This month I’ve been contemplating how much longer I want to continue cosleeping with Squidlet, who is now two.
Cosleeping is something we’ve been doing since she was a newborn, in many varying forms. When she was tiny she slept in a cosleeper sidecar cot, or more often, on my chest. We (me and my husband Rob) were a bit nervous about the much talked about risks of cosleeping. We read a lot around the subject and decided that planned cosleeping was a decidedly safer option than being so tired we accidentally fell asleep on the sofa together.
As she got bigger, we tried to get her to sleep in a full size, free standing cot. It didn’t work. AT ALL. I felt like a massive failure for not being able to get Squidlet to sleep in a cot. I thought it was just a given part of parenting. But because of my history of back pain, leaning slowly over to put her sleeping into a cot was very stressful for me. In fact she was such an light sleeper that I only once successfully managed to feed her to sleep and then put her down in the cot still asleep. Every other time I did it she would wake, then take nearly an hour to go back to sleep, and then I’d have to try again. By the second or third try I was usually so frazzled I had to give up. We gave up trying to get her to sleep in the cot when we realised it was making us all miserable, and attached the cot to the bed like a cosleeper.
I found I was torn between people who thought we were mad for cosleeping when we could just do some sleep training and get some much needed sleep and people who thought that cosleeping was awesome and relatively unproblematic. We really really didn’t want to do sleep training, and I do not think it would have worked with Etta, who just screamed if I tried leaving her to settle alone. However I don’t think we really loved many things about cosleeping. For us it was absolutely born out of necessity. I am really glad that we knew about it, as it doubtless saved my sanity. Had I thought that cot sleeping was the only way forward, I do not know how I would have coped! But it was not a panacea. The lack of personal space and feeling of being ‘touched out’ as soon as I got up in the morning was really hard to deal with. I wept with guilt at not being able to enjoy being awake with my beloved child whilst reading twee Facebook poems about how my baby would soon be grown up and I would regret not loving every minute of her kicking me in the face for an hour in the middle of the night. Actually the twee poem did not mention being kicked in the face. Apparently I would be gazing down at my child snuggled calmly in my arms.
Then, around her first birthday we gradually realised that we really wanted our bedroom back. Because I still fed her to sleep at that stage, we decided that the only workable option was putting her in her own room on a floor bed (or rather less glamorous sounding ‘mattress on the floor’!). This would mean I could be comfortable lying next to her to feed her to sleep, but it did have the draw back that she could get out of bed very easily. I was not sure how this would pan out, especially at bedtimes! Luckily, it worked out well and after a short settling in period she was sleeping in there happily.
I was still going in to her many times in the night, or more frequently just spending the whole night from her first wake up in there with her. We finally fully weaned her around her second birthday, which was a huge revelation for me in terms of much needed personal space! Surprisingly it didn’t change much in terms of how often I was going into her room to resettle her. She seems to have been teething with eye teeth or molars pretty much since Christmas and I wonder if this has been a factor in my struggle to get her to settle. Many nights, as soon as I moved my body away from her, she would immediately wake. This was starting to be a problem for me – I realised I have probably not had more than four hours straight sleep since she was born, and at this point in was lucky if I got 2 hours in a row. I’d also developed a nearly permanent eye twitch in both eyes from the lack of sleep!
Then she got chicken pox, and I felt it was not the right time to start making changes to sleep. We had two or three very difficult weeks, where she was really not well, and we were both very tired and grumpy. But now she is finally over the pox and in the last few weeks we have been making some changes AND even more excitingly seeing some results! We started talking to her about trying to go back to sleep by herself. If she wakes in the night, I try saying ‘back to sleep, you’re okay!’, rather than going straight in to her. She has never had a great appetite, especially at dinner time, but we are trying to offer her something we know she will eat plenty of at dinner time. And we are trying to make sure she is active and gets worn out during the day. Well, I hardly dare say this for fear that it will never happen again, but she has been sleeping through the night, not every single night, but roughly 2 or 3 times a week! My crazy eye twitching has finally disappeared!
Getting a decent amount of sleep and reducing Squidlet’s nightly wake ups to a much more manageable level has actually really changed my feelings about the cosleeping. I now love our snuggly mornings because they are a treat rather than the norm. I feel happier now that I am able to appreciate this time in the way that I always thought I was ‘supposed’ to. But now I recognise that if you haven’t had more than two hours sleep in a row for several months, its pretty unrealistic to expect to enjoy being kicked awake at 4am for an in depth chat about belly buttons, no matter how many Facebook memes exhort you to enjoy such treasured times.
*Postscript: In the interim period between finishing writing this post and actually getting round to posting it, Squidlet has started teething her molars and sleep is dire again! Never post online that your child is sleeping well as it will come back and bite you on the ass.