Sleeping baby seen from crib height, behind it...

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Our co-sleeping journey is getting interesting at the moment. We didn’t co-sleep with our first child – I kind of liked the idea of the family bed but didn’t know enough to overcome my doubts about the practicalities. But by the time our second son came along I had read more, from experts and other mums, and was more convinced about the benefits of co-sleeping. Also our lack of space meant the baby would have to stay in our room longer than he would last in a Moses basket so it became a more practical solution.

So far I have really enjoyed co-sleeping. It took a while to discover the benefits – mostly because feeding issues meant it was many months before I was able to feed him while lying down. Then we went through a nice phase where he woke up to feed a couple of times in the night, I could just roll over and feed him back to sleep. But now he is six months old and teething so waking up to feed more often. And sometimes feeding isn’t enough to get him back to sleep. He’s also moving around a lot more so he doesn’t stay nicely in the bedside cot where I put him down. Soon he’ll be able to sit up and then pull himself up so we are going to have to explore other options to keep him safe.

I keep reading forum posts from other co-sleeping mums who have toddlers who feed all night long and am wondering whether that is in our future too – and if so, did I make the right decision to co-sleep? On top of this, our three-year-old seems to have decided to embrace the family bed concept and comes in to join us most nights now. I love feeling him snuggled up beside me but our bed really isn’t big enough for four and getting a bigger one is not an option right now. So I’m feeling a bit at a crossroads when it comes to co-sleeping – it is supposed to mean everyone gets more sleep but at the moment the opposite is true.

As often happens in life, just when I am questioning my decision, several links have come my way that help me see that what I am doing is right, and give me the strength to keep going.

Firstly: this Reflections on Motherhood video which was featured on the PhD in Parenting blog. Mums were asked what they would tell themselves if they could go back to right before they had their first child.

The ones that stood out for me were “Millions of parents survive sleep deprivation”, “Nobody really knows what they’re doing” and “Forgive yourself”.

I’m repeating these over and over in my head today.

Secondly: this anthropological take of breastfeeding and co-sleeping. As a Developmental Biologist I am always fascinated by anthropological studies, especially those looking at the effects of the rapid development of modern life compared with the very slow pace of human evolution. As far as our genes and biology is concerned we are still hunter-gatherers living in caves. This essay discusses the gulf between our cultural expectations and our babies’ biological expectations particularly in relation to sleeping and feeding. I might come back to discuss this more in a future post as I’d like to say a lot more than I have time for today.

Finally: Co-sleeping safely at The Stir. 9 co-sleeping rules – I think we do a pretty good job of following all of these! Mostly they are common sense but it is good to read through them and remind myself that we are doing the right thing.