When I was pregnant the first time round, me and my husband did discuss co-sleeping. We were pretty damn adamant that there was no way we would do it. After all how on earth are you supposed to sleep with a baby in the bed with you?? We spent lots of time and thought making her a nursery with a cot bed. I planned to have her sleep in our room for the first six months, but my idea was that she would have all her daytime naps in the nursery so she associated that with sleep, ready to move there full time at six months. We had a beautiful rocking crib beside our bed for nighttime sleeping. I had it sorted.
I had come across all the guidelines on how to cosleep safely, so thankfully I was aware of these, but didn’t think I’d need to know. And then my baby was born, and refused to go down in the plastic fishbowl cot at the hospital. After hours of staying awake holding her, I called my husband to get us both, and was so grateful to get us home for some sleep at last!
Well I spent some time trying to settle her into the crib with no luck, so at last I reluctantly brought her into bed, and we all managed to get a little sleep with her on my chest. The next day we kept trying with the crib, with no success. I think at one point I just left her in it, screaming, while I got into bed beside her and fell fast asleep, completely and utterly exhausted by this point. I have no idea how long I slept for, but when I woke she was still crying. I was probably so tired that I was unsafe to be looking after her in bed at that moment, but I still feel guilty about that one and only time I left her to cry by herself.
Over the next few weeks we tried everything we could think of. We went out and bought a Moses basket, a lamb skin blanket, a whole array of different swaddling blankets, we tried clothes smelling of us, warning the basket first, every trick we could find. Absolutely none of them worked. This was always the result of trying to lay her down alone to sleep:
And yet this was the result when she was with me in bed:
It took about six weeks till we gave in and just accepted that she was going to sleep with us for now. Life got so much easier from that point on. We did try building a side car for her, but this was the closest she ever came to sleeping in it, and the rest of the time it ended up full of clothes waiting to be put away, toys, blankets etc.
Sleep wasn’t so bad really. As long as she was on us, with us, she was ok. As long as we stayed with her the whole time, she was ok. We stopped attempting to leave whilst she slept as the resulting hysterics if she found we weren’t there on waking was devastating. She woke consistently several times through the night when I was home, but settled easily on waking. When I did night shifts she slept beautifully for her Daddy.
When I was pregnant and chose to night wean things deteriorated quite dramatically. She stopped seeming to sleep at all. She had already stopped all day time naps when she turned two, so it felt like we were all surviving on a few snatch minutes of sleep a day. By the time her brother was born I would find myself being fine all day, and as darkness arrived I would become an anxious mess, terrified of the horrors the night had in store for me. After the first few weeks sleep settled a little, but it soon became obvious that having one sleeping each side of me was exhausting and unmanageable. There were some beautiful moments
but many more were I felt I was suffocating.
My Mum ended up making the decision for us after my daughter slept in a toddler bed next to us when we went to visit her. Shortly after she arrived with a toddler bed for us to use at home. It was still right next to our bed so I would often need to hold her hand at various points through the night, but the transition was remarkable easy and she started sleeping through the night, aged three and a half, in her own bed.
At around four and a half, a couple of weeks before starting school, I made the rash decision to move them both into their own room, well kind of, a little dressing room attached to our bedroom, round the corner from our bed. This lasted six weeks, and was a disaster. Neither of them slept, they both seemed really distressed by it, and I ended up sleeping between them on a roll up mattress on the floor, awake all night comforting each of them repeatedly.
We gave in after six weeks of no sleep. She was disturbed by it for ages, taking at least a month to start sleeping through the night again, needing me to comfort her frequently. After our failed experiment I was certain that I wouldn’t be trying again any time soon.
Four days ago now my daughter set up a bedroom for herself in the cave. She made herself a bedside table out of an old washing up bowl (which we keep nearby to catch vomit if needed!!) upside down, with a variety of treasures carefully arranged on it- a candle holder, a book, a Rubik’s cube, a single book end, and a crayon. She got some rugs and made herself a bedside chair out of the old roll up mattress. And the last three nights she has slept in there, on her own, with absolutely no problems, no need for us, and has been happy as Larry.
I don’t know if this is a permanent development. I feel pretty happy with it for now at least, and it’s definitely a step forward. I’m very pleased we have tried to let her do it in her own time, and plan to do the same for her brother. It gives me hope that they really will make these steps in their own good time, and we just need to keep supporting them until they’re ready.