This Sundays blog is about sleeping. Less of the how because if I knew how to make a baby sleep I would be a multi-millionaire dictating this to my second assistant whilst the first one poured me prosecco and cut my avocado into perfect 1cm cubes. It’s more about the where. As with my previous post on feeding, what you do is down to you. I really hope for your sake that your baby sleeps but I don’t care where. If you enjoy the read then please share. Hey that rhymed!
I’m putting it out there. My poor little glow bug was moved into her own room at 8 weeks old. Not because I’m cold and heartless but because babies are bloody noisy and if I’d wanted to share my nest with a warthog I would work in a zoo. I didn’t tell many people she had been evicted. Like breastfeeding, it’s a sticky subject. There’s a tonne of information supporting all options and people are incredibly sensitive about it. Beware debating with strangers!
Husband and I have always been very firmly in the camp of keeping our bed as our bed. Our choice for our family is for everyone to have their own bed and their own space. Very few things remain sacred in a marriage once you have children and we decided our bed should be sacrosanct. We also made the decision not to share because Husband is a deep sleeper, and he’s big and heavy (sorry bean!) and we do like to have a drink – at the appropriate times and places of course! Co-sleeping was just never an option for us. The plan was, and is, that our bed is ours between the hours of 7pm and 7am. Occasionally that goes out the window, but only if one of them is ill and even then it’s only til the Calpol kicks in then they are back to their own bed. Girly no1 actually asks to go back to her own bed now. Girly no2 rebelled early on and did spend one night in our bed, but that’s because she had bronchiolitis and we thought she might die. We had to take shifts watching her to make sure she kept breathing, it was horrible.
To some, our get-back-to-your-own-bed-baby approach may sound cruel but we had a scare on the very first night Girly no1 came home that made us adamant about it. I went to sleep and left her dozing on Husband’s chest. He was in the soppy, gooey-eyed haze of happiness that happens post birth but pre-too-many-sleepless-nights. I woke up a few hours later with my precious new bundle of joy nestled into my back. He had dropped her. I was rigid with fear as I realised what had happened. At that moment, Husband rolled over ready to hug me with his big rugby player arms and thighs – he was about to squash her! I scooped her up and clung to her like a koala kissing her head and muttering into her oily head fuzz. Husband woke up a few minutes later to the angriest I’ve ever been with him. I growled at him in a voice I’ve never heard come out of me before. I screeched in a high pitched voice only dogs could hear. Had I been able to, I would have loomed over him like Jafar in Aladdin (film du jour for Girly no1) but I couldn’t move properly because of the csection. My normally calm persona had disappeared with size 10 waistline. He was terrified, of me and of what had happened. He apologised for days. The lesson was clear though. From that day on, no more sleeping with the babies on us and they always go back into their basket or bed at night. In many ways it was a blessing. There’s no feeling quite like the one when you realise your baby may be hurt, it’s a mixture of grave nausea, bitter fear and acidic panic. Like if you were to put sambuca, tequila and absinthe all in the same shot glass then set fire to it in the back of your throat.
For the first few nights after that Girly no1’s Moses basket was jammed right up against the bed next to me so I just had to reach in and grab her when she needed feeding. Then, when The Fear kicked in, I decided that our heavy duvet could get her so we moved her to the bottom end of the bed in the corner of the room. My foot only had to touch the floor once to reach her when she needed feeding. A couple of the mums I mentioned it to asked me “don’t you keep getting up to check she’s still breathing?” To which I responded by throwing my head back, opening my mouth wide and laughing like a baddy in a film. “Hahahahaha!” Because it was never necessary. My precious little girl, with the big eyes and the dinky face, sounded like a warthog. Every breath in, every breath out – a truffle snuffling warthog. In between sleep cycles, she thrashed around making her basket creek and squeak. Her Moro reflex (that’s the name for that thing they do in the first couple of months that makes them look like a flying squirrel) was frequent and aggressive, it was constant throughout the night and she would wail and whimper every time. There was very little doubt as to whether my baby was breathing well. Her many colds made it even worse. Those nights we had ourselves a truffle snuffling warthog on a steam train. Sleeping while she was in the room was almost impossible.
After three months, when Girly no1 outgrew her Moses basket, we had a decision to make. We were very aware of the guideline that says don’t move your baby out before 6 months old, largely driven by the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) but we weren’t going to invest in a third bed. We weighed up the risks and decided to move her into her own room. Similarly with Girly no2 she was on her way to outgrowing her basket after 7 weeks. She probably had another month of it but we had a beautiful solid oak cot just waiting for a baby! So we moved her out at 8 weeks. The first few nights, for both of them, were a little tense and I constantly woke up to check them. But with the video monitor by my head, I could see and hear them both thrashing, snuffling and snorting. By the third night, they and I slept like a baby, which is, by the way, the worst expression I’ve ever heard. From now on I shall use “slept like a teenager after a 3-day bender”.
Moving the girls into their own rooms that early has been the right thing for us all. That little bit of distance means I wake up for a proper cough rather than a catch in the throat, a cry rather than a whimper, a proper wake up rather than just some head shaking. As I type this, it sounds horribly selfish – I moved my baby out of my room so I couldn’t hear her and could get some sleep. But I am ok with this because it’s not as bad it sounds (reads). As well as the video baby monitor there’s that innate connection that I believe a mum has with her babies. Particularly in these first few months, it’s as though they leave behind a mini version of themselves in your inner ear. Even if I’m not with them, I know if they’re crying. If I am with them, their cry is akin to someone blowing a vuvuzela in my ear, I behave as though I’m being given electric shocks. Coughing makes me jump up like a meerkat. I think I would know if they needed me. Even though they are in another room.
Where your baby sleeps is such a big decision. It sounds so simple when you are pregnant and it’s really very easy to hold a newborn baby all day, but there are so many other factors to consider. A lot of it depends on how many times you want to get up and down out of bed but for us, the extra footsteps in the middle of the night are worth it. I also think the distance is a huge contributor to them sleeping through. Girly no1 slept through at 8 weeks so was evicted a couple of weeks later and Girly no2 has moved to an 80% strike rate on sleeping through since she moved out. As much as I love snuggling up with my babies, I love them too much to let them sleep with us. For their safety, our marriage and my back, I’ll carry on watching them in black and white on the monitor from dusk til dawn.