Tag Archives: co-sleeping

Sunday photo(s): 29th November 2015

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Arthur hasn’t been very well the past couple of weeks. Nothing serious, but high fevers and sleepless nights and general grouchiness that made the days all melt into each other whilst we hunkered down and waited for him to get better. It was Wednesday before I realised I hadn’t posted last Sunday’s photo, so here’s a catch up one now.

Having spent the first two years of his life sleeping in or next to our bed, it had been months since he’d joined us for anything other than morning cuddles, but I found myself wanting him right there so I could check on him – besides, when he was alone he was waking up every hour or so whimpering and that was rather hard to bear. There was something very special about snuggling up with him again, and it was almost even worth the lack of sleep – though it’s amazing how hard sleep deprivation is to cope with when you’re not used to it!

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Fortunately this weekend Arthur was back to his usual cheeky self. Which was handy as there was some serious getting into the festive spirit to be done! Yesterday was Brixham’s Christmas light switch on with lantern parade and fireworks which we braved the wind and the rain to enjoy with lots of other hardy locals, and today we went to get our tree.

We went up to Ashburton where my sister in law’s family has a Christmas tree farm. The wind was still blowing pretty hard, but that didn’t deter us from our mission. It was magical to be able to romp through a field of trees to choose our perfect one, and Arthur was so excited as we cut it down, wrapped it up and put it on the car to take it home.

I have a feeling this Christmas is going to be very special.

 

Linking up today’s post with Darren at One Dad 3 Girls for My Sunday Photo and Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Becoming a mum: sleep

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It’s been a while since I’ve written in my ‘becoming a mum’ series, but I couldn’t leave it without tackling the all-important matter of sleep.

I’ve actually been putting this one off for a while now. I think I hoped that perhaps, being almost twenty months now into this whole parenthood business, I’d be able to write and say that I’d finally cracked it: that we were all getting enough sleep, at the right times, and maybe even that we’d achieved the holy grail of sleeping through the night.

Though it’s probably more appropriate that I’m getting these words out through the fog of exhaustion that’s been my general state since somewhere near the start of my third trimester of pregnancy. So nearly two years ago, if we’re counting. Two years since I can say I had a decent night’s sleep.

It’s not that Arthur doesn’t like to sleep. In fact, in the beginning, it was all he really wanted to do. It took all our energy to persuade him to eat – and I wonder sometimes whether his waking in the night since is payback for those early weeks when I had to rouse him religiously every three hours, tickling his toes and blowing on his cheeks just to get enough nutrition in him to enable him to grow. You can read about the start of our breastfeeding journey here – we’re still going strong with that as it happens, so watch this space for an update on the joys of breastfeeding a toddler!

But I digress. That happens quite a lot nowadays – sleep deprivation, probably…

We’ve had Arthur in a bedside cot since the night he was born. We started with a Bednest which we loved, and when he outgrew that at four months old we were by no means ready for him to move to his own room. So we graduated to a larger cot made by Troll – he’s still in it now for most of the night, and I’m hoping he’s not going to grow too quickly as I haven’t quite worked out what we’ll do then.

All of us – me and Leigh and Arthur – have become quite attached to co-sleeping. We often spend much of the night snuggled up together, but it’s great to have the space and security that the bedside cot affords. He’ll roll across when he wants to stretch out, and (usually) I can slide him across too if I’m really shattered. But knowing he’s there, hearing his breathing – that was invaluable in the paranoid early months. There’s something about it that feels so natural. And there is literally no better way to wake up than to hear his giggles, or more often nowadays to feel his hands on my shoulders as he peers into my face to say “Hiii!” before a request for booba or to walk and play.

I mention all this because I’m pretty sure that, were we to turn our backs on co-sleeping, then saying goodbye to night nursing and night waking wouldn’t be far behind. But as of yet it’s not a sacrifice we’re willing to make.

That’s pretty much the bottom line, really, when it comes to how we’ve handled the whole sleep issue. I know even without seeing the raised eyebrows of friends as I describe our ‘routine’ that our approach has been somewhat unconventional. But, tiredness aside, it kinda works.

Arthur goes to sleep late – 9.30ish usually – a time that came from watching him and listening to him and seeing when he started to get tired. We’ve finally made the leap to him going down in his own room so we get a couple of hours to ourselves, then he’ll wake up hungry sometime between midnight and two and we’ll bring him up to our room. He then usually wakes me every couple of hours to nurse – I’m not sure he really wakes up himself to be honest, but he makes his intentions pretty clear – and that continues until either I need to get him up or he decides it’s time to start the day.

I’ve read all the books on ways we could get him to sleep through the night. I know I couldn’t bring myself to go down the cry it out route – even though he’s older now I’d be afraid of what emotional connections would have to break in order for him to accept that no-one was coming for him rendering crying futile however lonely and afraid he was feeling on the inside. I know as well that there are a whole raft of gentler options, ones which I might be willing to try if it weren’t for the fact that, deep down, I’m not really sure I want things to change.

The later bedtime allows him to see his dad for a few hours at the end of the day – we get to all sit down to dinner as a family, and we all benefit from that. The payoff for me is that he generally wakes up for the day at around 8am. I am not, and never have been, an early morning person, so that suits me just fine. And then there’s the naps: when we’re not rushing around too much he will still have two decent naps each day, between one and two hours each. Bearing in mind this is usually preceded by a feed, and it all happens in the sling, it buys me a good few hours to sit and write. I can’t imagine how I’d get anything done otherwise – and as I’m burning to start work on redrafting my second novel as soon as things get back to normal in September I’m really hoping he doesn’t start dropping those naps any time soon.

He’s flexible too – he doesn’t need darkness or quiet to sleep, which is a real bonus for travelling. And if he stays up even later one night he makes up for it with a lie-in the next morning.

And on top of all that, our unconventional routine seems to suit him – he’s happy and healthy, growing well and hitting all his milestones. There are days when he’s tired and I know we need to slow down a little – days when we all have an early night. But once those batteries are recharged he’s ready to go again.

So whilst I know on the surface it looks like we’re doing this sleep thing all wrong, and whilst it sometimes feels like I live for my morning coffee and I can’t help but moan occasionally about that two years without a decent night’s sleep, I know deep down that I wouldn’t change a thing. I guess it’s like everything else in this whole parenting lark really – it’s ok to know the rules, to read up on other people’s theories and talk about what works for other kids. But ultimately you have to do what’s right for you.

Now excuse me while I go and have a little nap…

The power of attachment

Before Arthur was born, I didn’t really have much of an idea about the kind of parent I wanted to be. I knew I wasn’t great at keeping to fixed routines, and my time as a teacher had taught me that nurturing young people generally works best when you take the cues from them. But it was one thing listening to teenagers communicate their needs and wants – how on earth was I supposed to do that with a tiny baby?

I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I figured I’d want to express fairly regularly so that other people could feed the baby too and I could have a bit of freedom. It was losing my freedom, if I’m honest, that I was most nervous about. I was sure I’d want to make the most of my parents’ enthusiasm as new grandparents to get out for time alone with Leigh, to touch base with the me that I was before I became pregnant rather than letting this new little person take over everything.

We were given a pram by Leigh’s parents, having researched endlessly which one would be best for tackling the off-road paths and beaches near where we live. My mum helped me decorate the nursery, all decked out with the cot the baby would move into once he’d passed the six month stage and was ready to graduate to his own room. I knew there would be times when he would sleep with us, but I definitely didn’t want to encourage that on a regular basis.

And then when Arthur was born everything changed. He went from being an abstract baby to a real little human being – and I was surprised to find that I didn’t want to leave his side. I didn’t really get out of bed for the first two weeks after he was born. Partly because it was the middle of winter, and partly because it took all the focus and energy I could muster to overcome the problems we had getting breastfeeding established (you can read about that here). And during that time, when I wasn’t dozing, I read. I started by browsing internet forums looking for inspiration about how I was actually going to approach this business of parenting. I know people say that you should just trust your instincts, but I was terrified of getting it wrong – I did have an idea about how I wanted to do things, but it was so different to what I considered socially acceptable that I needed validation. And slowly I began to find it.

I realised that I identified with what people were calling attachment parenting – I’d never heard of it before, but keen to find out more I ordered several books – Dr Sears’ The Baby Book was great for day to day questions and concerns, but it was the work of Deborah Jackson that really inspired me. I read When Your Baby Cries and Three in a Bed, and as I journeyed with her through different times and cultures I realised that the status quo I had come to accept was far from the only option.

As Arthur and I began to face the world together, I began to put these ideas into practice. After nearly being put off by the first sling I tried I soon became a convert to babywearing – I wrote about the beginnings of that journey here. I found that I was so calm and focused when I was wearing my baby – I didn’t have to put him down alone to get things done, or worry about him as he napped elsewhere. Bizarrely by physically attaching Arthur to me I found I finally had the freedom to begin to live my life again, starting with beginning to write the novel that had been swimming around in my head for so long.

It was a long time before we asked my parents to babysit – they’ve still only done it a couple of times – because we decided we’d miss Arthur too much and would rather he just came with us. And so he did, to meals out, to parties, to gigs, to festivals. I was surprised again – though of course relieved – to find that Leigh shared my inclinations, and as a result the three of us have had so many fantastic adventures together.

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The thing that has most surprised both Leigh and I though has been I think our attitudes to sleep. The sixth month point came and went long ago and Arthur is still sleeping in our room. We’ve talked about it, and both agree that it’s going to be a little while before we’re ready to give up co-sleeping. Arthur loves being close to us, and there is something quite magical about sharing the moments just before he goes to sleep and when he has just woken up as well as the groundswell of love that I still feel when I watch his sleeping form in the middle of the night or he snuggles up to me for a feed.

I know that we’ve been lucky, that there are certain freedoms that we’ve had that have meant I have been able to let Arthur set the pace. I haven’t had to go back to my job as a teacher, and as I muddle through in my attempts to forge a new career at home I can adjust how and when and where I do things to suit his rhythms.

And bizarrely, with all this talk of attachment and the warnings I’ve ignored from well meaning advisors, Arthur’s actually becoming a very confident and easy going little boy. He rarely cries, and as much as I try to follow his cues whenever I can he is proving himself to be highly adaptable when he has to fall in step with me.

I am just so glad I took the time to explore the alternative approaches to parenting that were out there, to find a way to meet the needs of both my baby and myself. I’m glad too that I accepted the changes that becoming a parent wrought within me – however surprising they were at first. I suppose you’ll never know what sort of a parent you’ll be until you are one – I’m not for a second suggesting that the approach we’ve taken would work for everyone, but for the time being at least it definitely seems to be working for us.

Thank you to Sara at Mum Turned Mom for inspiring this post with her prompt of ‘surprise’.

 

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