Friday 10 August 2012

Newborn Sleep

Firstly, just to say I’m writing and sharing this for two reasons. One, so I’ve got a record of how I think things are going now (and family and friends who are interested can know too!) and secondly for the random mum/mum to be who might be interested in some information. This isn’t advice- I’m not telling anyone what to do. This is just what is happening and perhaps its useful for someone else out there.

Little Man and I sleep together.There, I’ve said it. Apparently not many parents admit to sleeping with their children, even if it does happen regularly. This time we didn’t plan for baby to sleep anywhere else. He’s almost 4 weeks old now and it seems to be working great for us.

I didn’t even consider our bed to be an option with Big One- all the NHS info tells you how dangerous it is, and especially NOT to do it certain circumstances (smoking, drink, drugs, excessively tired- basically anything that might interfere with you responding to babies needs) but not how to do it safely if you haven’t any risk factors. With Big One we got ALOT less sleep. It didn’t help I read some more mainstream parenting books. Guess what- the baby didn’t and didn’t fit the patterns ‘expected’.

When Little One was born my reading and experience and awareness of attachment parenting was a bit higher, so we shared a bed from very early days. I quickly realised I wasn’t mucking about waking everyone up trying to get baby to sleep in the moses basket-my baby had its own ideas and I was too tired to argue. When I didn’t fight it, wow- we all were well rested. Brilliant! However, I didn’t read ‘Three in a Bed’ by Deborah Jackson until she was about 5 months old, and then realised we’d been doing things dangerously. I’m all for going with the flow, but I wish I’d been able to easily find some safe co-sleeping tips back then(Sharing the adult bed with baby gets called cosleeping). I would have still co-slept, but not with a big duvet, lots of pillows, etc. We were all fine, and 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing- I was doing the best I could with the information I could find at the time- same as I’ve done with each child.

Today I’ve quickly looked on the internet and I have found some co-sleeping guidelines, but jeepers- reading them still sounds pretty scary, something not safe to do. I feel really lucky I have/had friends online and in real life who helped me realise that co-sleeping is safe, normal and most importantly, makes life easier. No getting out of bed to see to baby’s needs, no wondering if they’re quiet and I should be worrying about that, I can tell if too hot or too cold because they’re touching me.

Its normal in many cultures around the globe - Japan for example. Sticking with Japan, they also have incredibly low incidence of cot death. I can only guess its too hard for the NHS to ensure the advice they give regarding co-sleeping is specific for each family situation. Of course some situations aren’t right for co-sleeping. We might be set up for safe co-sleeping this time around, but if one of us is ill, has a few drinks, etc then we’d change things a little to keep things safe.

Co-sleeping is easier for parents (if done routinely, occasional co-sleeping kids apparently can be hard work). If done safely, reduces risk of cot death (really!), promotes independence in the child, promotes healthy sleep patterns, helps with bonding for parents out at work all day (thats mums or dads) and I think its lovely.
Kids seem to like it- I know Big One (and other preschool age kids who had their own rooms) use the relentless logic of ‘you and daddy share (or you, daddy and baby share), why do I have to sleep alone? Its lonely.’

There is evidence to back up what I’m saying, its not all ‘just’ my opinion. The book I mentioned before ‘Three in a Bed’ isn’t a ‘how to’ guide. Its an extensively referenced (4.5 pages of tiny writing bibliography including several pages of referenced published research). If you are considering having a child, I suggest you read this book so you can make an informed choice with your sleeping arrangements. The ‘easy to find’ info, the government (and FSIDS) safe sleeping advice isn’t the whole truth. I wish I’d come across this book much earlier in my parenting.

The only equipment we’re using is a Hippichick cot size waterproof sheet across where he sleeps, and a sheet or towel on top of that (Hippichick is the least sweaty type of waterproof sheet I’ve come across- not a crinkly noisy one either). We have a large waterproof sheet under our bedding from when bigger kids sleep with us, but I prefer to have a smaller amount of washing for leaks and spills. We do have the cot from the other two- it makes a good shelf for nappies, birth pool, sling room in it for a baby!

Anyway, how are we today? Well, we’re starting to get the hang of breastfeeding lying down so he’s feeding through the night, yet I’m getting about 5 hrs sleep in a row, plus a couple more shorter stretches. From my other children I recall getting a 4hr stretch making a huge difference for my ability to function/cope, and today has been pretty good. Long may it last!

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