(Whilst my blog is still majorly small and at the beginning stages of it’s life, I thought I’d take the risk of posting something… controversial. This is Part One of a two-part blog on how and why we decided to “sleep train” our son – if that’s what you want to call it. Please read, please comment, but please be aware that I know this subject causes a lot of judgement. Comments of a bad nature will not be approved. Thanks for reading!)
When my sister and I were little we were always welcome in our parents’ bed. Nightmares, “can’t sleeps”, bedtime cuddles, even Saturday morning breakfast – our parents’ bed was the venue for all of those things. I don’t know for sure if my Mum would say she followed the rules of Attachment Parenting or even if the term ‘Attachment Parenting’ existed back then, but if she looked it up now I’m pretty sure she’d say that’s what she did. My sister and I were happy. Our childhood is something we look back on fondly and we’re proud to say we have great relationships with our parents now. We wouldn’t change a thing.
So it came as no surprise that when I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy, it was my Mum that I went to for advice on pretty much everything. When my son (who I’ll refer to as N#1) decided he didn’t want to sleep on his back any more my Mum came, placed him on his side (as she had done with me when I was a baby) and looked after him while he slept peacefully, allowing me to get a couple of hours rest too.
I decided to breastfeed for as long as possible, and eventually at four and a half months started to introduce formula due to other health issues that I had. I was proud of my four and a half months and I think (hope) my Mum was too. She never questioned the move to formula; in fact she was on hand to help when N#1 refused the bottle, bringing me latex teats which were apparently the only ones that I would accept as a baby. He eventually got to the point where he took any bottle, latex or otherwise, like a champ.
It was no revelation for my Mum when I admitted that for his early morning feeds I brought N#1 into bed with me and my husband. After all, she’d done the same with us. It was a relief to know that there was some support out there for co-sleeping – the now official term for letting your children sleep in your own bed. Posters and adverts were constantly telling new parents about the risks of co-sleeping and the dangers it might bring about for your child. I worried that people would judge. Instead, I found that most were doing the same thing or had done in the past, it’s just that no one told anyone. We found something that worked for us as a family.
Then one day, it didn’t work anymore. We spent a few weeks noticing N#1’s gradually worsening sleep patterns. He refused to fall asleep unless he was being held, rocked, patted, or a combination of all three. Once asleep we would try to lay him in his cot and he would immediately wake and fuss. So we picked him up again and resumed the rocking and patting until we thought we could attempt the cot-manoeuvre again. This routine could take hours.
And it wasn’t just the beginning of the night either. My husband and I would find ourselves taking shifts in the middle of the night to rock and pat N#1 back to sleep after a feed while the other attempted to get some rest. It was hard and people that we spoke to about it were adamant – that’s just how babies are sometimes. But we were surviving on just a few hours of sleep a night and that set off other problems.
My lack of sleep was causing me to have seizures, a condition which I has suffered with through pregnancy but seemed to disappear after giving birth. So the return of my seizures meant that I didn’t feel comfortable co-sleeping anymore, an arrangement which had often been our 4am fall-back plan. One night, while rocking N#1 at something past three in the morning I had felt a seizure about to come on and had just made it to get him out of my arms and back into his cot before it started. I felt like an unsafe mother. Something had to change.
Thank you for reading Part One! Part Two will be up next Monday as is my schedule (Mum Mondays, Writing Wednesdays, Friday Five). Your comments and constructive criticism (on the blog itself) are welcomed. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @mumwriting.