For some reason, when you have a baby, people see this as an excuse to give you advice about literally fucking EVERYTHING. Sleep appears to be one of the things high on the list of unsolicited, and normally shit advice. When I fell pregnant with Eloise, I was 18 and still living at my Mums in a tiny bedroom that could hardly fit a double bed in let alone a cot I apparently absolutely needed, but somehow I managed it. It was a second hand thing that was originally from Mothercare with cute little spinning balls that I pictured her playing with quietly when she woke up in the morning as she got older. Yes, you can all laugh at me.
I hadn’t really heard much about co-sleeping or bed sharing back then and all the baby magazines and shitty leaflets are all about the cots, the swinging cribs and the moses baskets. One of the first things my health visitor said was, “you should put her down to fall asleep or you will make a rod for your own back”, all I had done was feed her to sleep and carry on holding her afterwards. I was fine with doing this because it just felt like the normal thing to do but her reaction surprised me, so back then I didn’t think co-sleeping was a thing, if you weren’t supposed to even hold your baby to sleep.
She told me I should be letting her cry to make her learn to self settle and I shouldn’t ‘give in’. I remember making sure I had placed her in her carrycot whenever that particular woman came round for a while after that, afraid she would judge me for cuddling her to sleep and I would say “oh yes, of course I lay her down in the cot”. In hindsight I’d liked to have told the old bag where to bloody go and that I will fucking well cuddle my baby to sleep and she can take her sleep training advise and stick it up her arse. Hindsight me is always very sweary and opinionated but in reality I would probably just smile and nod.
Everyone has different ways of doing this whole parenting thing and that’s totally fine but that doesn’t mean it’s cool to pressure Mums into doing something they’re clearly not comfortable with when there isn’t even a problem. If I had asked for sleep training advice, okay cool. But I didn’t. Yeh, talking to you miserable health visitor lady.
She retired after the first couple of visits much to my delight and the next lady I got was wonderful. She was very supportive of breastfeeding and actually suggested I start training to be a breastfeeding peer supporter. She also spoke about co-sleeping after I mentioned I’d been doing some research and bringing Eloise into my bed around 4am and how much easier she had been settling like that. She advised me on how to do it safely and by 7 months I was bed sharing full time. I was happier, Eloise was more settled, no crying the second I put her in her cot and me staying up most of the night holding her, feeling like the number one shittest Mum because I MUST be doing something wrong. All because I couldn’t bear to see her so upset and I had been too afraid to do what felt natural to me, and co sleep sooner. The cot then became a giant laundry basket haha!
With Lily I bought a crib and moses basket knowing there was probably a 3% chance of me actually using them. (I even co-slept in a hospital bed with her which was rather fun. We ended up wedging the plastic crib up against the bed with the sides up for extra piece of mind and the bed was just about big enough to comfortably sleep in.) When we brought her home I think she lay in the crib for about a minute before crying so I picked her up and that was that. I actually don’t think we put her down for at least the first 3 months of her life. She slept on one of us in the day and next to me at night and thinking about it, minus the times she falls asleep in the car, that scenario is still very much the same, 16 months later.
After we made the decision to scrap the cot/crib/basket thing, we forked out a shocking amount of money for a Chicco Next 2 Me Crib. Nearly £200 if I remember correctly. Our thinking was, she would sleep in that (because it’s technically it’s just a bed extension) but I could still cuddle her and breastfeed easily blah blah blah. Would she sleep in it? Would she fuck! That thing became a very expensive side table for the best part of 7 months before she decided that actually, it wasn’t that bad. Personally I don’t think it’s worth the price tag because the mattress isn’t the greatest and like sleeping on a wooden board from the feel of it. I have had to pad Lily’s out otherwise she just isn’t comfortable on it. I would have liked a slightly nicer mattress for that price but then again, I paid fucking £180 for an organic, sheep wool/coconut fibre or some crazy shit mattress for Eloise which she slept on for all of 3 seconds and that was hard as a board too.
Prior to Lily accepting the padded out co sleeper, we had a bed guard on her side of our double bed which sufficed nicely. She wore a Grobag and slept in the crook of my arm attached to my boob. The duvet was always pulled right over and away from her, as was my pillow which I would place lovingly over Ben’s face when Lily needed to snuggle in closer and it would get in the way.
Our general routine now is that she will fall asleep during the evening in the living room and we will carry her in (although this happens VERY rarely these days and rarely I mean never). If she doesn’t fall asleep before we go to bed we will carry her in and I will breastfeed her to sleep in our bed and once she’s asleep I will transfer her over a few centimetres praying to the baby sleep faries that I don’t end up waking her. Most of the time it does wake her and I feed her over the terribly placed, hard as buggery, plastic lip on the side of the frigging crib thing and swear about the excruciating pain it causes whilst it slices my ribs apart. She will then eventually fall asleep. If it’s a good night she will sleep a solid 4 hours before waking for a feed. If it’s not then she will be constantly attached to my tits, wiggling her bum in the air making fart noises with her nose on my boob, whilst the shitty plastic thing will have bruised my sides to utter shit. I have actually caused friction burns on my arm more than once from how many times I turn over when she wakes up/to swap boobs and permanently have bruises on my arms and rib cage from the bastard crib. I shit you not.
I don’t even want to imagine how little sleep I would get if I we didn’t co sleep.
All this brings me to this question that has been flitting around my mind ever since I was 18 – Why is today’s society so fixated on having babies conform to our crazy set of expectations. People always ask me if Lily is “good” or “does she sleep well?’. In answer to your questions, nosey random stranger, yes she is good. All babies are good. The baby who is screaming at the top of his lungs, the baby quietly gurgling in their pram; The baby smacking their Dad in the face with a wooden alphabet block, the toddler pulling all the flour down off the shelf in Tesco. The baby pulling the used sanitary items out of the bathroom bin, the baby who smears their dinner EVERYWHERE and the one currently emptying a bottle of juice on the clean floor (yep, that ones currently mine). They are all good. There is no such thing as a bad baby. And do they sleep well? What sort of question even is that? 90% of babies haven’t got the memo about sleep and if your child is waking up 1, 2, 10 times a night, they are not broken. You are not a shit parent. You do not have to let your baby cry it out if you don’t want to. You do not have to “place your baby down to awake so they learn to self soothe” if you don’t want to. Fun fact – babies aren’t pre programmed to self soothe. Needing comforting is normal for babies, they shouldn’t be sleeping through by x, y or z age. Every baby is different! Just like children masters potty training at different ages or when they wean from the breast or learn to feed themselves with a bottle. I don’t see how leaving a crying baby is soothing for anyone involved and it’s just never been the road I’ve felt I wanted to go down. I think it would honestly break me. Some babies just appear to be nocturnal and that’s NORMAL and TEMPORARY.
Trust me, I know the exhaustion is fucking painfully crippling most days. I am constantly tired. I have a chronic illness with makes me tired anyway so I’m tired squared. I feel like walking dog shit most days and my baby rarely goes to sleep before midnight but guess what? I’m not a shit Mum. I am not lazy for not wanting to sleep train her. She is not bad. She is not a problem that needs to be fixed. So to the Mums who don’t want to sleep train or who have and it hasn’t worked or those who have babies that just don’t fucking sleep- you are not shit.
The crippling exhaustion isn’t forever. One day you will be looking back at this when they’re in high school and you’re having to drag them out of bed and oh how you shall laugh. I know I will. And probably cry too because I will be knocking on 36 by then and I swear I have seen grey hairs already so fuck knows what I will look like in 10 years time.
Basically, do whatever feels right for you and your family and don’t feel pressured into doing things you aren’t comfortable with because other people attempt to make you feel inadequate. Other people are not you and other babies are not yours. You are not obliged to take the advise of your Gran, your Mum, your Mother in Law, random internet stranger or the miserable health visitor lady. Do your own research, figure out what’s best for your baby; You gotta do what you gotta do.
So, if your baby has you up 60 times or sleeps the whole night through; you are doing fab and you are a badass motherfucker and your baby loves you, the end.
*Disclaimer – if you have used sleep training and it’s worked/ you’re happy with that then awesome sauce. No judgement here. It’s just not for me <3