Before Anja was born, I slept with Lena in my bed until she was nearly two. So I've had nearly four years of sharing my bed with a little one. I didn't sleep with the boys though, although I'd thought about it for a while with Mahe, I just couldn't get my head around that idea at that stage. I wasn't sure that it was safe, and of course you're always told that it's not a good idea. Instead, I spent months and months, getting up with him, at some points as much as hourly, and sitting out in a freezing cold lounge, feeding him and trying to stay awake. I always say that Mahe was my worst sleeper, and as he didn't sleep through until he was well over two, so I suppose that is fair, although I do wonder if I'd taken the plunge to put him into our bed, then I would have got far more sleep.
With Lena, I'd reached the point that I was falling asleep feeding her in any case, and with two other children to look after during the day, I needed to do something. It seemed to be sensible to make sure that I was doing it safely and because I wanted to, rather than falling asleep with her without intending, and so I set everything up, and put her in our bed. She still fed a lot at night, but overall I got far more sleep. When Anja came along, I didn't even think twice about it, and she joined me in our bed from nearly the very beginning. She had her own crib, which I used for naps, but more often than not, sleeping, meant sleeping with me.
Just the other day I happened upon an article on Yahoo, 'One Mum's controversial approach to getting her kid to sleep' I had a quick read of the article, expecting something a little unusual at the very least, only to find that it was nothing more than her six year old sleeping with her. What stood out more than anything was this confession:
“I do not choose to sleep with my child every night because I am some New-Age, clingy mother who feels it is best for his development,” writes Kemp, author of the novels “Mums Like Us” and “Mums on Strike.” “I do it because it upsets him too much to be away from me and — if I’m really honest — I adore it, too.”
What amused me most about that, was that she thought that there was some difference there. There are studies that say that it's better for a child's development to sleep with their parents, but really the reason that parents choose to sleep with their children, new-age types or not, it's simply because it's what works for them and their children.
It's quite sad really that something that humans have been doing for centuries, and in many cultures around the world could be considered controversial. When the practice of training a baby to sleep by abandoning them to cry could not only be not considered controversial advice, but be fairly mainstream.
Of course, this is one of the many things that parents are told that they mustn't do, as they'll be making a 'rod for their own back' implying that they are somehow bad parents for doing these things, damaging their children by these choices. It's easy to forget how hard the early days of parenthood can be, sleep deprived and emotional, and really, I honestly think that you do what you need to in order to get through. Later on, once you've found your rhythm it's easier to address these things, if they need addressing. All children grow out of the need to wake in the night, or have you close by eventually, and in the big scheme of things it's such a short period of time. So, although I'm under no illusions that Anja is about to start sleeping through every night, I know that one day soon she will, so for now I'll make the most of our midnight cuddles.