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Category Archives: Cosleeping

Eight approaches for happier sleep

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Yesterday morning Ramona woke up at 4:30, full of beans. She planted some kisses on our faces, did a morning fart, followed by a belly full of giggles, and began climbing all over the bed. “Awake! Me! Pojo??” Pojo is her word for porridge, she was ready for breakfast and up for the day.

Grumpy is not the word. I was mad all day. Mentally flipping the bird at every stupid email I received, I stomped around the office, grizzled under my breath my whole cycle home. I was reminded what it is like to be deeply unhappy with a child’s sleep patterns.

I spent many of Ramona’s first months feeling this way. She’d take forever to go to sleep at the sensible time of 7 pm and then wake at the crack of dawn. I disliked spending an hour doing a night time routine and getting her to sleep, bobbing up and down the stairs to her throughout the evening, and then peering out of the bed covers at the clock and seeing 6 am shining back at me just a few hours after I rolled under them.

It was only when Ramona was a year old that I realised I wanted to take a more relaxed, less structured approach to her sleep, and since then we have all been much happier. Of course, we still have the odd terrible night, an evening with a wired tot who won’t sleep, or a crack of dawn morning. But on the whole my mind is free of sleep anguish, and that deserves a celebratory doughnut.

I’d say adopting eight different approaches helped me feel much happier about our sleep situation.

  • I got the “sensible bedtime” idea out of my head. The most sensible bedtime for a child is when they are tired. Sometimes, due to a late start or long nap this is ten pm. Mostly for us it is somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30. It took me a while to get this, even 8:30 pm seemed outrageous to me, so I’d try and try and try to get Ramona in bed at The World Will Approve O Clock. Once I let go of this, our evenings got a whole load more relaxed.
  • I decided that beds were overrated. For a year, Ramona took her naps on me in the sling or on the sofa, but always began her night time sleep in bed. Once I realised she was often much happier falling to sleep at night time on the sofa I began to see the benefits. We’ll cuddle up amongst the cushions, then after she has drifted off, while my husband and I read or chat, we can put a film on, or continue the get-together with our friends. Because she is right with us she’ll rarely stir much and then I just take her to bed when we go.
  • We abandoned the routine. Sometimes the bath, songs, story schedule worked. Mostly though, Ramona hated the idea of going upstairs and leaving behind her crate of toys, the lovely people in the lounge and a kitchen of food. She’d be upset about being carted off somewhere else, or we’d end up doing story after story until she was ready to snuggle down. Not making such a palava of bedtime made the transition to sleep so much more natural
  • I watch her cues and set the scene. Sometimes Ramona will ask for “bed”, sometimes she’ll just ask for “mummy milk” (as opposed to “Daddy milk” which is what she she calls dairy! Mahaha…) or sometimes she may yawn, get a bit angsty. At this stage I will put the lamp on, quieten down the house and settle on the sofa with her. This transition is much easier for her mind to cope with!

  • I accepted that kids all have different sleep needs, and they are fairly good at meeting that need if we allow them. Ramona can rarely sleep more than 11 hours at night. If she goes to bed at 7 then that is a 6 am wake up call. ER, NO THANKS! Getting up at 8am makes us all happier but that does mean I have to accept that traditional bedtimes don’t suit us! She still naps for an hour, an hour and a half. But if she has a few short naps then she might go for a number 14 hour night sleep!! I just trust her in all of this and shrug off the concept of a 12 hour night.
  • I accepted our new normal. Once I got used to the idea that Ramona would continue to stir at night, and would continue to need me, my mind calmed down and my new state of contentment really helped! Instead of waking up and thinking “She woke 4 times and she is nearly two!!!” And being appalled at my poor parenting, I now simply recognise that she just has superior survival skills….because obviously, we are built to stir all night so we can respond to danger and stoke the cave fire! Also, perversely, the few times she has slept all night I’ve had a rubbish sleep due to a lack of lovely nursing hormones. Wrong, that is, I tell you!
  • I rejected the “creating good sleep habits” rhetoric. Mainstream parenting advice claims routines, sleeping through, self-soothing and sleeping in a separate space sets our children up for a lifetime of excellent sleep. Erm. There is an MAJOR flaw in this in that we have been repeating this record for decades and we are some of the worst sleepers in the world!!! Nearly 40% of us suffer from insomnia. Mainstream advice is clearly doing something wrong.
  • I embraced a “live intuitively” philosophy. I try as much as possible to let Ramona be self-directed, to eat when hungry, cuddle when she needs it, jump on the bed if she fancies it, and sleep when she is tired. I hope all of this stuff will allow her own gut to be the loudest voice when it comes to making important decisions, that she will be less reliant on the sways of peers and external evaluation. Learning to respond to her body and its need will surely give her a confidence and a wholeness that will give her a much needed resilience. Knowing that I may be suffering a little less undisturbed sleep than others for the big picture, the future well being of my daughter, makes it a tiny, insignificant suffering!

These ways aren’t for everyone, I know.  If you are content with the fixed way you do thing, please, don’t change a dot!!! But maybe some of you are like us, and do want to take a more abandoned approach to sleep and parenting, and I hope our story will encourage you to do that. For me, stumbling across other families that did this gave me the freedom I needed to parent this way boldly, and not secretly! I liked these two pages, especially…

This collection of quotes from homeschool families who just roll with it, sleepwise. 

Letting kids find their own sleep patterns

Finding a bit of freedom around this whole sleep situation has been a part of my attachment parenting journey. For me attachment parenting is all about choosing connection, over control.  I am down with boundaries- i.e, I wouldn’t give Ramona sweets before bedish time, or have a massively exciting game of tickles just as she began to yawn, but integral to my parenting is a relinquishment of my need for high control. Allowing Ramona a certain amount of autonomy is important to me, and these approaches to sleep extend that philosophy to her bedtime.

So… *asks timidly, trying to be brave* … what do you reckon?!

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Cosleeping Practicalities

Co Co Co Cooooosleeping (To the tune of Sh Sh Sh Shoooooe people. Literally though, how amazing was that programme?) (ARRGH IT’S ON YOUTUBE! BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!)

I have posted recently about our experience of cosleeping; some of the pros and cons , wondering about the fear that drives some people away from it. Whenever we mention cosleeping we are often met with a barrage of questions about the practicalities around it. So I wanted to cover some of those a bit.

Where?
We have a maHUsive bed, like a triple x, super who-ate-all-the pies-king, which we rescued one time. It has saved the night. We can all fit in there with loads of space. However the three of us inevitably end up all squished up at one end. Ramona and I just like snuggling up with Tim. Tim isn’t such a fan.

Ramona tends to sleep in the middle apart from when she nurses all night and then I need to switcheroo. So she is closer to the edge, but she’s only ever fallen out a few times. (Haha, kidding.) (Kind of.)

Naps
Until Ramona was about 9 months old she used to take all her sleep on me, either in a sling or snuggled up in bed. This meant that I spent a lot of time in bed. (Incidentally it is why I restarted my blog as I wanted to contribute online rather than just speculate – and I was doing a lot of horizontal speculating.) It was totes delicious, napping with her, going to bed at 8pm.  At 9 months though we got an amazing baby monitor and now I let her sleep in the bed by herself (after nursing to sleep)  and just dash in if she wakes up.

I had read somewhere during pregnancy that the first year of a baby’s life should be seen as “out of the womb gestation” –  it really resonated with me. In hindsight it is very much a long the lines of the lovely Continuum Parenting concept. Also,  I want her to have completely positive sleep associations and hope that having someone close by during sleep can nurture this security.

Nappy Free
At the moment we put a washable nappy on Ramona at night time. She is dry all night (since she was about 6 months old – I don’t know if this is that common or just for nappyfree babes?) but every so often will do an early morning wee, say at 6am, and even though I can sense her needing to go (squirming etc)  I don’t want to potty her then as she’ll be up for the day.  She is getting less happy with the night time nappy though – she pulled it completely off tonight- so I have ordered a washable bed pad so that we can give the night time nappy the heave ho and  if that cheeky wee comes in the morning it is no biggy.

Business Socks
You just have to be creative with rooms, furniture etc.

(Sorry, I know that isn’t a very exhaustive answer but my granddad does know how to use Tinternet and I can not guarantee that he doesn’t read this.)

Bedding
We don’t have anything extra for Ramona she has always just slept on our mattress with our duvet on top, although when she was a tiny pip squeak she slept either prone or in the crook of my arm. She doesn’t sleep on a pillow as she nurses all night (did I mention that?)  so just faces my weary but succulent mammary glands.

Nursing
I wear a scoop neck tee shirt with one of Tim’s tee shirts over the top. Tim’s tee is usually bunched up but my own tee stops my torso getting chills. I wear a scoop neck so Ramona has easy access but one of Tim’s tees from that day with the idea that she can’t smell my milk so easily and be less nursey. It doesn’t really work but I guess I am superstitious about it now. (Do you get a bit like that?)

Cosleeping does encourage more nursing I think, which on one hand is good – with me being at work half the week her nursing at night keeps my supply up and means she is getting everything she needs for this growth spurt. (That is what I am telling myself the 6-10 night suckles are.) But on the other hand is bloody knackering isn’t it! I can handle anything between 1-5 without really noticing. But more than that and I get a little cranky. *climbs the walls*

Time for my Parenting Moto of the Year (sung Harry Hills styles) :

This Too Shall Pass!

Waking each other up
This does happen. Overall it has been found that cosleeping mothers get more sleep – primarily because we don’t have to get out of bed – but three in a bed isn’t the deepest sleep to be had. If one of us has a rough night than we all seem to. Sometimes it seems Ramona wakes at the slightest peep (me turning a page of my book – headlamp on!) or sleeps through the biggest ruckus – lights blazing, full on conversation between Tim and I.

We don’t fall into bed and stay fast asleep for ten hours like we used to. But, do you know what? It just isn’t a big deal. Letting go of my sleep obsession and embracing night time parenting helps me just feel totally at peace with this whole situation. (Just wish my nipples would agree, eek.)

Cosleeping: The good and the bad

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In the middle of the night a few days ago Ramona shuffled over to Tim, climbed up so her bum was right in his face and did a whopping toot. Then she clambered back down to her spot and returned to sleep. Oh, how Tim and I didst laugh- the timing was impeccable. Farts- when it comes to making a list of pros and cons of cosleeping- where do they come? No one likes little clouds of excrement in their nostrils but the comical effect of childly bottom coughs are right up there. It is a dilemma, for sure. I’ll have to leave it hanging in the midst there. But here is the rest of my list.

PROS

Her morning kisses are definitely number one. Ramona wakes up, stretches and immediately finds my face for a kiss, as if she is so stoked to begin a new day with me as her mummy.

I am with her through her dreams and nightmares. I love hearing her giggle in her sleep and I equally love that when she whimpers with fright or discomfort she somehow knows I am just a breath away.

It provided another way for Tim to be with her through my maternity leave when he wasn’t getting to hang out with her nearly as much as me. There is a BEAUTY article here where a cosleeping daddy shares his thoughts.

It has eased my transition back to part time work as I get to make up for any missed cuddles throughout the night. Just breathing in her hair as I go to sleep helps me to treasure her right now, in this very moment.

We didn’t have to spend any money on a baby room and crib. Our spare room is just a dumping ground spare room complete with double bed.

I like to think it has given Ramona a real security around night times, that she will always associate bed time with comfort and met needs rather than being alone.

I am able to keep in touch with her potty needs, aware of her nightly wee rhythm and giving her chance to pee as soon as she needs it.

CONS

Unlimited, non stop access to her milk source! Mostly this is fine, she only  helps her self one or two times a night and it isn’t enough to really wake either of us, but sometimes, like last night, it is NONSTOP and well, drives me a little, er, insane.

If Ramona wees the bed it is a whole load in the washing machine rather than a tiny little crib change.

Cosleeping Positions from Howtobeadad.com

PSEUDO-CONS

I definitely thought Ramona’s movement would bother us a bit more. We are pretty fortunate that she actually doesn’t shuffle around at all. When our little nephew used to come and stay he would Jazz Hand us ALL NIGHT and we vowed to never have our kiddies in bed!

A few people have mentioned the lack of marital space which I agree I thought initially would be an issue for us. However (Intimacy aside- I may cover that in the next Practicalities post) I don’t really have those distinctions in my mind – “Tim and I”/ “Ramona” – I just kind of see us as one little family, sharing everything and doing life all together.

I also thought I would struggle with Ramona’s lack of “sleep independance” but since her arrival I have had a total turn around on this and instead feel like it is just natural for her to need the comfort of us for a while.

I really love hearing stories of people’s cosleeping experiences –this nice article by Dr Sears has lots of parents talking about the “protective effect” of cosleeping.

What are some of the things you love about cosleeping? And some of the things you find hard?

 

Cosleeping and the Heeby Jeebies

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When I was pregnant Samantha Cameron gave birth to her little girl Florence and as she was early they hadn’t sorted a crib yet so she slept in a cardboard box.

I remember thinking, as we were of course meant to by the Number 10 PR people, “What a down to earth thing to do”.

Since then I have had my own baby and took a cosleeping path and now I am less “Awww, down to earth” and more  “A CARDBOARD BOX!!! You would rather put your precious new little treasure in a bulk purchase crisp container than in your own bed???” What a typical cold hearted Tory.

(Just kidding. I know not every single Tory is cold hearted.  What? Yes, I do! I do know a Tory actually! I think one of my friend’s may be one. But he keeps it hush hush.)

But for real, I don’t think the Cameron’s put their baby in a box because of their politics, but because of the reason so many other people won’t share a bed with their Little Ones – fear. Parents are generally frightened of co-sleeping.

I can’t think why.

Ah, yep. There is a fair bit of fear mongering about bedsharing. This ad was put out a few weeks ago in Canada. But all sorts of research claims to show that co-sleeping can endanger your babes. One major piece studied Maori families in New Zealand and suggested SIDS was much more likely within Maori families due to cosleeping. (Perhaps this explains why on our recent trip to NZ so many mothers could not get their head around us bedsharing.) But as more comprehensive research shows SAFE cosleeping (no smoking, drinking, drugs)  is as safe – or even a little safer- than having baby in a separate bed. The Maori example was a prime example of getting the cause mixed up (much higher percentage of alcohol abuse and tobacco use.)  But it has put the heeby jeebies into many mothers.  Check out this overview here for a research summary.

In fact, I probably would have been like many mothers – cosleeping by stealth for varying parts of the night- if it wasn’t for my friend recommending the brilliant book “Three in a bed” . Ramona slept brilliantly close by me and I loved being able to stay in bed and nurse but I would have probably kept it a secret if it wasn’t for this book. I felt encouraged by it’s depiction of cosleeping as a completely safe, ancient aspect of parenting with all kinds of extra benefits- nurturing milk supply and supporting better sleep for mothers, being just a couple.

Having started work recently for a few days a week I am finding cosleeping gives me chance to catch up on all the cuddles I have missed out on in the day – it has really eased the transition for us. I am so, SO,  glad that a few key people in the early days of Ramona’s life encouraged me to read into, and get over, the Heeby Jeebies around bed sharing. It is one of my favourite mothering practices.

I have a bit more to say, as people often ask about the practicalities and the pros and cons, so rather than this become a whopper of a post I am going to end it here and do 2 more cosleeping posts later in the week.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your own thoughts/ fears around bedsharing…

Ramona, it’s your first birthday, we’re gonna party like it’s your first birthday…

Eat pizza like it’s your first birthday…

Ramona Lily! You are ONE! It is astonishing to believe that one year ago I was groaning around in the birth pool that had been erected and filled three days earlier thinking your arrival was imminent. In some ways your Birth Day feels like yesterday- the emotions are still so tangible; the intense hunger to meet you, the frustration that your journey down was taking so bloody long, the slight apprehension of how our happy, carefree days were about to abruptly end. Yet in other ways it feels like an absolute AGE ago! You seem so grown up – how you bite the top layer of bread from your toast, the bit covered in marmite- that is just WISDOM, right there.

I remember our first week together. I was a bit shocked at the lack of overwhelming love. I had always assumed I would just be head over heels for you. Where as actually, my primary feeling was one of  “Who are you?! A whole little person I have yet to know?” I was surprised that My Bump turned into a real, tiny, individual human instead of just an extension of myself with it’s own limbs.  It didn’t last long though, before two weeks were up I sometimes couldn’t get the breath out of my lungs because I loved you so much.

I always thought the lack of sleep would be the worst thing about having a baby, as I was used to 11- 12 hours of sleep every night. Surprisingly, perhaps because of daddy’s Flat White making skills, that has been less of a big deal. I have been pleasantly surprised by how significantly the wonders outweigh the hardships. Although my nipples probably don’t agree. Sometimes I think you are gonna suck them right off.

I am so glad people encouraged me to follow my instincts with you. This led me to wear you close all day, sleep snuggled up, feed you whenever you peeped. I feel this has been just the ticket for us- you seem so content and secure. I remember a few months ago, just 2 days after you learnt to crawl, you crawled out of the room  without me, and into the garden to investigate the big kid  ruckus. I was quite relieved in that moment, as the myth that attachment parenting leads to desperately clingy babies was dissolved before my eyes. Now you are walking, and climbing, and gaining independance everyday. And soon you’ll be shouting that your skirt isn’t too short and 10pm is way too early.

I have absolutely LOVED this year with you Ramona! It has been SO fun. You make me laugh uncontrollably with your funny little dancing, weird facials and gappy teeth.

I hope I have the courage to keep mothering by instinct, to work things through with you gently, and to always treat you how I would hope to be treated, despite times when you and I might be a bit cross or grumpy.

With every ounce of love under the sun,

Mummy

This time last year, Ramona is a few hours old – clearly I have climbed that gargantuan mountain of labour and am ruddy knackered. One thing you learn the first time you give birth is that even if labour is three days long this is not an excuse to not wash your hair, or at least dry shampoo it, for goodness sake. There WILL be cameras you know.