Before I gave birth to my son, I decided that I would not be co-sleeping with him. I bought a crib and placed it next to my bed and produced a sleeping schedule that I felt was realistic for when I brought home my newborn.
Little did I know just how challenging newborns can be and the dramatic effects sleep deprivation would have on my mental and physical wellbeing.
Five days after birth, I hadn’t slept for more than one solid hour at a time. I was so exhausted, drenched in milk and sore from my caesarean section that bedtime soon became a sorry routine of tears, headaches and despair. My son wasn’t sleeping well and as a result I wasn’t either.
One miserable afternoon, I was laying on my bed with my baby and as he fell asleep during a feed, I dared to close my eyes just for a minute, only to wake four hours later to the sound of my sons happy gurgles. It was the longest sleep either of us had had all week. He clearly felt safe enough to sleep for longer, and instead of crying, he woke happy and rested. That’s when I changed my mind and decided to co-sleep, and it stayed that way for six whole months.
Like many anxious new parents I wanted to ensure optimal safety while co-sleeping, having scared myself reading horror stories about cot death and smothering on the Internet.
There were three methods I found most effective to ensure he would sleep well and sleep safely.
1. I bought a First Years Airflow Positioner, which retails at around £9.99. It kept my little one in position, not allowing him to roll into pillows or get caught up in blankets. It’s entirely versatile so I could adjust it to fit around both of us.
2. I made a temporary agreement with my husband that we rearrange the bed so that we slept top-and-tail. This allowed for more room at the head of the bed, although many parents agree to sleep completely separately for a while to allow room in the bed for mum and baby. We also had separate blankets, as I didn’t want to risk the duvet covering our baby (natural, lightweight, breathable blankets are best). Our pillows were completely out of the way, and we agreed that we wouldn’t drink alcohol in excess during this time.
3. I used a swaddle cloth to wrap my son up so that he would be warm and need minimal blankets. This also prevented his arms or legs from hitting me (or him) in the face during the night. I used a dummy, which is a personal choice of each parent, having read that they can also promote safe sleeping.
After six months we made the decision as a family that he was old enough to sleep alone in his nursery. Each family must assess the right timing for transition, remembering that each child is different and that co-sleeping can work for as long as we want or need it to. I think my husband was just happy to have his side of the bed back!