Three (or four) in the bed – Our bedsharing journey so far

I never planned to have my first child sleep in bed with me. I thought it was a bad habit. I thought it would spoil my baby and ruin my sleep. Sure, she might come in for the odd night when she had a nightmare. After all, I remember lying in my parents’ bed, looking up at the patterns the watermarks made on the ceiling. It would never be a habitual thing, a lifestyle choice.

Then Talitha was born. She would not settle. I rang the midwife on the ward for help so many times that she eventually brought me a co-sleeper cot to attach to my bed. Finally, peace.

When we got home, I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t settle in her Moses basket for more than a few minutes during the night. I was exhausted and felt like there was no recovering from a lengthy labour with this baby who just wouldn’t sleep.

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Talitha at three weeks old

I sat on the sofa, breastfeeding her, dosing and terrified of dropping her if I fell asleep. The midwife pieced together her green poo and her constant waking as oversupply of breastmilk. I now know that actually she wasn’t accessing enough milk because of her tongue tie. But after three years of knowing my first daughter, I think the waking thing was more than just hunger. She wanted – needed – to be close to me.

The midwife warned us against taking her into bed with us. I hadn’t even considered it might be unsafe. I knew many people in Trinidad who slept with their babies. Out of exhausted desperation, I began to breastfeed her in bed and would accidentally fall asleep. I’d wake up terrified. In the daytime I was unsure about admitting to people that she was in bed with us. I felt guilty about it all. But I became a reluctant co-sleeper.

It’s funny remembering all of this because just three months after Talitha was born, I counted bedsharing as one of the things I would have done sooner, in retrospect. We kept moving the goalposts for when Talitha would move into a cot and possibly into her own room but wegot a bigger bed instead.

In the end, she moved into her own child’s bed at age two. We’d just moved house and we made her room a place a child would love to call her own. Still, she’d have bedtime there but I’d pick her up and bring her to bed with me when I was heading there because I was still night nursing. Maybe she would have stayed asleep there all night. I’ll never know for sure.

Toddler room
Talitha’s room when we moved in. I give you an update here on the blog soon.

There wasn’t long to find out. I fell pregnant as soon as we’d moved. Breastfeeding at night made me nauseous. It was no longer an option. So Laurence started going in to comfort her if she woke at night. Let’s just say she wasn’t keen on the arrangement for a few nights. After that, though, she slept through in her own bed most nights! Sometimes she’d go through a phase of waking but she’d accept her father’s comfort and go back to sleep.

Once we spent the night at a friend’s, sharing a bed, and it was a total nightmare because she wanted to breastfeed the whole time. I guess it was just to soon for the new arrangement to have settled. Soon, she didn’t want to get into bed with us. If she woke, she and Laurence would negotiate over where they would sleep. If she wouldn’t come into our bed, he’d insist that they went in the spare room. If she had her way, they’d sleep in her tiny bed. Not an option.

We talked about what might happen, in case she started wanting to sleep with us again once Ophelia was born. I really didn’t want her to feel like she was missing out if all of us were in the bed and she was on her own. This time it was obvious to us that the new baby would sleep in our bed.

At first we went through a musical beds situation. Laurence sometimes slept in the spare room, Ophelia and I in our bed and Talitha in her own bed. I decided I didn’t like Laurence sleeping separately, mainly because I resented being the only one having to wake at night. Yes, selfless, me.

Our Bedsharing Journey-2

We put Talitha’s bed guard on my side of the bed, stuffed a towel into the gap between the guard and bed so it was flush and I kept Ophelia on my side, away from any pillows and duvet. As it turned out, Talitha was happy enough to sleep in her own room and trundle into ours in the mornings for her wake up feed, just as she still does.

We’ve been through a couple of phases of her sleeping in bed with us (due to nightmares), both children pinning themselves against me, me gently moving them away. I’ve honestly really enjoyed those nights and wish they’d happen more often (sans nightmares). I playfully call our bed “the family bed”, which makes Laurence rolls his eyes.

It’s hard to look back and see how much time I wasted worrying. I wish I’d just allowed myself to be okay about the whole thing sooner, to know that we would find our way.

NB: La Leche League has recently published up-to-date information on bedsharing and safety.


12 Comments

  1. July 28, 2014 / 9:06 am

    “I wish I’d just allowed myself to be okay about the whole thing sooner” – hear, hear! It has been such a sweet relief for me to have our baby in the bed from day 1 this time, instead of the months of fighting it from last time. I sometimes end up sandwiched between him and the three year old, on the nights he still needs to pad through and be with me, and it’s hot as hell, but also pretty lovely.
    Helen recently posted..Patience

  2. July 28, 2014 / 9:29 am

    My eldest never slept in my bed, only because she actually slept through the night from about six weeks old and was quite happy to be in her own bed! The other two have both slept in my bed, sometimes in theirs but sometimes in mine… honestly, if it means I get to sleep I really don’t mind where anyone sleeps :p Planning on having this next baby in my bed too,

  3. July 28, 2014 / 9:40 am

    I think we were given maternal instincts for a reason and we should just trust them but it’s hard when you’re given conflicting opinions and made to feel guilty. I’m still trying to figure it all out with our third. I think you’re doing the right thing for you and your family x
    Kathryn (@KatGotTheCream) recently posted..The Happy List #62

  4. July 28, 2014 / 3:51 pm

    Like Polly my eldest was happy in his cot and slept there. My middle on the other hand wouldn’t sleep anywhere but right next to me, cuddled up close. It was so much easier to night feed this way that we didn’t even set up a cot for my youngest, until she moved into it aged around one. Glad you found your way through this with your lovely girls.
    Purplemum recently posted..Staying positive

  5. July 28, 2014 / 8:05 pm

    Yep both of mine would only sleep right next to me, luckily I was really relaxed about co-sleeping second time round and knew how to do it safely etc. I only did it for the first six months though mainly because after that point I started getting much less sleep because they both wanted my boob in their mouth all night and as my boobs are so small lying on my side to feed wasn’t an option! Cherry will still come in our bed if she has a nightmare but after kicking around she asks to go back into her room! x
    Jess @ Along Came Cherry recently posted..Crafting For All Ages

  6. July 28, 2014 / 8:20 pm

    Great post 🙂 Ebony has recently moved into her own room, and own bed for the first time ever. We end up playing a bit of musical beds, either me in her bed, or her in ours before morning, but she has slept through a couple of times. I quite like it when she comes in with us anyway, even though there isn’t much room… x
    Fiona recently posted..Gelaaato Di Marco & The Elusive Vegan Ice Cream Cone

  7. July 28, 2014 / 11:52 pm

    This is very familiar to me. After waking something like 12 times one night for my first baby I gave in the end to bed sharing. He’s never settled into his room or his bed and still comes to us when he wakes at night. Our second baby is quite similar except she wakes 4 times max depending summer heat, nappy change or being lonely. I tend to sleep with her on her bunk bed untill she drifts off, then I return to mine and PRAY she doesn’t wake again. Some times I will with her from dawn to untill I its waking time. Not sure how long this will go on for. I’m tired and pretty much missed the boat on sleep training and it never felt right to me any way. I hoping when my son starts school he’ll sleep better. Chances are my daughter may settle earlier than him…

  8. July 29, 2014 / 8:30 am

    I co-slept with Dexter until I was too pregnant with Florence (so he was about 14 months old) then I moved him into his cot & he adjusted almost instantly, which goes to show that the natural timing was right. I never co-slept with Florence because she just did not want to be in our bed, even though i tried, and India has been a mixture of the two.

  9. July 29, 2014 / 2:05 pm

    I have to admit we have done a lot of co-sleeping, for the first 2-3 months he was happy to be in the moses basket right next to our bed but as soon as we tried to put him in the cot it just didn’t work so we had him in with us, that way everyone had a much better chance of getting sleep and I think at the end of the day you have to do what works. We struggled getting him to sleep in his own bed and we still have an open door policy and he knows that he can come in during the night if he feels the need (which is usually around 3 nights out of 7), we know this may not be the best in terms of routine and habits but by not making it a big deal of it or pressuring him to sleep on his own has seemed to work for us because anytime we have tried to enforce anything its ended up in being up alight with a tired, grumpy and upset child and than no one was winning (or sleeping)

    Laura x
    Laura recently posted..Sweet Dreams – Bed perfection

  10. July 30, 2014 / 7:36 pm

    I always find it funny that you intended not to co-sleep as I kinda had you pegged down as a co-sleeper, ha! As you know we also co-slept with Wilf for sometime (18m) I’d actually have liked for it to have been longer but he just would not sleep and funny enough when we moved him to his own bed at that age we all slept much better. I don’t think we would have done any earlier though and it saved me in the earlier days, I think I would have gone loopy if I had to actually get out of bed ten billion times a night! x
    Fritha recently posted..A little (big) bedroom tour

  11. November 23, 2014 / 9:42 am

    We co-slept too. My husband wasn’t so keen at first, but I was adamant since she was settling in even if her crib was next to our bed! In the Philippines too, where I’m from, co-sleeping is normal even if most had nannies, babies would still stay with their mothers. We moved my daughter to her own room when she was nearing her second birthday. There are times when she still calls for me at night and I go to her. But that’s normal right? Wouldn’t change it. I still cherish those nights when she slept with us 🙂

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