I read all the books, I thought I had prepared myself mentally for some of the challenges that a new baby and being a first time mother would bring. I knew my baby would always be in bed by 7pm. I knew that I wouldn’t sleep with him in my bed. I knew that I wouldn’t rock him to sleep. I knew I would love to let him fall asleep on me but I would stay strong and make him learn to sleep in his cot. That is how it’s meant to be done, that’s what we’ve been taught is the right way.
There is no right way.
Aidan usually sleeps pretty well and doesn’t make too much of a fuss when we put him in his cot. Some days are worse than other though. Most mornings he wakes at 8:30 and has a two hour nap just before lunch and a short half hour nap in the afternoon. He’s in bed by 8:30 but sometimes that’s not how it goes to plan. He also has a bit of knack for waking up at 2am, whether it’s for a bottle, a drink of water or just a snuggle. He’s been sick lately and he’s breaking through his molars so it’s altered his “pattern” but all in all I’m glad he gets as much sleep as he does.
When he was waking at all hours of the night (like last night) and he completely fought me the entire time I felt like I was a failure. I felt like I’d let the books down. I felt like I’d failed Aidan by not training him to sleep properly. Now doesn’t that sound stupid! I mean sleep is one of the most natural functions of the human body, from the moment he was conceived is was what he did best… why did I think I had the right to tamper with it? For my own convenience? Because someone who wrote a book and had never met me or my child, made generalised assumptions?
I was all about the books when I was pregnant. I wanted my birth to go a certain way. I wanted him to breastfeed for 12 months no matter what. When he was born I was all about following milestones and got a little freaked out if he didn’t reach them when other children did. Is that the kind of mother I wanted to be… no. I wanted to be calm, serene and nurturing. I want to let my son know he’s loved and accepted even if he’s not a text book baby, even if things don’t go to plan.
The only reason any of us got any sleep last night was because he slept with me, in our bed, skin against skin. He felt like crap and didn’t want to be alone and I didn’t blame him but I still fought it. I was determined for him to follow the rules, to not let him manipulate us into bringing him into our bed. How crazy is that! The more and more I think about it, the more and more co-sleeping makes sense. At the moment we’re treading on a fine line between co-sleeping and him falling asleep in his cot.
Since he was 3 months old I napped with Aidan in my bed during the day but he’d sleep at night in his cot. Then at 6 months he started waking up at 6am and I would stagger into his room, pick him up and take him back to bed with me and we’d sleep together for a further 3 hours. This morning ritual has been every day since. He doesn’t want a bottle or go to the potty or have his nappy changed, he just wants to sleep with his mumma. What’s so wrong with that?
The main reason I initially didn’t want to co-sleep on any level was because we selfishly thought it would kill our sex life. To me sex is a huge part of who we are as individuals and it’s another form of communication to express how we feel about ourselves and each other. For that to be compromised in any way was terrifying to me. Our family found a balance that worked for us, Aidan happily goes to sleep in his cot in the evening and Steve and I have time alone. If he wakes during the night and comes to our bed he sleeps between us and instantly drifts off. Sometimes we transfer him back to his bed, other times we don’t and we just enjoy nuzzling together in our little nest.
I’ll admit it’s taken some time to change this thought pattern. To come to my senses and realise that I know what’s best. Sure I still take all I’ve learnt from books into account but ultimately I go with my instincts. I still have much to learn and I’ll continue to everyday but I have greater faith in my capabilities as a mother.