I meant to blog about this when i actually changed it, but i had a migraine and my only defence against migraines is just to go to sleep in a dark room ASAP so off i went and totally forgot all about it.
I had initially entitled our blog "Once upon a time..." but i decided our life isn't very fairytale-esque (although we have had more than our share of wicked step-parents i think!) So i have gone for a nursery rhyme theme instead, and quite an accurate one, as life in our house is a bit like a game of "musical beds" at times...
Both Rudy and Toby spend time in the big bed with us and occasionally either Chris or i spend time in Toby's bed too. Only Rudy's "bed" (the co-sleeper) is off limits to anyone but him really and that's only because of a weight-restriction issue, otherwise i'm sure Toby would be up for a snooze in it! Although Chris did wake up the other morning to find Toby sprawled in the middle of the bed and me and Rudy sideways and i had my head and shoulders in the co-sleeper!
And all this from a couple who never intended to co-sleep at all!
I think we always knew we would be AP-ish parents, before we'd even conceived Toby we'd talked about using cloth nappies and wearing our future babies in a papoose (love that word! But yes, i meant sling!) We fell in love with the idea of a co-sleeping crib as soon as we knew such a thing existed. We were at "The Baby Show" in Birmingham when i was around 14 weeks pregnant with Toby and we saw an American lady with this product we'd never seen before- an "Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper" Just five minutes and a few stands earlier i'd been coo-ing over swinging cribs but suddenly that became unimportant, what she was saying made all kinds of sense- we wanted our baby right next to us. So when Chris's Dad asked us what they could buy for us for the new arrival, we knew what to ask for straight away and sure enough a few weeks before Toby was born our co-sleeper arrived and many hours and rude-words later Chris had assembled it and attached it to our bed- hurray!
For the first three weeks of Toby's life, night-times passed as follows:
Chris and Rebecca get into bed
Chris falls asleep
Rebecca feeds Toby, burps Toby, feeds Toby some more, burps Toby
Places Toby in co-sleeper and settles him back to sleep
Toby falls asleep
Rebecca falls asleep
20 minutes later Toby wakes up for more milk please
Rebecca picks Toby out of co-sleeper and feeds Toby, burps Toby, feeds Toby some more, burps Toby
Toby does a big poo, Rebecca changes his nappy
Toby now has space for more milk please
Rebecca feeds Toby, burps Toby, feeds Toby some more, burps Toby
Toby is sick
Rebecca changes Toby's clothing and possibly her own
Rebecca places Toby in co-sleeper and settles him back to sleep
Toby falls asleep
Rebecca falls asleep
20 minutes later...
You see where i am going with this right?!
The only real variation was that occasionally i'd poke/nudge/shout/kick Chris awake, annoyed that he was sleeping and i wasn't!
I was utterly exhausted, i couldn't see straight, i couldn't think straight, i would often "catch" myself dozing off holding Toby and be terrified that one of these days (or should i say, nights!) i wouldn't catch myself falling asleep and would fall into a deep slumber and either drop or suffocate him. I knew there had to be some other way and it turns out there is!
Co-sleeping has a terrible press, certainly in this country anyway. Health care professionals are forever warning against it and i should know- because i'm one of them! Part of my job is to give "safe sleeping advice" to the parents i come into contact with through my job and current UK guidelines are that "the safest place for baby is in it's own cot, in your room" so that's the line i have to give.
Recently though (and this is very recently) we have new leaflets at work to give to parents who are considering co-sleeping which advises them how to do it safely and in what circumstances they should definitely not do it. That was of no use to me though, back in December 2009!
I came across the idea of co-sleeping as in bed-sharing (rather than having baby in a side-car crib) in a book i had bought called "The Food of Love" by Kate Evans (It's a fantastic book, and one which i intend to buy for every new Mum i know!) It turns out there was a lot i didn't know, such as the fact that whilst it is reported that incidents of SIDS are higher where baby has been co-sleeping, those figures include babies that have died from SIDS whilst sofa sleeping (which is a big no-no) and also there is no accounting for risk factors, such as babies who were bedsharing who's parents were smokers or under the influence of alcohol for example. To sum up- statistics lie! Or rather, they don't lie but they never give the full picture. If we look at wider society, the incidence of SIDS is actually much lower in countries where co-sleeping is the norm, for e.g. in China.
The first night we slept with Toby in our bed i didn't know any of this. I knew nothing other than that i was tired. Tired to my very core and my baby needed to feed, so i lay down on my side, i shoved my pillow up to the top of the bed and the duvet down to the bottom, i covered us both with a blanket, began to feed and let my eyes close...
That was the beginning of a very special journey. A few days (and co-sleeping nights) later, i decided if we were going to do this, this "crazy" thing we'd never contemplated, and had heard could be dangerous, then we really needed to do some research and find out how we could make it safe for our baby.
And that's when it got interesting. Because when you look at the facts and figures and the differences in sleep traditions for babies across the globe, it soon becomes clear that safe co-sleeping is actually as safe as, or indeed, safer than any of the other options. There are guidelines as with anything, and there are times when bed sharing is really not a good idea (like on a waterbed for example! Or when one of you has had a few beers).
So after all the reading and researching and after a few decent nights of sleeping next to our baby, it made sense that that's where he and we should stay, and we became a full-time co-sleeping family from then until Toby was around 3 months old. At which point we technically became a part-time co-sleeping family, as he decided he no longer wanted to spend his evenings snoozing/feeding downstairs whilst we sat on the sofa watching TV but would instead prefer to actually "go to bed"
So we followed his cues and began what became a long-standing routine, of taking him upstairs around 6/7pm, feeding him on our bed and then carefully transferring him into his co-sleeper crib, where he would remain for a few hours until his hungry tummy woke him (and us) usually between 10.30pm and midnight (although occasionally i'd be pleasantly surprised to discover it was actually 1 or 2am when he started to stir)
I guess our co-sleeping journey with Toby hasn't officially ended as he does still frequent our bed but it's no longer a nightly occurence as it once was, ever since we swapped his cot for a regular single bed when he was 17 months old he's been much happier to spend the whole night in it, i don't think he ever really liked those bars to be honest.
Anyway, that's perhaps another topic for another time, i really only wanted to explain our new blog title and look how much i have gone on already! If anyone does want to do further reading i'd definitely recommend Deborah Jackson's "Three in a bed" as a starting off point.
We've come a long way in our co-sleeping expedition, initially wary voyagers we have long since fully embraced the landscape we find ourselves in- we've had elbows in kidneys and feet in faces and our bottom bed sheet rarely matches the rest of the bedding as it has to cope with baby drool, vomit and the occasional nappy leak. I think i can speak for both Chris and myself when i say some nights it would be nice to get into an empty bed and for it to stay just the two of us for the whole night, but most nights it's lovely and from a personal point of view, i'm just a big fan of anything that means i don't have to spend the long cold night hours sitting up trying to stay awake to feed an apparently nocturnal baby!
I know that this early weeks, months and years pass quickly and soon the boys will be saying they're too "grown up" for cuddles from their Mama, so i figure i should just make the most of the snuggles while i can!
Last night Chris was in work and it was my first evening on my own with the boys in a while (over a month) I was nervous all afternoon about how it would go and not at all convinced i'd be able to get them both to bed without lots of tears and stress...but actually it was absolutely fine!
We headed up early and i skipped Toby's usual bath/shower and just helped him with a wash and to brush his teeth, then Rudy watched while i got Toby's pjs on, then Toby looked at some books and had cuddles with Foxy while i fed Rudy. I then put Rudy (happy but not sleepy) in his co-sleeper and gave Toby his bottle and he was so happy to be allowed to sleep in Mummy and Daddy's bed he fell asleep pretty much straight away! By that point Rudy was grumbling about being tired and not having any attention so i then fed him to sleep and put him back in his co-sleeper. I then got to sit in bed with a gorgeous boy on each side of me and read my kindle and have a mug of hot chocolate :) What a lucky Mama i am!
Rudy woke up for another feed shortly after so i put my kindle away and ended up falling asleep myself afterwards. Chris got home late to find us all snuggled up together in the bed and decided rather than disturb anyone he would spend the night on the sofa! I did point out to him today that Toby's bed was free but he contests that Toby's bumpy single bed would actually be less comfy than the sofa (i disagree)
Tonight everyone is asleep in the "correct" place (so far anyway!) but that's a pretty unusual occurrence!
So now you know what the title is about anyway, there really are four in the bed sometimes! And in a feat that defies the very laws of physics, despite not being physically the smallest by a long way, i somehow end up being the one who takes up the least space?! Hence "The little one" part! ;)