I never planned to have my first child sleep in bed with me. I thought it was a bad habit. I thought it would spoil my baby and ruin my sleep. Sure, she might come in for the odd night when she had a nightmare. After all, I remember lying in my parents’ bed, looking up at the patterns the watermarks made on the ceiling. It would never be a habitual thing, a lifestyle choice.
Then Talitha was born. She would not settle. I rang the midwife on the ward for help so many times that she eventually brought me a co-sleeper cot to attach to my bed. Finally, peace.
When we got home, I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t settle in her Moses basket for more than a few minutes during the night. I was exhausted and felt like there was no recovering from a lengthy labour with this baby who just wouldn’t sleep.
Talitha at three weeks old
I sat on the sofa, breastfeeding her, dosing and terrified of dropping her if I fell asleep. The midwife pieced together her green poo and her constant waking as oversupply of breastmilk. I now know that actually she wasn’t accessing enough milk because of her tongue tie. But after three years of knowing my first daughter, I think the waking thing was more than just hunger. She wanted – needed – to be close to me.
The midwife warned us against taking her into bed with us. I hadn’t even considered it might be unsafe. I knew many people in Trinidad who slept with their babies. Out of exhausted desperation, I began to breastfeed her in bed and would accidentally fall asleep. I’d wake up terrified. In the daytime I was unsure about admitting to people that she was in bed with us. I felt guilty about it all. But I became a reluctant co-sleeper.
It’s funny remembering all of this because just three months after Talitha was born, I counted bedsharing as one of the things I would have done sooner, in retrospect. We kept moving the goalposts for when Talitha would move into a cot and possibly into her own room but wegot a bigger bed instead.
In the end, she moved into her own child’s bed at age two. We’d just moved house and we made her room a place a child would love to call her own. Still, she’d have bedtime there but I’d pick her up and bring her to bed with me when I was heading there because I was still night nursing. Maybe she would have stayed asleep there all night. I’ll never know for sure.
Talitha’s room when we moved in. I give you an update here on the blog soon.
There wasn’t long to find out. I fell pregnant as soon as we’d moved. Breastfeeding at night made me nauseous. It was no longer an option. So Laurence started going in to comfort her if she woke at night. Let’s just say she wasn’t keen on the arrangement for a few nights. After that, though, she slept through in her own bed most nights! Sometimes she’d go through a phase of waking but she’d accept her father’s comfort and go back to sleep.
Once we spent the night at a friend’s, sharing a bed, and it was a total nightmare because she wanted to breastfeed the whole time. I guess it was just to soon for the new arrangement to have settled. Soon, she didn’t want to get into bed with us. If she woke, she and Laurence would negotiate over where they would sleep. If she wouldn’t come into our bed, he’d insist that they went in the spare room. If she had her way, they’d sleep in her tiny bed. Not an option.
We talked about what might happen, in case she started wanting to sleep with us again once Ophelia was born. I really didn’t want her to feel like she was missing out if all of us were in the bed and she was on her own. This time it was obvious to us that the new baby would sleep in our bed.
At first we went through a musical beds situation. Laurence sometimes slept in the spare room, Ophelia and I in our bed and Talitha in her own bed. I decided I didn’t like Laurence sleeping separately, mainly because I resented being the only one having to wake at night. Yes, selfless, me.
We put Talitha’s bed guard on my side of the bed, stuffed a towel into the gap between the guard and bed so it was flush and I kept Ophelia on my side, away from any pillows and duvet. As it turned out, Talitha was happy enough to sleep in her own room and trundle into ours in the mornings for her wake up feed, just as she still does.
We’ve been through a couple of phases of her sleeping in bed with us (due to nightmares), both children pinning themselves against me, me gently moving them away. I’ve honestly really enjoyed those nights and wish they’d happen more often (sans nightmares). I playfully call our bed “the family bed”, which makes Laurence rolls his eyes.
It’s hard to look back and see how much time I wasted worrying. I wish I’d just allowed myself to be okay about the whole thing sooner, to know that we would find our way.
NB: La Leche League has recently published up-to-date information on bedsharing and safety.