Note from Naomi: Today's post is a guest post from Rebecca, a fellow mummy blogger who has been blogging for three years over at The Ish Mother. She is a wonderful mother to her five year old daughter and ten month old son, parenting alongside her husband. She has written a guest post for me today, about how her parenting style changed when it came to how her children slept! Make sure you check out her blog over at The Ish Mother.
I sometimes feel like my first child was the Alpha Test.
That sounds bad doesn’t it?
However I often found that - when I got to the end of one stage with my first - my thoughts would turn to my hypothetical second child; and what I would do differently with them.
I guess this is natural. With our first, we’re learning by trial and error, and - let’s face it - - getting it wrong more than we’d like.
Of course, when the second comes along everything is different anyway – it’s another baby with its own temperament, and you have to divide yourself between two kids.
Since my second child came along in March 2016 (when number one was 4 and a bit) I’ve noticed that my parenting is different. I’ve learnt from the Alpha Test and tweaked things. Subtly sometimes, other times more obviously.
Like sleeping. With my first, the fear of God was well and truly put into me by the Health Visitor when it came to co-sleeping. I’d previously considered it, but when faced with official guidance which is a checklist of don’ts rather than advice on how to do it safely and a Health Visitor saying, “if you’re going to do it, don’t,” I panicked. My daughter started out in a crib next to the bed, moved to a cot in our room then went into her own room at 7 months.
Now, I don’t think any of this was the wrong thing to do, but for years I wondered if it was the wrong thing for us. For her.
The first eight weeks of her life were hellish as I grappled with severe sleep deprivation and I wondered if I’d have got more sleep if we’d shared a bed. She was a slow feeder and had reflux so I had to hold her up for 30 minutes after her feeds.
I would stay vigilantly awake through this time then put her back in her cot – only for her to wake up again. If I’d co-slept, maybe I could have dozed through the feed and kept her asleep afterwards?
The night wakings stopped at 3 months but started again at 5 months and didn’t stop again until she was 3.5 years old. All that time I had to get out of bed to fetch her from her cot. Maybe if we’d co-slept those night feeds wouldn’t have felt so disruptive – I could have fed her in my sleep.
I also worried about the emotional impact of our choice. I’m broadly speaking an Attachment Parent, and I know that co-sleeping is considered an important part of AP, so I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing it. Was I undermining our attachment? Did she feel abandoned?
When I got pregnant again I knew I wanted to co-sleep, but was still anxious about the risks. So we opted for a half-and-half approach. He started out in a small co-sleeper cot then progressed to the cot bed with one side off and up against our bed. That way I can keep his sleeping space clear of pillows and duvet but stay comfortable myself, and I’m in easy reach for feeds and cuddles.
My second is 10 months now and I’m so glad we co-sleep because he’s a worse sleeper than his sister! Sometimes he’ll sleep in his own space for longish periods (never more than 3 hours) but usually he wants to be near me. He has reflux too so until recently I still had to sit up to feed him and hold him upright, but it’s improving now so I can feed lying down and doze.
Even when I sat up to feed I could prop myself up safely so I could doze and he wouldn’t be at risk of slipping or being covered. So even though he’s a terrible sleeper, I’m probably still getting more sleep than I did with my first. Except during those beautiful two months of sleeping through. How I wish he’d followed that pattern.
As for my first, do I still feel bad about not co-sleeping with her? A bit. I know we did what we thought was best at the time. She stayed in our room for longer than a lot of babies do, and we always went to her when she woke in the night.
We stayed with her while she fell asleep until she was 4 (which could take hours). So I’m confident that she knew (and still knows) that we’re there for her whenever she needs us, no matter what the time is. I feel mean telling her to go back to her own room when she wakes in the night now, but she’s not used to sleeping with other people now so doesn’t get back to sleep.
I suppose what I’m saying is that even if you change your mind about a certain parenting decision, that doesn’t make you a bad parent.
We all do our best with the information and experience we have. My daughter now falls asleep by herself before 8pm, stays asleep until around 6am most days, and is secure in the knowledge that we love her and are there for her.
My son is getting all the night-time parenting he needs right now and will grow out of needing quite so much feeding and cuddling. Hopefully sooner rather than later. All in all, I don’t think we’ve done a bad job with either of them when it comes to night-time!