I wake with a start. “Where’s the baby?” I cry out loud.
I look to left where he should be laying next to me. Here’s not there. Oh my God!
I look to my right, he’s not there either.
I frantically search the rest of the bed under and on top of the doona. The blankets are flying everywhere.
Oh my god, where is he. Hubby must have rolled on him.
push shove my husband over in his sleep. “Where’s bubby” I say frantically.
Then I wake… for real this time.
I had been dreaming. But I knew that everything I dreamt, I had done. Everything I dreamt I said, I had said.
It was an all too familiar dream.
My anxiety around co-sleeping has been ingrained into me.
My background is working with parents struggling with substance abuse addictions. Co-sleeping is heavily frowned upon and discouraged in my line of work. For these babies the risk of SIDS due to co-sleeping was very high as the parents smoked and/or were drowsy from being highly medicated. There is ample research to back this up. So of course, these children would be at greater risk than children whose parents didn’t fall into this category.
But I ignorantly felt this applied to all children. It wasn’t until I became a mother did I realise my own ignorance.
I would see friends of mine post photographs on Facebook with their partners co-sleeping. At the time, I thought “Oh my god, you’re putting your baby at risk. Why would you do that?” I just didn’t understand.
Ignorant little me….
After I had my baby, while I was still in hospital, the midwives encouraged me to have lay down feeds with my babe throughout the night. They said this way I was able to get some sleep too.
I loved these lay down feeds as I felt so close to my baby, which is exactly what I wanted being a new mother.
I did this for several nights, but after I put bubby back into his bassinet I would wake up in panic mode I had rolled on him. It was worse when hubby put bub back in his cot rather than me as I would wake up not being able to remember putting him back, which of course I didn’t, hubby did.
When we came home the nightmares continued.
I can remember one dream where I sat straight up in bed and saw the pile of clothes breathing on the bed. I thought bubby was underneath them struggling to breath.
Another time, I was sleeping during the day while hubby had bub in the other room, when I jumped out of bed, tore all the sheets off the bed then tore all of the sheets out of the bassinet trying to find bubby. I rushed into the lounge room and found them playing happily together. Hubby took one look at my frazzledness and said, ‘Go back to bed’. He knew what had happened. I can just imagine my frizzy hair all a mess, stumbling through the door way, wearing a lopsided sloppy joe and track pants. What a look!
I thought this anxiety was a normal part of being a new mother. But then I realised, it was because of those lay down night feeds, the feeds I loved, that contributed to my worry.
The turning point for me started even before I gave birth, I just didn’t know it at the time.
During the last weeks of pregnancy we went to a SIDS Information Night held in Canberra. We wanted advice about how to swaddle a baby safely, how to set up a cot to reduce the risks etc. We learnt a lot. But what really struck me was that they had information about ‘safe’ co-sleeping. I thought at the time this was a major step forward for SIDS. After all I had heard so many people say that they co-sleep with their babies but of course they didn’t do it safely as no one had shown them how. So it seemed only natural that there should be information out there on how to do is safely – as people are going to do it anyway right?
“Sharing a sleep surface with a baby is a complex issue that encompasses many factors, and there is currently insufficient evidence to issue a blanket statement either for or against this practice” (SIDS and Kids. National Scientific Advisory Group (NSAG), 2007)
Throughout the first few weeks of having bubby home I was able to pinpoint where my nightmares were coming from. The times I didn’t do a lay down feed I had peaceful sleeps; the times I did, I would wake up panicking.
So I stopped doing them.
This is so disappoint for me because I loved being close to bub during those feeds, and I know that lay down feeds like this would do wonders for bubs attachment with me. But, I had other ways to promote attachment, and got some of my sanity back with dreamless sleeps.
During this time I joined a lot of parenting pages on Facebook where many women talked about how co-sleeping with their babies has really helped them and their relationship. How their children grow up to have wonderful ‘secure’ attachments to them, and how these children are very well adjusted little people.
There is a lot of negativiity around co-sleeping, and certainly I still believe it needs to be done safely. But when it is done safely, and the mother is comfortable doing it too, and the baby seems to be responding well to it, then why not do it?
So my journey of co-sleeping has been an interesting one. I have gone from being completely against co-sleeping and being ignorant of the benefits, to accepting safe co-sleeping as a beautiful way to foster a relationship between child and parent.
It’s a shame I still can’t co-sleep with my little man though. I would love to feel that closeness at night, to have those warm cuddles. Despite knowing all the benefits of co-sleeping and the safe way to go about it, I still don’t think I can ever co-sleep during the night, but I am very pleased that I am at least able to doze with him during the day, if only for a short time.
And most importantly, bub seems to respond well to me being so close to him.
*I deliberately haven’t written about what ‘safe’ co-sleeping looks like. Rather, I encourage readers to contact their local SIDS service and discuss safe sleeping options.
Do you co-sleep with your baby? What do you enjoy most about it?
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