him.

At 6.50am we were woken to joyful cries of Ari running up and down the hallway, 'I sleeped in other bed!' He was so excited and pleased with himself!

So, it seems perhaps our co-sleeping days may have come to an end. After 10.5 years of co-sleeping with one or two children - excluding 1.5 years between Lukas and Bryn from April 2004 to August 2005 - our king bed feel huge and empty.

In the end, in the final 2.66 years, I have to say, I felt very relaxed with co-sleeping. I finally learned to enjoy it. I learned to snuggle with my baby without feeling claustrophobic. Last night I did miss his little snore in our room and the smell of his slightly damp hair, and even his toenails in the small of my back!

Mind you, he came into bed and snuggled with me this morning while the other boys got ready for school and he dug his toenails into my back for good measure, so I didn't get to miss it all that for long!

Bye-bye co-sleeping, old friend, you were an acquired taste but we have reaped immeasurable benefits from you over the years and you have supported us as parents through thick and thin!

*'emotionally whole' is what I took from what I read, not necessarily any verbatim promise from any authors I read, and also not the outcome I experienced because, well, so many things impact a child's emotional state, including many things which parents are not in control of.


Ms_MotorbikeNut said...

Love to know if he will go to his own bed tonight without having to use your bed first it will be another big step for a small guy who is growing up :-)

(((( Hugs )))) XXXX Kisses XXXX

Sif Dal said...

Oh, I don't expect he'll do that for a while yet. Usually his dad lays down with him and they nod off together (which, I think the Grumpy Old Man not-so-secretly looks forward to after dinner. Ari won't got to sleep easily for me if I do that. The GOM used to lay on the floor with Erik and Luey and Bryn each night until just a couple of years ago. Recently though, we've implemented staggered bedtimes (Bryn and Ari at 7, Luey at 7.30 and Erik at 8.30 and I don't think Bryn would let Ari get to sleep if they were in the room together by themselves, they'd just muck around. So, we'll encourage falling asleep in mum and dads bed until he is 4-5 and we can enforce more of 'Don't talk or muck around, just go to sleep" rule - like we do with the older boys.

Anonymous said...

Nick co slept with us for at least 18 months. I got to the point where I just didn't tell people about it, because the judgment and warnings and general ... OPINIONS of others really put me off. My son won't be a mama's boy forever, and he won't be small forever. He is 3.5 and has been sleeping through the night in his own bed for at least a year, so clearly all those who said he'd still be sleeping with us at 12 years old were just being assholes. I love mornings when he wakes early and comes and snuggles with us. Kids aren't kids forever, and I wish some people would realise that and take advantage of all the cuddles they can get. In saying that, we made the move to his own bed b/c we were sick of being kicked in the head (or back) and not getting a good nights sleep once he got bigger. Now I just wish we'd got a bigger bed! ;-)

Sif Dal said...

Yeah, we stopped using co-sleeping as an icebreaker after the first couple of years, hahaha. I've always been open about it because I'm not ashamed of it - I know it is AS SAFE as putting an infant in a cot, if not safer in some instances (as friend little girl is alive today because she co-slept as a newborn and her parents called an ambulance when she didn't wake after a couple of hours for a breastfeed. She went into a coma IN THE AMBULANCE. She had viral pneumonia but it took three weeks to detect. If she had been in a cot, her parents might have woken the next morning to a baby who they thought had "slept through", but discovered had "died from SIDS" (as the cause would not have been detected, according to the doctors who treated her, postmortem.

Both having your baby sleep in a cot or in your bed requires safety measures to be adhered to regarding bedding, mattresses, etc. Sadly, while parents who babies pass away in a cot are rightfully not blamed, those who's children pass away in the family bed too often are not given the same respect and more babies pass away in cots than in family beds.

Michelle said...

Nothing to add but applause to your last comment. I got into a rather horrid Facebook argument because I coslept with ash, and then Bianca (for those not aware ash died of SIDS while cosleeping, and Bianca is my subsequent child)
I was so shocked at the names I was called ... And it's made me very seriously reconsider even thinking about doing an interview about it next yr.

Sif Dal said...

Michelle, I don't know how I missed it that Ash died while co-sleeping (though where she slept is irrelevant), and am so sorry you received so much judgement in the wake of such a devastating loss! Sadly, babies die for reasons that remain unknown to the medical profession. It has always bothered me that SIDS is defined as having no known cause and yet SIDS which occurs in a family bed is put down to suffocation, which is a known cause of death. It is cruel and unjust to blame parents of babies who die from SIDS in the family bed.

Crash Test Mummy said...

I was just talking to my cousin about co-sleeping last night. Her toddler sleeps with them, because she won't sleep in her own bed. They gave up and just let her, and it works most of the time. She's quite keen to get her into her own bed though before the baby comes along in 6 months! Our two go through stages where they creep into our bed during the night. I don't mind too much, but I prefer having some space!

Lee said...

I am looking forward to having my bed back, but then I am sure I will miss the closeness and the cuddles.
I sleep better with my babies close. And they certainly do too.

Good Job!