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Four In A Bed

28 Dec

Oh dear, two parenting posts in a row – this will never do. But I felt moved to write something about co-sleeping because of this campaign, which has had huge coverage in attachment parenting circles. In short, the campaign likens sleeping beside your baby to placing them next to a large knife. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me it’s all just a big, stupid joke.

Here’s our bed-sharing background: when I was pregnant with my first child, I was certain I would breastfeed, so I bought bedside cot because I didn’t want to have to cross the room in the dark. When my son was born, he cried when he wasn’t in contact with me, so I slept holding him. Then I slept with him right beside me in our bed. He’s nearly three now, and has his own room and bed available in it, but he also has a single bed next to our kingsized. Sometimes he sleeps in the single bed, and sometimes he sleeps in our bed. He’s yet to sleep in his own bedroom, but he will. It makes me laugh when people say, “you’ll never get rid of him.” …Because of course there are so many cases of fifteen-year-olds demanding to climb in between mum and dad. Now we have another newborn, and he sleeps beside me too – sometimes in the bedside cot, but mostly in my bit of the bed. He didn’t need to be held, so I didn’t hold him.

When I first became a parent I really beat myself up about bed-sharing. I didn’t think I knew anyone else who did it, and the midwives had told me I’d spoil my child by giving him what he wanted (midwives who clearly don’t understand attachment theory and its very sound scientific basis.) Then I read Three In A Bed by Deborah Jackson, which outlined the many reasons why bed-sharing is a natural and healthy thing (and the norm in most parts of the world, and even in the West until recently.) I learned that some of my friends co-slept. I began to see it as something enjoyable, and as something that could actually benefit my child. There are psychological and biological reasons why bed-sharing is A Very Good Thing.

So this time around, I have no qualms about what I’m doing. My newborn doesn’t sleep under the duvet- he has a baby sleeping bag, or his own blankets. He sleeps on his back, or on my arm. He never sleeps next to my toddler, or up against a pillow. And the chances of me rolling onto him – one of the supposed risks – are zero. As has been proven by various studies, mothers (and sometimes fathers) who bed-share are very aware of their baby’s movements, enjoy a much lighter sleep, and breastfeeding mothers often wake a moment or two before their babies, achieving a kind of beautiful synergy.

Now I simply can’t imagine not bed-sharing. I’d love to be able to sit up in bed watching TV, to be able to stretch out, to not wake up with a two-year-old’s foot in my face. But I think what we do is best for all of us at the moment. Our nights are less disrupted. We enjoy waking up to our children’s smiles (um… usually they smile.) I feel safer knowing that I’ll hear immediately if my child is choking (as happened once) or is upset (obviously my children are never upset. Never!) But although this is something I feel passionate about, I know it’s not right for everyone, and that’s fine. So when authorities trot out ill-informed campaigns that aim to inspire fear rather than informed choice, I get mad. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is such an emotive topic, and one there are no definitive answers to. So to lay such heavy blame at the door of co-sleeping is inexplicable to me, especially when most deaths involving bed-sharing also involve alcohol or drugs – something the Milwaukee campaign neglected to mention. I’m sure they’re well-intentioned, but the adverts are at best misguided, and at worst deeply offensive, and it saddens me that they might put parents off something that could benefit them and their children.

Lots more info on co-sleeping, (and why it actually reduces SIDS) here:

Dr Sears Addresses Recent Co-sleeping Concerns

Co-sleeping & SIDS FactSheet

Peaceful Parenting

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I’m a parent again!

23 Nov

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Here he is – another baby boy, born earlier this month. Blame him for me not completing NaNoWriMo this year. And for my lack of inane Twitter rants.

My labour was quite different this time around: three days of mild contractions on-and-off before labour started in earnest at 3pm on the fourth day. I went to the shops, made dinner and watched TV, determined not to pay attention to the contractions (I mean “uterine surges”… I’ve been dabbling with hypnobirthing) until I was sure I really was close to delivery. Then at about 7pm my surges leapt to two minutes apart, and were very strong. About forty minutes after we got to the birth centre, I delivered. The midwife didn’t examine me once- she said from the look of me I was very close. At 10.40pm, my new son was born, in a birth pool, with my husband, mother and older son with me. It was magical.

I had worried about whether or not to have my almost-three-year old present at the birth. I didn’t want him to be scared, or to be a distraction to me. But because we practise attachment parenting, and have never had a night away from our boy (with whom we co-sleep) I wanted him to be nearby. And part of me also thought it might be a good experience for him. I prepared him by showing him pictures of his birth, buying him a book called Hello Baby by Jenni Overend (beautiful book), and explaining what might happen and how I’d behave. We asked him if he wanted to see his brother come out, and my mum was primed to take him out of the delivery room if he seemed distressed. And in the end, he was there throughout. He told me to push. He talked to me between contractions and was there to greet his little brother the moment I lifted him from the water. I’m so glad I didn’t exclude him from such an important event in his life.

It’s… different having two kids. Everyone said it would be a big change, and it is. True, I don’t have any of the first-time-parent culture shocks to contend with: I know how to change a nappy; I know I’ll be constantly exhausted, and covered in baby puke, and reliant on the people around me for support. I had also prepared myself for the fact that my older son might take time to adjust, and would need lots of attention. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much I’d miss my older son. I can’t cuddle him as much as I’d like to, or read to him or play with him or make his snacks. For the first few days, I felt a little heartbroken because of this. Thankfully my older boy took it all in his stride, which I was pleased about, but also a little sad about.

Anyway, we’re finding our feet. Learning to manage our time all over again. Adjusting every aspect of our life all over again, and reassessing our expectations. But it is wonderful, and I feel so lucky to have another little person to share my life with.