We didn't co-sleep with our babies. Pre-children, I had it in my head that people who co-slept were building a rod for their own backs. It was one of those "I'll never..."'s that we all make, unaware of what dicks we really are. :)
I'd seen my sister do it with her eldest child. Not as a planned strategy, (I lived with her), but as an I'm-too-tired-to-put-her-back-to-bed-after-a-feed thing. She'd bring her into bed in the middle of the night, attach her to her breast, and fall back to sleep, not even waking when M finished the feed.
I didn't have an issue with that so much as the fact that it wasn't long before M couldn't go to sleep on her own. She would scream and T would leave her to cry-it-out and it was horrible (for everyone-M, T and us). I remember thinking that if she'd just stuck to her guns and been consistent in the first place, it would not have been an issue.
I mentioned that this was pre-children, right? We probably all (or most) had a list of Pre Children "When-I-have-kids-I'll-never..." rules. I had a few, not as many as some. I was anti-co-sleeping. I was pro-smacking (in moderation. Hands only, never an object, which our generation and those before us got a lot of). I was anti-juice/cordial/softdrink EVER (still am and it's worked incredibly well for us). I was very much in the camp (like my mother) of my children will love me, but I'm not going to take any crap from them. They will learn to do what I say, when I say it. And just like my mother, I'll be able to do it with the quirk of an eyebrow.
I do that eyebrow quirk well. It is effective. I just have not really been able to use it on my children.
When we had Alexander, we were still firmly in the 'no' camp for co-sleeping. It turned out to be more out of necessity than by design though. It turned out that I was unable (in my severe PND state) to sleep through baby noises. Every adorable (now) snuffle, snore, loud-breath and I was awake, literally in a state of panic. It turns out there are only so many weeks that you can survive at that level of fight-or-flight before your mind starts to play some horrific tricks on you. Mine did and Joel had to take me back to hospital when I became suicidal and hallucinated.
When I came back home, we shifted the monitor to Joel's side of the bed, hoping it would help. The Drs had insisted that they would only release me from the hospital if I agreed to give up breastfeeding (more about that soon, I do want to talk about it). So as we were using a bottle, it was not really a big deal if Joel took the monitor and was first to wake if Alexander did.
But at around the 11 week mark, we put him in his own room and for the first time (and every night thereafter for over a year), he slept through. I mean, right through. No night feeds. No dream feeds. He went down at 8ish and stayed down until 5.
By the time Sammy came along, I was 5 years into the parenting gig. I'd realised I was adamantly anti-smacking. I was still anti juice, cordial and soft drink. I was a far, far 'softer' parent than I had imagined myself to be. I was intuitive, more than anyone I know, with my parenting.
But still, the co-sleeping wasn't happening. With my weight, and the drugs the Drs had put me on, I just didn't feel safe. And despite the drugs, I still couldn't sleep through baby noises. So Sammy, like his brother spent a few weeks in a bassinet in our room and then went to sleep on his own. No where near as good a sleeper as Alexander - quite atrocious, still to this day, but we can't win on the sleep front with both boys.
What is different though, is that at around 4, both of my boys decided that all they wanted was to sleep in bed with me. Despite never having had it as babies (so it not being something they somehow 'remembered'), they suddenly needed it.
|I couldn't have imagined, when I wrote this post that Sam sleeping with me was soon to become a regular occurance.|
The problem is, in Sam's case that it's lasting quite a while, and he now can't fall asleep any other way. Joel hates it. He hates it because it's so easy with Samuel to get stuck in these patterns and then have hell getting out of them. When Sam was a few months old and his reflux was so severe, we could only get him to sleep sitting almost upright in his pram. We'd wheel it around until he fell asleep, then transfer him to his bed. In weeks, he started waking when we transferred him and we'd have to start again. Then in a month or two, he could not sleep anywhere but his pram. No matter how many times we resettled, he was waking screaming every single time he woke up in his cot. And Sam woke a lot. Every 90 minutes between the ages of 4 months and 2 years. That damned Pram issue lasted 8 months. It was horrible. We tried, constantly to break the habit but our lives were hell.
We're in a similar position now. It started a few months ago with just now and then me settling him in my bed and then transferring him to his room before he was asleep. Then he accidentally fell asleep (or quickly, IYKWIM) and then it was more and more often.
Now, there is no other way to get Sam to sleep.
And I know. People think that by his age, (he's 4 and a half) he ought to well and truly be in his own bed. And logically, I know it's true. And Joel certainly. He hates that it causes me pain to have Sam in the position Sam wants to be in (Sam falls asleep with us on the side, facing each other. He likes to lie on one of my arms, and likes the other to be wrapped around him, rubbing his back or head). It kills my shoulder.
But here's the thing. I don't mind doing it. In fact, other than the shoulder pain, I love doing it. I love that time with Sam. I love that he is so attached to me at the moment. I love that he's definitely a Mama's boy, shadowing my every move. And I love that when he's with me like that, I can feel how fast his body relaxes. He sighs, tells me he loves me and that I'm "so bootiful, Mama. You're the best. I yove this family. You make me so happy" every.single.time.
I love the chats we hve for the first couple of minutes, as he winds down. I love the way he rubs my arm as he sleepily tells me he loves me. I love letting my breathing match his and I almost fall asleep. Could in fact, fall asleep if he stayed a little longer.
Instead, Joel comes to take him back to bed, and I'm awake right away. And Sam wakes up several times a night and inevitably, in a sleepy haze comes to our room and says "I just want Mummy". Cue irritated Joel who doesn't do well with interrupted sleep. I'm happy for him to crawl in with me, but because I know it bothers Joel, and feel that Joel should get a say when he's trying to sleep, I back him up and we try to resettle Sam in bed. He resettles ok, but still wakes every couple of hours.
Recently it came to a head, and Joel said Sam needed to learn to sleep in his own bed, or we'd be here in a year, still having to put him down in our bed. He has a point. It hurts my shoulder enough that I'm not able to carry him back to his room. Joel has to do it. Sam is in the top bunk (looong story), so Joel has to carry a heavy 4 year old and lift him above his head to get him in. And I can only keep him with me so long, with the shoulder pain - so all night isn't an option. And as much as I love settling him at night and having him fall asleep so blissed out, I do feel strongly about it being our bed. Joel's and mine. Our sanctuary. I don't want to move him into our room full time. I want it to be our place.
So the 20 minutes it takes to have him asleep, to me is worth it. Every ache, every pain is worth how happy he is when he falls asleep. I've always had a rule with the boys - it is utterly imperative that they go to sleep happy. There is no sadness or crossness at bed time. I can't bear to have children go to sleep crying, or sad, or feeling that it was a bad day. There's nothing I won't do to jolly them into a good mood at bed time. There must be laughs, hugs and kisses and affirming words. It's our ritual.
So a couple of weeks ago, when Joel insisted Sam stay in his own bed - it was horrible. My little man sobbed himself to sleep. I cried in our room. Alexander was upset that Sam was upset. I was angry at Joel. Joel was defensive and annoyed with me for being upset with him. You get the drift. Sam fell asleep late, and I didn't settle down
I understand where he was coming from. And I understand that most people will agree with him, and think that it's time I backed off and the boys learned to suck it up and face sad nights. And while intellectually I realise it might be true....my instincts fight it.
See, I didn't have the overpowering, gut punching adoration for the boys that I develop once they hit about 2. I'm not a fan of babies. But something in me clicks when they hit that age. It clicks for them as well. And we spend the next several years utterly besotted with each other. This isn't to say that I didn't love and adore them as babies. I did. But for me, there is a whole other level as they get older. 2-6 is sublime, to me.
I honestly don't know how to describe the depth of love I feel when he's snuggled up to me, falling asleep. Am I overdoing it because he is my last? When he wants to be in his bed, I have no issue. I'm not sad at it, or wishing he was back with me. I want basically whatever makes him happy. I feel the strongest sense of wellbeing when my boys (both very comfortable expressing emotion to Joel and I) tell us how happy they are, how much they love us. I have the worst, sickest feeling in my stomach when I fight those instincts to make them conform to what they 'should' be doing (e.g -sleeping alone, not hugging or holding hands in public, moving them on to 'older' toys/tv shows before they are ready to). So generally, I don't. I let them develop, emotionally at their own pace. But I know that some feel (and have told me) that I will turn them into sooks or make their lives harder later. An I?
Is it really that bad, 2 chronic insomniacs drifting off to sleep together? Is this better than him crying, making excuses to get up, or begging me to let him be with me? Is making him 'grow up' and be independant worth him honestly not understanding why he's being forcibly kept away from his favourite person in the world?
So who's right? Can we both be right? What's the middle ground? Did you face this issue with your children? At what age did you stop letting the children sleep in your bed with you? Did they just naturally grow out of it (Alexander did), or did you have to 'push' a little?
Do you think 4 is too old to be snuggling in with Mama? Can little boys be too close to their mothers? (Genuine question). Should I be discouraging it? Really curious to hear other people's opinions and experiences.