Little K has dozed off and it is quiet in the house. Everyone else is still with Grandma after the great househunting expedition. Little K was excited about getting Pizza tonight and even picked up all her toys before climbing up next to her dad, who is also asleep, and drifting off.
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Little K is no stranger to our bed. I have read it all and heard it all. Perhaps it is the European in me or perhaps it is the memory of being tolld to go away by my own parents and the feeling of utter abandonment which that brought about in me which makes me so liberal with our sleeping policy.
Little K is usually expected to start out in her own bed now she is five but often drifts in during the night with a blanket or assorted stuffed animals to fill the space between K and I. Sometimes we wake up with multiple children scattered around the bed, I laughed hard when I first saw Cheaper by the Dozen and they woke up with kids everywhere.
When Lizzy was born we dutifully obtained a bassinette. I put her in it and she screamed and so I took her out. I was full time in grad school and it was just easier to get something that passed for sleep with her laying in the bed next to me. I was always careful about bedding and if K ever had a beer or two he slept in the spare room (alcohol can inhibit you ability not to roll on the baby).
The worst times I had with Lizzy were when I fought her. I read the books and tried to get her to stay in her little bed. I let her scream because I was not supposed to pick her up, that would spoil something I suppose. When I conceded we both did much better and she even took to helping herself to a feed without waking me up sometimes – and that really is a strange thing but then I would wake up, move her to the other side and get to doze back off while she had part two.
For Mr C I again tried the bassinette thing but by the time Abby came along I did not even bother with it. I managed to shake the guilt too. Eviction? As the next baby came the older child would move out into their own bed. That was not always easy but nothing is worse than having a few week old baby crying endlessly and forcing yourself to switch off from it because some book tells you they should sleep in their own bed or you are going to kill them by laying on them or emotionally damage them.
Over half the world’s population sleeps with their babies. It is a peculiarly Western phenomenon which banishes infants to a small room of their own. Sleep research is beginning to show that there is a synchronicity in sleep patterns between mothers and babies and there is a theory that this is some protection against SIDS. The mother may well act as a sort of pacemaker for her own baby.
Knowing that I could hear them breathing was what convinced me more than anything. A couple I knew a little had lost a baby and I could not imagine anything worse. I know that if anything had happened with them right there I would have heard it. Somehow that just seemed natural and normal that a child which had come so recently from my body should stay curled up with me where it could get everything it needed.
I am glad that Lizzy was so stubborn and showed me the way she wanted to go. If I had it to do again I would not think twice about abandoning the baby bed altogether. The anger and frustration I found in trying to do what I thought I was supposed to could have been avoided if I had just followed my gut feeling and, of course, good research.
You give up a lot as a couple when you co-sleep but you gain a lot as a family and I really think that you give your children a good sense of where their security is before they branch out into the world of their own room.
Little K is a bit big now in my mind to be sneaking in here at night quite so often, but she has the ability to cling to the baby things longer because she is the youngest. I don’t want to turn it into a battle and I know that she wont be here in fifth grade so I am working on getting her to start the night in her own bed and then with patience the nights she stays put in it will soon outnumber the ones she moves in with us, complete with royal court of fluffy creatures.