Co-sleeping AKA sleeping
I'm not good on less than about 7 hours sleep. I know it's not cool or hard to admit that (and I want to be both...ahh, the coolness is slipping further away every second!!). I get confused and unable to rationalise properly; everything seems much bigger (worse) than it is.
I've had a complex relationship to sleep for over a decade now, struggling with insomnia in my late teens and early twenties due to OCD, anxiety and depression. Ironically I am writing this in the midst of a bout of insomnia. I'm tucked next to the baby, trying not to shine my phone near his face, hoping my husband doesn't wake up and tell me off for blue light at bed time. I know I shouldn't be on here if I want to sleep - but sometimes you just get past that point...
I have historically, infamously in my family, been a terrible napper. I would wake up panicked, sweaty, garbaling some nonsense, either after 5 minutes or 3 hours. (My sister text me last week saying she had had a 4 hour nap and now felt terrible. 4 hours. That is not a nap. That is 2 days worth of sleep goddamn you, you childless freedom-nymph! Love you really).
However, in pregnancy I became a champion napper, won gold for my county. I could have a morning nap, have lunch and then just lie down for a little afternoon nap to set me up to make it through for a 7pm bedtime. NOT KIDDING. I was so tired. All the time. And not just that, but until the last month or so, I had the most beautiful sleep; calm and deep and comfy. I would enjoy waking up in the middle of the night and feeling how well rested I was, before going back to sleep. Weirdo! I massively credit this to the amount of meditation and yoga I was doing through hypnobirthing. I will write about that in more detail. It was ace and I miss it.
I would sack off any event for an early night. And until 8.5 months I was working, and my work weren't really fans of the mid afternoon nap. More's the pity. But when I could, I really soaked in sleep.
And I tried to really appreciate it too. As much as you can when you are swollen and aching and sick and worrying. It was pretty great, but it was in preparation for something I really feared - parental sleep deprivation.
When people asked me how I felt about becoming a parent, I would chirp on about my excitement and hopes, but would always mention my niggles and bigger-than-niggle fears about not being able to sleep. People would offer advice about how they got their kids to sleep, but I didn't hear any suggestions that sat right with me.
We didn't want to co-sleep, in fact we fought it quite hard (ish). We had bought a snuzpod sidecar style cot and I hadn't for a second considered that he would not sleep in that when I was pregnant. Every mum on YouTube (all of them, pretty sure I watched every video) recommended the snuzpod/sleepyhead combo so I dutifully paid up and waited for our little potato to put in it.
But the potato was not a fan. In fact, he was exclusively a fan of sleeping on our chests. For about 8 weeks, at least.
Now, maybe they are lying to make me feel better, but I've spoken to tons of mothers about this and come across more open bloggers / voices, and it seems pretty universal. New babies like to be held, or more specifically, do not like to be put down.
Why is this a secret?!?! Is it so that new parents have something else to feel inadequate about? Because surely there is enough guilt and uncertainty in these times.
It was super scary at first and we kept trying "newborn sleep hacks" to try and get him out of our bed. I would fall down Google wormholes that always led to a website on SIDS, tears streaming down my face, hand on the baby so I could feel him breathing. But somehow, like the rest of the baby stuff, it did get easier. We would periodically try to either start him off in, or move him to the snuzpod...but he would wake very quickly and usually upset. Next to me, he sleeps soundly for the most part. There are always leaps colds, teething and overtiredness to contend with...but for the most part he's a beautiful little sleeper.
I should qualify that. For me, being a good sleeper means that:
- From 0 to 1 month we were up every 30 to 90 minutes with the occasional 3 hour stretch. No daytime/nighttime difference.
- From 1 to 3 months he started going a little longer, maybe waking every 2 or 3 hours between 11pm and 7am.
- From 3 to 5 months he had a major leap and we really noticed that he found it harder to go to sleep (so we got really careful about when to go to bed) and then would wake more frequently, back to every 45/90 minutes.
- Now - at 5.5 months - he sleeps 4 hours 7 to 11pm then generally wakes every 2 hours until around 8am.
We have rough nights, it's not completely predictable. But it ain't bad (in my book), mainly because there is essentially no crying.
I guess we did sort of see this coming / ensure our co-sleeping destiny... We had the luck of being able to buy a new bed when we moved house and we basically chose one that takes up the entire floor space of our room, to ensure enough space for future sprogs.
Why I love it?
- I get more sleep
- I get more sleep
- I barely have to move
- Baby cuddles
- I get more sleep
- He is such a happy baby and we put some of that down to him feeling secure, partly at night - just our feeling.
- I feel that he is so safe next to me, I can't be certain that I always wake up I guess - but he never cries in the night. I wake up when he starts wriggling and looking for food.
Why I don't love it?
- Fear of non-NHS recommended sleep conditions has me checking his breathing every 2 minutes on my more wobbly nights
- Fear of judgement...so just write about it on the internet, that'll work out well.
- My back! My poor back.
- Breastfeeding aversion...some nights I just want some space.
- All or nothing - at the moment it's mummy at bedtime or no sleep. This leads to my husband feeling like he can't help (he does basically everything else to compensate).
- Knowing we probably have to make a change at some point and not currently knowing when that will be.
I'm not recommending that you do it, I'm just telling you about my experiences because if someone had told me beforehand, I would not have felt so much turmoil and guilt.