When I was pregnant I said our baby would always be put to sleep in his own cot. I said we'd have a strict bedtime routine and he'd be a good sleeper. Not sure why I assumed that I would have some control over his sleeping because I have to say, we have no control whatsoever.
The first night he was born, he slept for a couple of hours in the awful plastic hospital crib much to my dismay. I was far too excited to sleep. I was on my phone texting and mobile interneting all night. I was thrilled when he woke. The second night Matt left us at 9pm. I'd been breastfeeding Harvey for about an hour by this point and felt sure that when it got later I'd be able to place Harvey in the plastic crib and get some sleep myself. The midwives about me reminded me several times to ensure I didn't fall asleep with him in bed with me and I was scared as they said my breasts were so big I would be sure to suffocate him. Every time he fell asleep I would very gently swaddle him, as they'd told me to do and place him in the crib where he would wake up and start searching for milk again. I didn't have milk in at this point it was still thin colostrum and I was told by the midwives that he kept wanting to come back because he was hungry and the colostrum wasn't enough to fill him. By four am I was tired and tearful and had been feeding my son for eight hours straight. I felt like I was doing something wrong. The midwives brought me a leaflet. It had a lot of information about how to feed your baby and made it clear that breast milk was the best for my baby but also said there may be some times when formula may be needed. She explained that my baby was simply trying to establish my milk flow and that it was very common. She said that because my milk wasn't 'in' I could choose if I wanted to, to give a formula supplement to 'fill him up'. I knew that once forumla touched my baby's lips I would feed like a failure at breastfeeding and so I decided to plod on.
Each time he was fast asleep on the bed cuddling up to me and I would pick him up, attempt to put him in the crib and disturb him. At 6am, I had been feeding for ten hours straight and I wrapped Harvey up in a blanket and went to the brightly lit midwives desk crying. They thought something must be terribly wrong but all that was wrong was that I was tired and I was terrified of falling asleep and killing my baby. One of them took pity on me, she took Harvey from me and told me to go and get more sleep. I did, but only after I had her promise she would bring him to me for a feed if he was hungry.
When I woke up perhaps an hour later, my baby was in the crib besides me, swaddled so tightly and fast asleep. I fell back to sleep before at 8am I was asked if I wanted my bed making. Sigh! Harvey slept five hours but I couldn't as the ward came alive. I was happy that he was getting rest though. My nipples were getting extremely sore at this point and I was appreciative of the break from feeding. Something felt wrong to me though and I just couldn't put my finger on it. What was I doing wrong?
The next night we managed to get Harvey to sleep and placed him in his crib at home now. This time he did not stir and slept for two hours I believe before he woke us. When he awoke, Matt brought him to bed and I fed him lying down. I was relaxed and very sleepy and awoke some time later with Harvey cuddled up right to me. I felt guilty at first and then I was really happy to have the cuddles and fresh scent of a newborn right there with me. He fed several times through the night. The next night a similar thing happened and the night after that. It was a while before I could admit to anyone what was happening because I felt guilty and embarrased. Everyone had warned me that when you bring a baby into bed with you it is a risk that you are taking. But I have to say that even asleep, I felt very aware of Harvey's position in our bed. He fed after a couple of seconds of fussing instead of full blown crying. He seemed cosy and warm and I loved waking to his cooing in the morning.
It is only recently when a friend gave me a book called 'Three in a bed' that I think I can now fully understand co sleeping and why it works for us. Mothers who have not been smoking, drinking, taking drugs (prescribed or otherwise) or are seriously obese, have a natural instinct not to roll on their babies. It is inbuilt. The cot or crib has only been about since Victorian times. Before then, everyone slept with their babies. Babies have a natural instinct to cry if they awake and their mothers aren't there. If you sleep with your baby it cries less as it's primary needs are usually being fulfilled. In the hospital when I moved Harvey, he was searching for me again because his insinct was to be close to me. Had I just allowed him to remain in my bed with me, I probably would have slept soundly while he fed all he wanted. I am not going to harm him.
Co sleeping has had much bad press lately and it is true, mothers who are not entirely themselves do risk their babies lives when they take them to bed. But the research does show that mothers who are normal and healthy and take their babies to bed do not increase the risk of SIDS. Harvey is nine months old now and apart from those two nights in the hospital, he has slept in our bed each night. He doesn't have any trouble sleeping if we are in a different bed, so long as we are there with him. He sleeps alone for naps in his trolley or car seat close by to me and in the early evening if he falls asleep I try to put him in his cot so he doesn't roll out of our bed before we're in it but at night when he wakes, we put him between us and feeding, he immediatly falls to sleep. Not once have we rolled on him, although he's kicked and beaten us a few times!