The subject of co-sleeping with your baby has long since been a hotly debated potato in the world of parenting.
Is it wrong to do it? Is it wrong not to? Is it safe? Will it form bad habits? Is it an essential part of bonding and attachment?
So you sift through the reams of conflicting information and studies, in addition to everyone else's opinions, and eventually make a decision you feel is best for your family. And then of course, your baby tosses all your carefully weighed up thinking out of the proverbial window and tells you how it's actually going to be.
We had no intention of co-sleeping, until our son took a full strike on rest and reason and we ended up sharing our bed at some point most nights for several months. It wasn't faultless, it wasn't even restful at times, but it was an improvement on the shocking nights we had been living with and for that, I was grateful.
And I really did enjoy:
The closeness of him curled up next to me.
Spending a longer portion of the night lying down.
Knowing that our presence gave him the security he needed to sleep soundly.
I enjoyed a little less:
Being duvet free and shivering (really should have invested in a onesie).
Having him stand on our heads and lick our ears while he was meant to be asleep and we were pretending to be. NB remaining silent after a heavy blow to the temple isn't as easy as you might think.
Not having the freedom to cough or talk to my husband. But especially the cough, we're talking basic human rights here.
So I have experienced both sides of the co-sleeping fence – not doing and doing – and have also sat on the fence, letting our baby's sleep (or lack of) decide it for us. Through this, I have realised that actually, there is no fence. Where am I going with this? I think I have taken the whole wooden panel analogy too far; there is creosote everywhere and I've misplaced my point.
Basically, there are three people – at least two of whom want to sleep – and there is a bed, a cot and sometimes a sofa. There are best intentions, plans and methods. There is also a vacuum that these things fly in to in the middle of another bad night. There are guidelines; there is advice, there is A LOT of opinion.
And all of the above is enough to make your sleep-deprived brain implode.
But fear not! No longer need you face indecision about whether or not to co-sleep, or worry about the plethora of conflicting advice. I have collated it all below to avoid confusion, and it is now as easy as taking candy from a baby. (Has anyone actually tried this? Seems a bit mean).
If you want to sleep well, don't co-sleep.
If you want to sleep at all, co-sleep
If you must co-sleep, only do so if your baby is ill, teething or waking up a lot; or if you want to.
Always ensure you co-sleep safely. Safely means protecting your eyes, hair and vital organs from kicks, pulls and punches.
Protecting yourself from kicks, pulls and punches isn't possible as to co-sleep is to be vulnerable. So just close your eyes tightly and hope for the best.
Always start the night in your own beds, determined that is how you will remain.
Fight with your partner over who gets to sleep on the sofa when you bring the baby in after all and he steals all the space.
When breast feeding, do not fall asleep in bed with the baby. Unless you are really tired.
Co-sleeping can be a lifeline for exhausted parents and an unsettled baby... not least with a chaser of disapproval and judgment from others.
Co-sleeping can make a rod for your own back, so don't do it. Having no sleep and spending the night sat on the nursery floor or stood rocking in the cold is much easier.
Co-sleeping is natural and your baby's crib is a prison of doom masquerading as a comfortable mattress with a cute mobile (or something).
Co-sleeping is creating dependency when the very LAST thing your tiny, reliant baby should be is dependent.
Co-sleeping will give your baby a secure start in life and build confidence and self-esteem.
Co-sleeping will raise a child who is unable to do anything but lie with his mother. Even at the park. This might possibly be awkward.
Nobody else co-sleeps. Except for all the people that do but don't admit to it.
There is nothing nicer than waking up next to your baby. Who is beating you across the head with his dummy.
There is nothing nicer than not having to share your bed with an octopus-limbed infant and instead being able to sleep with your partner. Or even better, on your own.
There is no one more equipped to give advice on where your baby should sleep than people you barely know.
Co-sleeping is bad for your relationship.
Not getting any sleep is bad for your relationship.
Babies are bad for your relationship.
Being a family changes your relationship, but this is okay. Changes in how and when you sleep are only temporary. For a few months... or years... or 10
Read books on babies and sleep, and search the internet for answers; just ensure that you never ever follow your own instincts regarding your child.
If co-sleeping feels right for you – do it. If it doesn't – don't do it. Unless your baby makes you.
Your baby may assume several different positions when co-sleeping. As a rule of thumb, if these positions don't leave you clinging to the edge of the bed and in major discomfort, you are doing it wrong.
And remember, whether you co-sleep once, twice or every night, be assured: nothing lasts forever. Except if your child is from an urban legend in which case it may run into adulthood and you should buy a bigger bed as soon as possible.
For actual, useful guidance on co-sleeping, you will no doubt find this article a lot more helpful than mine! And wherever you and your baby lay your heads tonight, I hope that it is restfully. All we have is our hope right? And our caffeine!
This article is republished with kind permission from the blog Big Trouble in Little Nappies