Friday 28 October 2011

Co-Sleeping.... a mothers choice?

 I apologise that this isn't really a post about 'penny pinching' but this issue has been around the media today in response to research just out that controversially suggests, 'babies should sleep in mother's bed until age three.' So everyone seems to have something to say about this from the TV, to the papers and the social networking sites , and anyone with access to a computer who can comment on these sites. I've seen some comments today that have rather shocked and even upset me. So I felt compelled to share my own thoughts on the subject. Those of you who read my facebook page will see that we've had a nice friendly discussion on there today but I wanted to go in to a little more detail than facebook would allow...

I didn't think I was the type to co-sleep, I'm a restless sleeper and it took me long enough to get used to sharing my bed with my other half never mind a baby too! I also used to be quite a heavy sleeper, but I think that changes when you have children, I now wake up completely just from hearing my son cough in his sleep in the other room!

With Ben I never considered co-sleeping, he was never a bad sleeper really, and was sleeping through from a few months old. Like me, he was a very wriggly sleeper and when he was poorly and came into bed with us for hugs I could never sleep at all as he used to constantly kick me, I often waited for him to go to sleep then left him with Daddy and went off to sleep in his bed!

However things were rather different with my daughter. When Elizabeth was born she was a very clingy baby and never settled properly in her moses basket. (We still have M&P moses basket that has been slept in twice!) The only way she was comfortable sleeping was with me, and unless I was happy to sit or stand up all night holding her then the only way I was going to get any sleep was bringing her in to the 'big' bed with us. I have to admit I quite liked it, It felt special that we were inseparable for those first few weeks. As the weeks wore on it became apparent that this worked for us so we moved the unused moses basket out of the room and got a Co-Sleeper cot which slides up against the bed and provides extra space (although I have to admit she doesn't spend much time actually in it!)

As the months passed the inevitable question started to be asked by other mums.... 'Does she sleep through yet?' When I answered, 'no she still feeds a few times during the night' I would get pitying looks until I followed up with, 'But she doesn't really disturb me much as we co-sleep' The pity turned to surprise and disapproval and I even had some quite upsetting comments implying I was putting my baby in unnecessary danger!

This upset me and It became one of those pieces of information I didn't volunteer, If directly asked I would gladly admit that we shared a bed, but I would tend to avoid the topic if it looked like it was being approached. (I guess it's a little bit like admitting to still breastfeeding my daughter at almost 1 but that's another story...)

Today I have read a lot of ill-informed and ignorant comments surrounding this subject and it shouldn't surprise me in this country where not only is the topic jumped upon by the media at every opportunity as a 'dangerous act of irresponsible parents', but even those who we rely up for advice such as midwives or health visitors are 'officially' against it. But why is this? In the majority of cultures around the world co-sleeping is the norm until a baby is weaned from the breast, and in some such as Japan it is normal practice for a family to sleep together until the teenaged years. Although the National childbirth Trust recognises that if safely done it can be beneficial for nursing mothers to share a bed with their babies, the FSID still advices against it.

Should it not be up to a mother to make an informed decision on how and where she feels is best for both her and her child to sleep?

There are of course situations where co-sleeping can be dangerous and parents need to be made aware of these, but not in the form of scaremongering.

Dare I say this attitude that the UK as a whole has towards co-sleeping makes me wonder whether there is a connection to us having one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in this country?
My daughter is approaching one and I am proud to say she was in the just 1 per cent of babies in this country who were exclusively breastfed at six months old, she is still breastfed and will be until she is ready to wean. However I cannot confidently say that we would be in the same situation if we were sleeping separately and I had to get up to feed her multiple times every night. Unfortunately I was not as successful with feeding Ben and resorted to formula at 3 months (a decision I have since regretted) For myself and Elizabeth co-sleeping has definitely helped our breastfeeding journey.

Don't get me wrong Co-sleeping is not for everyone, it is a personal choice and if a mother is uncomfortable sleeping with her baby then neither of them are going to have a good nights sleep. But for breastfeeding mothers, who don't smoke, drink or take medication it is an option that should not be dismissed just because this country has a negative attitude towards it. The research that has grabbed the media's attention today suggests that babies and mother's get a better nights sleep together, that they bond better and even that brain development can be affected negatively by separation when sleeping apart. I cannot comment on the brain development side of things but I can certainly say that both myself and Elizabeth get a better nights sleep than we would if we were separated.

There are some negatives of course, but they are relative. I have now learnt to fit my body into a very limited space between my diagonal daughter and curled up husband. And speaking of the 'other half,' sharing our bed with a little person does limit our 'personal' time together but we manage...

I believe that co-sleeping can be safe if done correctly, and although it is not suited to every family, for some it can provide a better nights sleep, can help with a difficult breastfeeding journey and can be the right choice for both mother and child...


  1. Loved reading this. Very sensible advice and you shouldn;t feel ashamed or reluctant to admit to co-sleeping in any way. I breastfed my eldest until two and a half when he bit me with 16 teeth and almost bit my nipple off. He wasn;t ready to stop feeding then, but I was. My youngest weaned himself off at 14 and a half months. I find it very sad that this country has such a low breastfeeding rate. Thanks for sharing your story and happy co-sleeping x

  2. I have no problems with mothers who wish to co-sleep whith their child as i did for the 1st 6 mnths with my daughter, although it made it really difficult to get her out of our bed and into a cot so she went into a big bed (with bed guards) at 13 months, she still didnt sleep through until she was 2 though!!! but when we had my son i was determined not to have him in the bed just so that it would be easier in the long run, on saying that i now regret it as when he is up due to being poorly or teething he doesnt settle in our bed and would rather me hold him standing up!!! which is a killer on the arms and back, so now at 18 months and still only having 5 teeth we have decided to get him a single bed to go in his room so that when he is poorly or teething i can go and sleep in his room rather than desturbing my hubby who works long hours. you should feel bad about your decisions, she is your child and like EVERYONE say YOU know them best :o) x

  3. I really enjoyed reading this, I have breastfed all 3 of my children. My little boy for 17 months, little girl till she was over 2 and I'm still breastfeeding my 3 month old baby and I will continue until she decides otherwise. All of my children have been in my room for at least the first year and a half in a cot next to my bed. Each of them have had different sleep paterns, my little boy was every two hours for 15 months, my 3 month old has been sleeping through for a while now but my little girl slept at first then hit 6 months and woke every hour and a half. I have never felt the need to co sleep because Its just not for me, I sleep better on my own. My poor hubby gets kicked out to the spare room quite a lot too. I have a few friends who co sleep and have done very sucessful. I think this time with our babies goes so quick that it is our choice how we want to do things, we know them best and whats best for them. This is a very positive post, it's just a shame that we feel like we have to defend ourselves for breastfeeding over 6 months or co-sleeping. XxX

  4. I agree with above. It wasnt for me although my 5 year old son has probably spent at least half of his nights ending up in bed with me!!! I breastfed him til he was 13 months and am surprised that in this country the attitude towards breastfeeding is so bad. None of my friends did which did surprise me. However, having said that, I havent read the article myself but heard about it. Wasnt the research done on only 16 children though? If true that is hardly good research!

  5. All my 4 children where breast fed up until around 18 months old and all slept in bed with me,I was always aware of them being there. when i had my first child, as soon as he had a feed and i put him back into the cot he would scream, this wasnt a one off, this happened all the time, he just would not settle, It made me have a good thing about breast feeding and that if he had formula at least the hubby could take his turn throughout the night. I so didnt want to give up though so one night i brough him into our bed, and not only did i manage to get some sleep but so did the baby, he had never slept so well, and from that moment i never looked back!

  6. I used to breastfeed my daughter in bed and we would doze together for a while but I could never really sleep with her there. As she got older it was easier and she still gets in with us at age 7. My son was different- terrible reflux and in great pain when lying flat. He has never slept in our bed and even at age 2 he still refuses to lie in it. The next baby- who knows? I like the idea of co-sleeping but I like the babies to have their own space too. Both of mine were in their own room by 6 weeks as we all slept better. Never say never though!
    ps visiting via BYOBH

  7. I breastfed all mine and when they were really little they were always spending a good proportion of time in our bed, I used to feed them and put them in the moses basket by the bed, at the start of the night, then when they woke i would bring them in with me and we'd sleep the remaining of the night together... my eldest two i weaned at around 9 months from the breast and it was then they stopped coming in bed with us, my youngest however self weaned around 18 months and he had his cot in our room til he was 3, and would quite often creep into our bed at night, now he des tend to sleep through in his own bed in his own room, I think you do whatever feels best for you :) x


I love to read your comments, thank you for sharing your thoughts.