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Parenting myths I believed: Part 2 – co-sleeping

19th April 2013

What I believed: co-sleeping is not only dangerous, it will lead to clingy kids

I had no intention of co-sleeping. I heard about other people doing it, and thought “well, that’s up to them” while imagining a 5 year old jumping into my bed. Urgh, nooo thank you! …and then I had D. D, who from the very first night only settled when he could feel me. Who would only settle if I fed him, and cuddled him and stayed with him. These are not unreasonable demands of a newborn baby, but I tried for some time to get him to sleep in his cot – I was up all night picking him up and soothing him, and finally ‘gave in’ and let him sleep next to me. We converted the cot into a side-sleeper (bed extension) but it didn’t really help; D wanted physical contact with me to be able to sleep properly. Bit of a problem when it was summer and boiling hot in the house, but it was still the only way he would settle.

D is now far too big for the side-sleeper cot (a full-size one won’t fit in our bedroom) and rolls around in all directions in bed anyway, but he still isn’t ready to sleep alone. He still wakes several times a night, but just seeing that we are there, next to him, is enough for him to be comforted and for him to simply roll over and go back to sleep. Now, my former self would argue that this is ‘a rod for my own back’ and that I have caused this by being with him all the time. I argue that this is what works for us, and I would rather have to squash into a corner of my bed than have to run into another room and/or spend ages waiting for D to fall asleep again so I can pop him back into his cot. Been there, done that!

A lot of people who are aware of this arrangement are shocked by it. “That is REALLY dangerous,” they say. “You could very easily smother your baby and/or make him too hot/roll over him/have him fall out of bed” along with expressing the same opinions I did about a very clingy child who will never learn to be independent. Don’t think it isn’t something I think about each and every day (the danger part, that is; the independence thing is another story). After hearing about several babies – both older and younger than D – succumbing to SIDS (“cot death”), I try and make sure D is as safe as he possibly can be while as comfortable as he can be. He doesn’t like to sleep alone; I don’t want to force him to.

Some might (and indeed, some have) argue that it’s selfish to keep D in my bed, so that I don’t have to get up, and that I should just accept that it’s part of parenting to have to get up and see to my child several times a night. The thing is… When D is in bed with us, I don’t have to get up and see him several times a night. He still wakes, but he goes back to sleep himself, knowing we’re right there if he needs us. “Ah yes,” say The Others, “but if you had just got him to sleep in his cot in the first place, you wouldn’t have this problem.” That or “just put him in his cot. He’ll get used to it.” To the first part, I say that as the case may be, it wasn’t what felt right for us. D did not like to be in his cot, and I did not like to see him upset being in it. To the second, I say “crying it out” or controlled crying/sleep training is not for us. End of.

Now then… This will of course have to stop soon, and it’ll be interesting to see what we do next. If nothing else than there is no more room in the bed for our current arrangement to continue! We live in a small 2-bedroom semi, where our bed takes up pretty much the entire room. The aforementioned side-sleeper only just fits next to the bed, but as that only reaches halfway down the bed, it’s no longer of much use – D is up and out of it with a single roll and easily finds his way down to the other end of the bed where I worry he might fall off (it’s a low bed, so there’s not far to fall, but I worry anyway – a fall is a fall). We’re finding we’re keeping each other awake in recent times with the lack of space, and as such I think we will need to address this sooner rather than later. The second – even smaller – bedroom in our house is currently being used as an office while I work from home, but eventually D will have to move into it on his own. There is just about room for a full cot in here; there isn’t room for a single bed as well, so my plan of possibly transitioning him into this room with me sleeping in a bed beside the cot won’t work. As mentioned, our actual bedroom will not fit a full-size cot, otherwise I’d be all for doing that first. Of course, I could kick him indoors out of the bed and relegate him to the sofa, but that’s not very nice ;)