How co-sleeping helped my baby to sleep on his own

co-sleeping

Her firstborn was only brought into the bed for cuddles in the morning, but second time round the editor Annie Ridout caved in and started co-sleeping. She then realised that this might actually help her baby to sleep alone. Here’s how…

When my daughter was born, there were two of us on night duty. She’d wake up hungry every few hours and my husband would lift her from the moses basket into my arms. I’d sit up in bed and feed her, sometimes falling asleep, but always eventually waking and returning her to her own bed. If she needed burping, my husband would do it. We were tag-teaming the nights.

When our second-born – a boy – came along, my husband was on toddler duty. Our daughter began waking again at night – not for long periods but she would call out and he’d have to go in. She was usually looking for some reassurance, or cough medicine (damn winter illnesses). So I was on my own with the baby. And this time, I didn’t manage to wake up after night feeds. This meant we quickly began co-sleeping.

I’m not a huge advocate of co-sleeping. For one, the quality of sleep just isn’t the same as when you have the bed to yourself and no anxieties about rolling on to a newborn baby. But I set up enough pillows to ensure we were doing it safely (at first, I was basically sleeping sitting up). And in time, I became used to having him in bed with me, snuggled up next to me with constant access to his food source: my breasts.

But when he was about six weeks old, I started to feel tired and to long for two things: some time to myself in the evening, and some time to myself in bed. So we started a routine of bath, bed, feed on the sofa around 7pm. My husband would then take him from my arms (fast asleep), and transport him upstairs to bed, rocking him all the way and turning on Ewan the Sheep to drown out other sounds and create a familiar environment.

The first night, he slept an hour alone – and was in bed with me the rest of the night. The second night he slept two hours. The next, he slept three. He’s now 12 weeks old and we’ve had a week of eight-hour stints at the beginning of the night (8pm – 4am). And on the rare occasion when I’ve fed him in bed and stayed awake, I can turn on Ewan and put him back in his cot for another three/four-hour stint.

Having some time in the evening to read, work, watch TV, do some Pilates, or hang out with my husband has been invaluable. And when I’m really tired, I can go to bed just after the baby and have a decent sleep before his first night feed. We then slink down into the bed and I feed him lying on my side so that I can sleep while he feeds. This means I don’t have any long periods of staying awake during the night, which is what I found unbearable first time round.

So how has co-sleeping helped him to sleep alone?

Newborn babies need love, warmth and comfort. The sound of your heart is familiar to them. Your bare skin against theirs is the greatest comfort; hence the NHS advising skin-to-skin immediately after birth. I feel that keeping my baby close – day and night – makes him feel secure; he has then trusted me to instil a routine for him. This isn’t about attachment parenting, it’s about finding a way that works for me and my baby (it certainly won’t suit everyone).

We all know that babies need a safe, loving environment. I’m not suggesting this can’t be achieved when they’re in the moses, or cot – it can. But for me, it has worked to have him in the bed as this is the best way for me to get more sleep – and it seems to have suited him, too. My hope is that eventually, that eight-hour sleep in his cot will stretch to twelve hours. And we’ll both get a full night’s sleep in our own bed.

Here are some guidelines for safe co-sleeping.

Do/did you co-sleep? How did it hinder or improve your sleep? We’d love to hear in the comments below…

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