Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘co-sleeping’

Happy 2013… oh wait, we’ve been here for a while!

So things have been quiet round here for a while.  By “round here”, I mean on the blog, as they have been less so in real life.  Various things have been getting in the way of writing, but hopefully I might see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Christmas holidays flew past, bearing tidings of great vomit and flu (yay), and Alt.D2 has learned to walk.  None of us is safe now, take to the hills!

The whole “learning to walk” adventure has been accompanied by a crazy anti-bedtime thing that has been testing, to say the least.  Oh my word, I wish she was still a thumb sucker!  There is lots of anecdotal evidence on the web, to which I am now certainly able to add my share, pointing to sleep regression.  Babies learning to do stuff find it so exciting/confusing that they literally can’t sleep.  More to the point, they can’t allow their parents to do anything other than devote their entire evening, every evening for two months, to getting them off to sleep.  If there was a sideways looking frowny face icon, I would be using it here.  WHY, kiddo, just why? <breaks down and sobs>

I fear the effect this is having on my sanity!  If my mother or mother-in-law are reading this, I think I should put a disclaimer on the bad language that is about to follow…  Those who have seen Adam Mansbach’s book, creatively titled “Go the F***k to Sleep”, should know that it is all true.  Every word of it is true.  It doesn’t matter how in tune you are with your baby, or how well bonded you are, or how many different communication skills you have with them, there are some nights/weeks/months that you just want to yell the title of that book from the rooftops!  Here’s Samuel L Jackson’s brilliant reading of the whole story:

You can feel his pain, can’t you?

The thing about children seems to be that if we can understand why something is happening, as the adult in the situation, it makes things easier.  I decided I needed to do a bit of research on sleep regression, what it means, how we can cope with it in the AltHouse and when we might come out the other end (because seriously, this is starting to get old now!).

So three things seem to have happened here:

1.  Suddenly, AltD2 takes about 3 hours each evening to get to sleep.
2.  Suddenly, she will not allow AltFather to put her to bed.
3.  Suddenly, she has undergone some massive developmental leaps.  She can walk (and run now, truth be told – especially if I need to catch her!).  She also has a few words, and a huge amount of emerging vocabulary, which she understands totally and expects me to be able to translate.

She’s now 17 months old, and turning into a toddler, rather than a baby (she will always be my baby girl, though, even when she’s 40). Her brain is making massive leaps and bounds every day.  Today, I noticed she can nod and shake her head “yes” and “no”.  When did she learn that?  How did she learn that?  AltD1 and I had a good giggle this afternoon testing out whether she was doing it on purpose or by fluke:
Me: Would you like to go outside? Nod
Me: Would you like to put the toy away now? Shakes head
AltD1:  (Much more practical) Do you want to eat this? (offers cracker) Nod
AltD1: Do you want to go to bed? SHAKES HEAD.  FROWNS. 

On purpose, I’d say.  😉

I mentioned to a member of staff at our local baby clinic the problems that we were having at bedtime.  Her advice (she was a Community Nursery Nurse, rather than a Health Visitor) was that I should go out every night for a week and leave AltFather to do the bedtime routine.  “She has to learn.” she said.
Apparently, AltD2 is willful, and if we let her get her way by “giving in” on this one, she will push everyone around.  Presumably for the rest of her life?!

I have to say, that I did the old “nod and smile and walk away” trick, although I felt judged, and more than a little sad that many parents would take this advice as read, without looking into it any further.  There was no suggestion of how this might all affect AltD1, who would have to put herself to sleep while listening to her sister screaming as if she were being tortured.  There was no discussion of developmental leaps and brain connections being made.  There was no mention of separation anxiety, or the further damage that could be caused by me “abandoning” AltD2 at bedtime, for a week, leaving her to conclude that there was no point in crying because Mummy was truly gone and not coming back.  That is the antithesis to our parenting style, and I wasn’t prepared to go down that route.  That rod I am making for my own back is getting more and more elaborate by the day.  One day I shall be able to use it to beat away the people who give me advice I don’t want.  😉

I know I am frustrated, as is AltFather.  I know that he is feeling rejected by his baby, who previously loved to snuggle to sleep on Daddy’s chest.  I know that I am feeling stifled and unsupported – not intentionally so, but still.  However, I suppose I also know that this too shall pass…  E v e n t u a l l y…

A friend gave me a little plaque when AltD2 was born, which reads:

“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow,
For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, and dust go to sleep,
I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep”.

I’m trying to take this rough patch with the smooth, and hopefully we will all come out the other side well rested with new skills.


Roll over… roll over…

The one thing that I can confidently say about every parent, whatever their beliefs, is that we could all do with a little bit more sleep!  Here in the, we each have our own very different styles when it comes to sleep.  Whether this makes for harmonious times all depends of course on whether we are all actually asleep at the same time or not!

Alt.Father could sleep on the proverbial washing line.  His sleep habits have led us to wonder whether he was in fact quite possibly a cat in a former life.  A single shaft of golden sunshine falling across just about any kind of soft surface draws him in like a moth to a flame, and soon he is snoring gently.  He’s a big fan of quick naps and like a trusty Nokia phone a short charge-up leaves him re-energised and ready to go.

Whereas I can’t do naps at all.  A cat-nap for me will turn into a two hour zonk out from which I will wake slightly groggy and disoriented.  I’ll hold my eyelids open with matchsticks so that I can finish reading the last chapter of my book, and struggle with my self inflicted tiredness by being grumpy like a bear with a sore head the next day.  I love to sleep where it’s quiet and comfortable, although darkness isn’t mandatory.  A peaceful summer afternoon in the garden snoozing on a rug for a couple of hours would be absolute bliss.

Alt.D1 started off as a shocking sleeper.  Her preferred pattern was 20 minutes sleep at a time, day or night, with a lot of noise in between.  It would take us hours of pacing up and down in between those sleeps just to get her back down again.  Her sleep pattern was not unlike a series of delayed trains, with one sleep becoming so far gone as to roll into the next.  She settled down as she grew older, eventually taking morning and afternoon naps and at long last, bedtime in the evenings became a more predictable state of affairs.  Now she sleeps wrapped in snuggly duvets and blankets, legs and arms sometimes poking free, head sometimes at the foot of the bed and sometimes hanging off the side!

Alt.D2 was the opposite of her sister on arrival.  Sleeping for four hours at a time as a newborn, quickly making it known that she wasn’t hungry and just wanted to be put down to sleep.  We had made the decision to co-sleep before she was born, and she cuddles down comfortably in the evenings, sucking a thumb to send herself off.  We call her the “light police” though – no chance whatsoever of reading a book in bed for her parents, she’ll snuffle and squeak until we turn the light off!

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, we used to frequently remind Alt.D1.  Somehow she always seemed to know when there was an early morning meeting for Alt.Father, and would choose that night to remain awake during the early hours, refusing to be put down, refusing to just GO TO SLEEP!  We tried all sorts of tricks: hot water bottles in her moses basket, warming the blankets in our bed, wrapping her up in my t-shirt… mostly to no avail.  We read up on all sorts of methods for encouraging good sleeping, including the No Cry Sleep Solution (although it wasn’t clear whether it was the parents or the babies doing the crying!), the Baby Whisperer, Babycalming, and the Dr Sears website.

Alt.D1 teaches Alt.Father the meaning of “share”

What worked for us?  Probably just the passage of time.  Alt.D1 did suffer from awful colic for many weeks, something I will probably write about another time, but that aside, things eventually just eased up.  We “gave up” on trying to get the baby into her own bed, and kept her in ours, moving her cot right up against the side of our bed with the bars removed like a little refuge she could be rolled into when she eventually dropped off to sleep.  Even then she was about 15 months old before she slept through a night (March 5th, 2010, I have it etched in my mind!) and sadly, it was a fluke!  We were like the line from that Alanis Morissette song “I’m tired but I’m working, yeah”.  Somehow, be it hormones, or adrenaline, or magic powers, we just kept going through the days and nights until things became easier of their own accord.

By the time Alt.D1 was 2, she was often sleeping through.  Sometimes it was in her own cot, in her own room, and sometimes it was in our bed, but sleep is sleep, as far as I am concerned!  We started to think about having another baby.  We reasoned that the sleep deprivation couldn’t be as bad as the first time around, and anyway, if it was, we would be prepared for it.  We bought a bigger bed.  Plenty of room for all of us.

Alt.D2 had a lovely moses basket.  I used it for storing my laptop, phone and book in.  Whilst we were in the maternity hospital, we had been tucked up in the bed together by the midwives, and she had slept beautifully, nestled into the crook of my arm.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, they say, so we continued that way once we came home.  I read Deborah Jackson’s “Three in a Bed” which reassured us that this was the right thing to do.  It’s working out ok so far, although Alt.D2 hasn’t yet begun to roll!  A much easier life for all of us, and still space when Alt.D1 decides she wants in on the action, too!

Co-sleeping isn’t for everyone.  You do need to be careful, as although you are unlikely to roll on the baby and squash them as many people fear, it is not without its risks.  The NHS current guidelines are that the safest place for your baby to sleep for its first six months is in its own cot in its parents’ bedroom.  There is more information available here about sharing a bed with your baby.  Statistically, mothers who co-sleep breastfeed for longer (probably because they are not driven half mad by lack of sleep!) so there are health benefits, too.

In most parts of the world, babies sleep with their parents, and it does make sense, really.  For 9 months they were inside their mother, then all of a sudden, they are out in the big wide world.  They feel safer, calmer and more relaxed when next to their parents, making sleep come more easily and life a little better for everyone!

I will leave you with a clip that sums it all up.  Michael McIntyre on children’s bedtimes:

Sleep well, all.

One size fits all?

Families, as we all know, come in different shapes and sizes, so there can never be such a thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to parenting.  Yet the general assumption is that we will conform to the perceived norm.  

Alt.Father and I never set out to be deliberately different.  We are not revolutionaries, far from it, we both come from “ordinary” homes and live in an “ordinary” small town in the South West of the UK.  But then, one day, we met an extraordinary person – our first child.  Before pregnancy, the only experience we had of children was that of other people’s.  Which meant that our only experiences of parenting were what we had seen other people doing.  They all seemed to be doing the same things – it couldn’t be that hard to find your way, right?


From the moment we discovered a baby was on its way, we were bombarded with information.  As prospective parents, you are a marketing company’s ideal… you haven’t got a clue what you need, but you think you might need all of it! 

So the first thing we did was buy a book.  It was actually pretty good, albeit quite textbook-like in style:

So now we knew what was physically going on inside, how about emotionally?

This isn’t a post to share all my experiences in intimate detail, so I’ll spare you the specifics for now, but let’s just say I’m not a fan of pregnancy.  More to the point, I’m not particularly a fan of my first pregnancy and the morning/afternoon/middle of the night sickness, high blood pressure and chronic backache.  Needless to say, it was a tricky time for both me and Alt.Father, and a time at which we were grateful for support and advice when it came.

Everyone seems to have advice for new parents.  My advice now would be “smile and nod”.  That is to say, take on board the things that others say, and then make your own decisions about how to process the advice.

Take for example the hundreds of different morsels of advice we were given on sleep.  They varied from the extreme – “put the baby at the bottom of the garden” to the misinformed “give the baby water to drink at night, that’ll teach her” (at two weeks old!), but the fact remained that our baby, my baby, hadn’t read any of the books, or listened to any of the advice from well meaning friends and family.  She was just being herself, and as her parents, we needed to figure out how best to take care of her, as an individual, and find solutions to our problems that best met the needs of our family.

And so, we discovered (eventually) the revelation that was co-sleeping!  My own father had said to me while I was pregnant, “don’t be afraid to take the baby into bed with you”.  It’s how I was cared for as a tiny infant, and it seems that my first daughter and I had more than a few things in common!

So there we were, bed sharing with our baby.  Not a piece of information I shared with others to begin with.  It was working for us, but I thought we were the only ones, and it wasn’t something to broadcast.

As the months passed by, we made other parenting decisions that seemed to go against the grain, such as using washable nappies, full-term breastfeeding, baby-led-weaning, keeping our daughter barefoot, baby-wearing, rear facing car seats…

By the time my daughter was a few months old, I was pleased to have found other families who were making some of the same decisions as we were.  Maybe the alternative was not quite so alternative after all?  Probably there are more parents raising their children in a style that goes against the perceived norm than we first thought?

I hope that for my daughters, the legacy of the parenting decisions we make for them will be that they continue to question the norm throughout life, and if the alternative looks like it might just be the right path for them, that they have the confidence to try it.

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