On being a Co-Sleeper

Saturday, 12 October 2013

At some point in the night, a small sigh punctuates the darkness as her perfect hands knead and fetter upon my spine. I shift feeling her warmth, a jig-saw perfect fit as she completes me. Turning towards her, nimble fingers grab and need against me until she finds her bounty and settles into the slow rhythmic suckle of a midnight snack. Her perfection is like pure sunshine glittering on to the night. I love her. I tell her so. I tell her again in tender whispers. She murmurs back. She loves me too.
I still love her two hours later, and two hours after that. I just don’t like her as much those times.
I lay adrift in the night with only the digital display of the alarm clock for light as it mocks the passing of my life minute by minute. I fade into the lullaby of her breaths and wait for sleep or morning, which ever claims me first.
I should miss The Husband in my bed but I think I’d miss The Baby more. He shall share my bed until we’re creaking and old, until we sleep and do not wake and she shall share my bed until she sleeps through the night finally or drives me utterly insane, whichever comes first
.” – - -

I’m tired. Bone tired.  Hell, lets go one better, I’m soul tired.  Yet I could be tireder (yes, I made that word
up).  Yes, The Toddler (I do realise I'm rather stretching the term Toddler here) still doesn't sleep through at 42 months, something that would appear to be more of a problem to other people than it is to me.  Yes, he still breastfeeds rather frequently including at times through the night.  Yes he’s still sleeping in my room, and golly gosh, even at times in my bed.  
Truth be told he’s always slept with me.  It just works.  He wakes and demands feeding, I roll over flop a boob in his general direction (yes flop, I know, forgive me for getting terribly technical) with my eyes still mostly closed whilst he fills his boots then with any luck rolls back over and goes to bloody sleep.  I could be getting out of bed all cold and wobbly from lack of sleep and stumble out of the room whilst he gets increasingly agitated and across the landing to settle him in another room, but evidently these huge metal rods I've made for my own back make it too hard to stand and walk…no wait….they allow me to stay nice and warm and snuggly in bed and save The Toddler getting unnecessarily upset.  Not to mention it has been vital to us when he's had breathing issues related to asthma, to know that my breathing is regulating his and I can keep an eagle eye on him throughout the night should he deteriorate.
In 2005, McKenna and Thomas McDade published a peer reviewed article called “Why babies should never sleep alone” in the journal Paediatric Respiratory Reviews (No. 6, 134-152) McKenna & McDade explain that baby primates are not meant to be isolated, and when they are, their lungs are likely to shriek out a protest: 

The emotional responses by infants and children
to resist parental isolation by crying and protesting are
probably innate and adaptive, since separation from the
caregiver most certainly meant rapid death for infants and
children in the environments within which childhood sleep
and emotions evolved.
But co-sleeping is like, dangerous! Babies can you know, die.
After all that’s what the tabloids tell us, so it must be true.  Even medical professionals are scare mongering and demonising an act which is actually biologically appropriate and when done safely can half the instances of SIDS.  They don’t tell you that bit though.  It’s also plays a rather significant roll in successful and extended breastfeeding, something that becomes terribly easier once you've learnt to do it lying down.
As  McKenna & McDade also explained in their paeiactric respiratory review:
"The general hypothesis that co-sleeping (at least in the
form of a committed caregiver’s proximity i.e,. roomsharing)
reduces SIDS among some SIDS prone infants is confirmed
by studies showing that roomsharing in the presence of an
active caregiver saves lives."
Saves lives, directly contradicting the general advice that co-sleeping is the devils work. 
There are different kinds of co-sleeping however and yet they lump them all together under a big ‘Don’t do it!’ sign.  The thing is though, people are going to do it regardless.  Many of them will do it without actually knowing that’s what they’re doing as they are too busy trying not to do it.  I've lost you there haven’t I? Stay with me, let me explain.  It’s the days of a new-born, who like a new-born should, wakes constantly and feeds a lot, cluster feeds.  Somewhere in mum’s mind she thinks how much easier it would be if she didn't have to get out of bed and get baby out of their cot to settle them but it stays in the back of her mind because we must not co-sleep.  The Health Visitor told us so.  The leaflets and posters told us not to.  The newspapers told us not to. Shut up an begone mothers instinct, you obviously know nothing. So she’s tired, close to tears tired, we've all been there.  Baby is crying, it feels like that’s all they do, constantly.  As soon as you put them back down, their  ‘I’m not attached to mummy’ radar goes off and with it their siren like wail.  So you sit in a chair with them or lie on the sofa with them whilst they sleep and inevitably nod off with them.  It’s okay though, it’s not a bed so you’re being good and not co-sleeping.  Only that is co-sleeping the only difference is if they were in a bed it would be infinitely safer.
Trying to discourage all co-sleeping practices because of co-sleeping mal-practises is like banning babies from travelling in cars because once a parent somewhere got drunk, didn't strap baby in a car seat and went for a drive.  Really, it’s that ridiculous.
There are some really simple rules to follow to make co-sleeping safe:
1)      Never ever sleep on a sofa/chair with baby.
2)      Don’t co sleep if you smoke
3)      Don’t co sleep if you've consumed alcohol
4)      Don’t co sleep if you've taken recreational drugs
5)      Don’t co-sleep if you are taking prescription drugs that make you drowsy or desensitise you.
6)      Don’t let baby use a pillow if under 12 months of age
7)      Don’t let a baby under 12 months share your duvet etc
The fact is, parents are going to co-sleep in one form or another at some point whether they mean to or even realise it’s what they’re doing yet sadly because of the demonization of it, not all of them will do it safely.  They're too busy hiding the fact they do it and absurdly feel shameful for doing something so utterly socially forbidden that they never seek advice on how to do it safely. That’s when we get the headlines of baby deaths ‘caused’ by co-sleeping. Note the ‘co-sleeping’ not bed sharing.  Bed sharing is a type of co-sleeping.  Often if you look deeper into the headlines you’ll find they weren't in a bed or the parent was inebriated or a smoker all absolute no-no's in co-sleeping safety.
Surely if it’s going to happen anyway we should work harder on educating on how to do it safely rather than scare mongering?  Knowledge is power.  Knowledge is safety.
But nah, because that would surely turn us all into raving hippies who weave our own knickers from lentils and braid our under arm hair.
One of the most valuable parenting tools we have is instinct, something which the media seems to be intent on beating into submission.  It's natural to feel attached to your infant, you're supposed to be (obviously there are exceptions to this such as PND which can repress instincts etc).  How many parents put their infant to bed and turn on the monitor just to feel connected to their baby?  Then routinely peek in to check on them throughout the evening and the night? Something inside you is letting you know you need to be close to them. Baby awakes and cries because you're not there, instinctively baby needs you to be there.
In countries like Japan where co-sleeping and breastfeeding are the cultural norm (and the lack of maternal smoking) SIDS rates are one of the lowest in the world.  Other countries who practice ecological nurturing don’t even have a word for SIDS as the instances of it are that low.
I could be an awful blog bore and not only stand on my little tie-dyed soapbox but could also dance on it too and dazzle you with the science like how co-sleeping actually stimulates babies own breathing patterns and heart functions as well as reducing their stress levels and regale you with all the benefits on physical, emotional and mental health for baby and parent.  I trust you though, we all know how to google-fu and just in case you’re sat there on a caffeine drip with a screaming baby playing nipple cripple on your tits I’ll even share a few links that make interesting reading:

Granted co-sleeping isn't for everyone, yet you can co-sleep without bed sharing. Even simply room-sharing has benefits and you can buy side car style cots, whatever floats your boat.
But what about the nooooookie?   
Firstly, you’re having sex? Just so we’re clear, I actually quite liked you up until now.  Seriously though, be creative….you have a whole home, use it. 
For what it’s worth Thing Two shared my room from birth until around 3.5 years and the transition into her own room? Effortless and absolutely painless.  Damn, where’s that rod gone?
Granted it's not without problems, such as him hogging my side of the bed should I dare escape for wee and arguing over which one of my pillows he wants to pinch.  Git.
Obviously it's not for everyone, if the thought of doing it makes you hyperventilate with worry, then don't do it.  It's supposed to lower stress levels not increase them.  However, should you want to do it, follow the guidelines of safe co-sleeping and enjoy.  Trust your instinct.


Post a Comment

I love receiving comments so thank you for taking the time to leave one. Don't worry if your comment doesn't show up immediately, in order to avoid that pesky captcha I've activated comment moderation instead so as soon as i'm online i'll publish your comment :)

If you like the blog feel free to link it on your page.

All content by L Seddon / MamaUndone | (© Copyright 2015) Design by Studio Mommy (© Copyright 2015)