Before Chops was born, I thought only mad people and total hippies had their babies in bed with them. I’d read that it was dangerous, that babies who lay in bed with their mothers would get smothered in the night, and I had no idea why anyone would take that risk. My baby, I thought, would stay in its cot all night (just waking to be fed then going straight back to sleep).
Then I had a son who decided that at 3 months he was done with sleeping all night, and would much rather wake up every hour or two… who would not always fall back to sleep even when fed, and after half an hour’s feed was still quite capable of shuffling and kicking around the cot for an hour before, ping!, waking right up again. Night after night after night.
The first time he slept in bed with us, I think it was a mistake. We’d put the cot mattress between us for me to feed, the plan being that once Chops was asleep we would sneak him back in his cot. But somehow during feeding we all must have dropped off, because the next thing I knew, it was morning… and there was our baby between us, very much not having been squashed or suffocated or smothered. After that it became common for him to come in with us around 5 or 6am, when it just seemed like too much hard work to try to get him back in his cot for just another hour or two.
Now that it seems we are somewhat in for the long haul with his wonky sleeping habits, we’ve decided to go with the flow and accept that he can come into our bed if it helps make us less tired. Of course there are downsides – my husband has to go sleep on the sofa (the bed’s just not big enough for the three of us), I get cramped arms from laying on one side with my arm curled protectively above his head, and there’s the old chestnut about creating a rod for your own back. One mum at my NCT group, when I said I brought Chops into bed most nights, exclaimed, “You mustn’t do that! He’ll only learn to cry for it more! I know someone whose son is NINE and still sleeps with them!!”
Then there are those who don’t realise that there are safe ways to co-sleep (the main thing seems to be to keep bedding well out of the way and not to do it if you’re a smoker or been drinking).
But the benefits… well, the main benefit goes like this: “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”. It is sooo much easier to tend to a breastfeeding baby when they are in bed next to you, that it happens practically without you waking up. There’s also evidence that co-sleepers have a lower risk of Sids because mum is so attuned to her baby next to her. And then there’s waking up in the early hours to find a little warm body snuggled up next to you, snoozing peacefully with head nuzzled against your boobs, the most natural place in the world for a baby to be.
So it’s not forever, not least because I want my husband next to me all night (unless he’s been to the pub and reeks of curry and beer, and will snore all night, in which case he is welcome to the sofa). But for now I will continue bringing my baby into bed with me when he wakes in the night, and we will all sleep a little better, I hope.