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Cosleeping, Featured, Parenting

The Family Bed gets you more sleep (and other benefits)

27 April, 2016

Our family bed has grown alongside our children and our views on sleep. We began tentatively with just a king sized mattress, unsure of cosleeping but feeling in our gut we wanted to do it.

By the time our second child came along we had read Three in a Bed and quelled the myths of bed sharing danger and moved onto two doubles – we were in a campervan and me and the newborn took the upstairs and husband and Ramona took the bottom.

These days, with a three year old and a five year old and knowing we are partaking in a healthy, ancient sleep tradition, we all bunk together in a loft, with a super king and a single pushed together to make one enormous sleeping platform.

I’ve written much on our family bed – from the benefits of cosleeping to the practicalities of cosleeping but am only just now really coming round to the idea that cosleeping began as a Thing We Did, a thing I thought would last for a period, whereas the Family Bed is more of a concept that cosleeping has lead to. Are you with me?

Here are a few benefits of embracing the Family Bed as part of your parenting philosophy…The Family bed! Cosleeping and its many benefits

The Family Bed promotes sleep

Juno was poorly last night and woke a lot. At one point I came to and she was walking two fingers across the bridge of my nose and I heard her murmuring “Mummy wolf walks over the mountain… Baby wolf walks over the mountain…” Cuteness. But my point is that I was actually sleeping while she got comfort from my presence! Since sleep sharing I have had this idea that I’m getting more sleep than others,  that if I were to be getting up and down all night going to a cot, I would be far more exhausted than I currently am. And turns out, it’s not just a feeling. When cosleeping, although mother and baby wake more, they wake together, in rhythm, so that it ends up that the pair of them get more sleep. (Read more on this at Dr Momma.)

The Family Bed is a continuation of connection-focused daytime parenting

My primary aim as a mother is connection. I feel that if my children can trust me, communicate with me, feel secure in our relationship, then I know they can get through anything. They will have a resilience for life. This parenting philosophy carries on after sundown. They will feel my breathing as they stir from a bad dream, they will hear my validation as they murmur their upsets, all until they are ready not to. When I went back to work cosleeping was a way I could reconnect with toddler Ramona, even when I was away for long hours during the day. At that time I wrote:

“Ramona sleeps in the middle of the two of us, so if she wakes one of us can cuddle her back into dreamland. This time she woke up instantly, and gleefully, and she shouted “LEEEG! Where ARE YOUUUU? There you are! Other leg?! Where aaare youuuu?? FOUND you!”

Yes, YES, my friends. She was playing hide and seek with her limbs.

After stifling my giggles I stroked her head and she snuggled back down into a deep sleep.”

Such a minor thing, a 30 second interaction, but it was part of a bigger feeling. Despite being away all day I was still getting to know my toddler and all her beautiful. hilarious parts of her personality.

The Family Bed fosters a more trusting, less controlling attitude towards sleep

Until Ramona was a few months old, despite cosleeping, I still had a lot of anxiety about sleep. I had seen charts that said she ought to sleep from 7pm to 7am and had been told she shouldn’t nurse to sleep or stir in the night. Then I spent some time reading and reflecting and came to feel that I am not the boss of her sleep! I can create the conditions for sleep, but it is up to her if she wants to and for how long. In short, I came to trust her and it was the key to feeling about a billion time happier with bedtime and nighttime. (Read more on these approaches that led to happier sleep here.)

We get so hung up on “independent sleeping” that we coerce and manipulate and bribe and even threaten. We forget to say “We trust you to know when you are ready.”

For me the Family Bed seems to stand for that trust. It says “When you are ready for independence you’ll get your own bed- until then there is a space on this mattress with your name on it!”

The Family Bed is intentional, safe cosleeping

The Family Bed is a solid, practical thing. You have deliberately organised enough room for all of you to sleep safely together. There is no slumping on the sofa with your newborn because there isn’t enough room for you in her crib. There is no danger of suffocation or squashing, SIDS and the Family Bed are completely unrelated. (Please read my research packed post here about the safety of cosleeping and SIDS.)

If we can normalise the image of all the family hunkering down together it is far less likely that people will cobble together something unsafe, or collapse in exhaustion.

Read more from an “accidental attachment parenting” family – including a Dr daddy who came to believe in cosleeping as best. *not just for hippies*The benefits of the Family bed - cosleeping for five years!

Sometimes the girls find each other’s warmth in the middle of the night…

The Family Bed reasserts sleep as a collective activity

Our kids shouldn’t have to face their nightmares alone. In most of history they haven’t had to do that, yet modernity seems to think it is a good idea! It has been normal for the longest time to sleep together in one room, not just families, but sometimes whole communities (don’t worry husband, I’m not suggesting that…)

Historically, nighttime has been a vulnerable situation for humans, so doing it together meant more protection. This emotional/ DNA memory is still within us on some level, making us feel stressed or fearful in the dark or scared of shadows. It’s totally natural. It’s understandable that kids feel terror at night, and entirely sensible that being together makes for a far less stressful night. (And, y’know, science etc – Babies that cosleep produce less cortisol – the stress hormone- than their isolated buddies.)

Last week I heard about the term the Japanese use for cosleeping, where the Family Bed is the norm until kids are quite old; it is “Kawa”. Kawa is the same character used for a river cascading between between two banks; they see parents as the strong, supportive edges, the life-giving river child flowing through them.

So, the truth it, hand on heart, I didn’t think that half a decade into parenting I’d be crashed out in bed with my husband, two tiny bodies between us. But here we are, and I’d have it no other way.

PS Little video on cosleeping – including EXCLUSIVE footage of our own massive, messy Family Bed… (Yeah, I am TOTALLY wishing I had made it properly right now. But. Y’know. Just keeping it real.)

Attachment parenting, Babywearing, Breastfeeding, Cosleeping, Featured, Parenting

5 inspiring Breastfeeding Images that normalise nursing

1 April, 2016

I am always delighted when I stumble across breastfeeding images and attachment parenting in historical photos or art. It seems to affirm a strong belief of mine- that society’s discomfort at public breastfeeding and other intuitive forms of parenting is a modern phenomenon.

Allow these breastfeeding images to be a salve on the wound caused by the public shaming of breastfeeding mothers.

Some of history’s best artists and the world’s most sophisticated fine art deal with the beautiful act of nursing – try fitting the word “tramp” in to some of these situations.

Come and take a stroll through some of my absolute favourite natural parenting paintings by some of my favourite artists…Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

La Maternite
Auguste Renoir

I love the everyday scenario of a mother perched on a wall to respond to her baby’s need. I feel like her eyes have the oxytocin glaze, that relaxed kind of high breastfeeding can sometimes produce.

Artist Stella Mertens says “Renoir – eternal continuity- this flesh remains bound to this flesh; monument to hope and love created by your genius.”

This image challenges those who say breastfeeding should be kept behind closed doors, that it is not to be done in public. Renoir’s breastfeeding image says “Anywhere the baby needs to be fed!”

The Three Ages of Life: Detail
Gustav Klimt

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Oh, Klimt. A hero of mine depicting a passion of mine. Look at the connection between mother and child here! The vulnerability and the trust between them. There is a peace here in this deepest of sleeps; the contentedness of cosleeping.

The challenge here is for those who believe mother and child need to be separated at night. This is not “normal” for much of the world! Sleeping entwined, with ready access to breastfeeding is a beautiful thing for both mother and child, and has been for millennia.

Mother and Child
Jose Orozco

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

One of the first things strangers often remark when they see my large baby on back is “Gosh, you must have a strong back!” As if it is a hardship. I love this picture as it perfectly shows that babywearing is no hardship, no maternal sacrifice. There is pleasure here. A woman able to work, to create, while nurturing a child. The child is intrigued – mother is opening doors to the world and the child is in the perfect place to discover it all.

This mother’s breasts here feel like the tools that they are! The instruments of motherhood, rather than anything to be objectified. This breastfeeding image normalises the presence of breasts in everyday life.

Utamao Breastfeeding - Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Breastfeeding images that normalise nursing

Young Mother Giving Milk to Her Son
1753 – 1806 (Woodcut undated)

This baby is guzzling like a champion and he has that look on his face that nursing babies often get – a sort of pride at nailing this breastfeeding business. I love the delight on the mother’s face and I love that these are expressions that have crossed the faces of millions of nursing mothers and babies over the course of history.

There is something of an older child’s knowing in this rascal’s face, perhaps an agelessness. It isn’t historically, or globally, normal to constantly ask mothers after 3 months of nursing “when are you weaning him?” When the child is done, that is when! My own photos of breastfeeding my two older children are here.

Utamaro, what a legend.

Stanisław Wyspiański
19055 images that normalise breastfeeding

It’s that artist, you know, Stanisław Wyspiański, whose name just rolls off the tongue. Hehe.

The thing I love about “Motherhood” is the expressions on all the faces. There isn’t really much romanticising of breastfeeding here! (Which I would hate to do.) Breastfeeding for me was surprisingly painful. In fact, despite knowing many breastfeeders, having huge support, having been breastfed and having read billions of books about the importance of breastfeeding there was a day early on where I thought “I CANNOT DO THIS” – it was too painful. I was shocked and even a bit hurt, emotionally. It seems a common part of the breastfeeding journey. A deep need to concentrate, to work at it, to push through until you arrive at the place where it really comes naturally. I feel like of all the breastfeeding images I have chosen, this one sums that up! There is a sort of desperate hope in the mother’s expression, and an intrigue from her friends (or La Leche league support team) that could almost make this painting be captioned “That’s it, good latch there mama!”

I would love to hear about your favourite breastfeeding images.

Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Cosleeping

Co sleeping with toddler: The good and the bad

24 March, 2016

Co sleeping with toddler age kiddies is a bit of a mixed bag. In the middle of the night a few days ago Ramona shuffled over to Tim, climbed up so her bum was right in his face and did a whopping toot. Then she clambered back down to her spot and returned to sleep. Oh, how Tim and I didst laugh- the timing was impeccable.

Farts- when it comes to making a list of pros and cons of co sleeping with toddler or baby – where do they come? No one likes little clouds of excrement in their nostrils but the comical effect of tiny bottom coughs are right up there. It is a dilemma, for sure. I’ll have to leave it hanging in the midst there.

Now, we always knew we would cosleep. We didn’t even buy a crib. (Read about this beautiful family who came round to the idea of co sleeping – Thalia has a whole series on their co sleeping process!) And I have to say, the good side has always, since day one, outweighed the bad. You can read all my writing on co sleeping here.

Here is the rest of my sleeping with toddler


  • My toddler’s morning kisses are definitely number one. Ramona wakes up, stretches and immediately finds my face for a kiss, as if she is so stoked to begin a new day with me as her mummy.
  • I am with her through her dreams and nightmares. Co sleeping allows me to hear her giggle in her sleep and I equally love that when she whimpers with fright or discomfort she somehow knows I am just a breath away.
  • Co sleeping provided another way for Tim to be with her through my maternity leave when he wasn’t getting to hang out with her nearly as much as me. There is a BEAUTY article here where a cosleeping daddy shares his thoughts.
  • Co sleeping has eased my transition back to part time work as I get to make up for any missed cuddles throughout the night. Just breathing in her hair as I go to sleep helps me to treasure her right now, in this very moment.
  • We didn’t have to spend any money on a baby room and crib. Our spare room is just a dumping ground spare room complete with double bed.
  • I like to think toddler co sleeping has given Ramona a real security around night times, that she will always associate bed time with comfort and met needs rather than being alone.
  • I am able to keep in touch with her potty needs, aware of her nightly wee rhythm and giving her chance to pee as soon as she needs it.


  • Unlimited, non stop access to her milk source! Mostly this is fine, she only  helps her self one or two times a night and it isn’t enough to really wake either of us, but sometimes, like last night, it is NONSTOP and well, drives me a little, er, insane.
  • If Ramona wees the bed it is a whole load in the washing machine rather than a tiny little crib change.


Toddler co sleeping truth

Amazing illustration of toddler co sleeping postions on

(things about toddler co sleeping that should be bad but aren’t really)

  • I definitely thought Ramona’s movement would bother us a bit more. We are pretty fortunate that she actually doesn’t shuffle around at all. When our little nephew used to come and stay he would Jazz Hand us ALL NIGHT and we vowed to never have our kiddies in bed!
  • A few people have mentioned the lack of marital space which I agree I thought initially would be an issue for us. However I don’t really have those distinctions in my mind – “Tim and I”/ “Ramona” – I just kind of see us as one little family, sharing everything and doing life all together. We make an effort to spend a day alone together every now and then, and
  • I also thought I would struggle with Ramona’s lack of “sleep independance” but since her arrival I have had a total turn around on this and instead feel like it is just natural for her to need the comfort of us for a while.

I really love hearing stories of people’s cosleeping experiences –this nice article by Dr Sears has lots of parents talking about the “protective effect” of cosleeping.

What are some of the things you love about cosleeping? And some of the things you find hard?



Why I will continue to cosleep

22 May, 2013

I hadn’t been online all day, so it was snuggled in bed with my 4 week old baby nestled in the crook of my arm where I read the headlines on my phone “Sudden infant death greater when parents share beds with babies” – and this one from the Guardian, that balanced, unsensationalist, altogether superior news outlet (spoken like a true biased liberal, HA.)

I read the report with what must have been an expression on my face much like the one that appears when people tell me they don’t have Twitter accounts – somewhere between incredulity and fear.

Could it be true? Despite years of rubbish data and myth peddling around cosleeping, have they finally proven something that means I must stop this beautiful parenting practice?

I love cosleeping with my little ones. My two and a half year old, Ramona, is still in the bed with us mostly and I am once again delighting in the joys of sharing sleep with my tiny (okay, actually comically MASSIVE) newborn, Juno.

Cosleeping is a continuation of our daytime parenting philosophy; until they are several months old they will be rarely out of our arms – let alone sight. And, as psychologists and neuroscientists have suggested could happen, this initial closeness has developed a fierce independence and daring confidence in my toddler.  Rather than night time and those frequent night feeds being dreaded I look forward to it, knowing that I am likely to get a steady ten hours where I am barely disturbed because even at 4 weeks old Juno can latch on without either of us stirring much. (I’m not the only one who loves this element- even SCIENCE loves the way cosleeping aids breastfeeding; a wonderful relationship has been established by researchers between the two, and it has been shown that breastfeeding lowers the chances of SIDS.)

Once or twice in the last few weeks I have risen to the surface to discover Juno’s breathing doing something a little bit peculiar, just for a few moments, and have been able to listen in to it settling back down again- almost as if there is a subconscious thread that connects her rhythms to mine. When she snuffles about I can restore her peace with a gentle hand on her belly or a badger mamma-like nuzzle into her cheek with my nose. (I can see myself like a badger; lopingly calm until crossed and wearing edgy monochrome.)

As my older daughter has grown cosleeping has continued to hold benefits – allowing a sleepful connection and passing of love between us even when I was often doing long days at work without her close by. I’m sure it has made the transition of a New Kid On the Block much smoother for her too. (It also provides a few jolly chuckles, like the time Ramona played hide and seek with her legs in her sleep.)
Why I will continue cosleeping

I love cosleeping; it has helped my parenting in both a touchy-feely emotional way and a very practical way too. Yet as I read the news last night I wondered if I would have to let it go for the safety of my babies. Should I turn against this deep instinct of mine – an instinct that parents have felt for thousands of years?

Fortunately, as the words from the newspapers flew like darts into my brain other facts, reports and stats swam amongst them- from books and blogs and articles I have enjoyed over the last few years. How can one new bit of research make all of that redundant? This niggle caused me to delve a bit deeper (erm, search Twitter) and I found that – OF COURSE- it doesn’t. In actual fact, the “new” bit of research isn’t new at all, but a regurgiation of old data – data that was initially flawed and now even more so as it has been shoe horned in to a prove an unprovable hypothesis.

As the British Medical Journal hit publish on this cosleeping research by a fellow called Carpenter a host of other scientists, professors and sleep experts from across the globe rushed to hit publish on their own analysis- analysis that deeply calls into question both the methodology and the conclusions of the Carpenter study.

*Serious face* I do have a BA and an Msc in Social Policy, so can get my head around statistics and research methodology and the making of health policy but I’m not going to do my own analysis because, hello; YAWN!! *serious face vanishes* Just kidding, it is because it is all there, already ready to read.

Please see below for the 5 MUST-READS in response to the Carpenter study and the propaganda (YES, propoganda why, why, WHY is there this crazy bias against cosleeping?) that has been produced in the last 24 hours.

But one thing I must add that I don’t think can be said enough. There is a GARGANTUAN difference between intentional and accidental cosleeping and this hasn’t been differentiated between at all in any of the studies used. 50% of parents cosleep at some points but the majority of these doing it in an impromptu manner, as mother and baby fall asleep together during a night nurse. This MUST NOT COUNT as cosleeping in these studies!

People who choose to cosleep take into account their bedding, their night wear, baby’s night wear, room temperature, presence of pillows, the presence – and state- of other people in the bed and baby’s position. All of these things can produce extra risk for baby’s in the parent’s bed so if people have planned and prepared for cosleeping these factors are more often than not taken into account and eliminated. Very much unlike accidental cosleepers.

Not only does this hugely skew nearly every study done, but it also poses a problem for generating policy on cosleeping. Calling for a ban on cosleeping stops any dialogue about all those factors above and makes unintentional cosleeping much more likely to happen.

Cosleepers with intention: YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR.

Read on for full assurance…

Psychology Today, SIDS Risks and Realities – a comprehensive rebuttal of the Carpenter study by other academics
“…it is not possible to determine that one variable, such as bedsharing itself is inherently responsible for risk remaining in this study.”

Peter Blair’s Peer Review Before items get any steam behind them they must be peer reviewed – this study was reviewed and found to be good by a few academics (all of which have published anti-bedsharing stuff before) apart from one, Peter Blair, a leading SIDS epidemiologist who writes this scathing and damming review – it is a download but an absolute must!
“The primary focus of this paper, stated in the article summary, is to answer the question “Is there a risk of SIDS due to bed sharing when baby is breast fed, the parents do not smoke and the mother does not use alcohol or illegal drugs?” This question cannot be addressed when only two of the five studies collected data on maternal alcohol consumption, none of them collected data on the use of illegal drugs prior to bed sharing and the question is confined to one cosleeping parent when there are often two.”

Another damming critique, this time from ISIS (Infant Sleep Information Source) – it is a download
“… it is important to be aware that the data upon which these analyses are based are now 15-26 years old (although referred to as ‘recent’), and have been compiled ad hocfrom a heterogeneous collection of studies performed in different countries at different time points, using different methods and definitions for data collection (i.e. it is based upon data that are neither comprehensive nor systematic). It can therefore provide only weak evidence for informing public health policy, and parental infant care behaviour in 2013”

The war on bedsharing- academic and parenting author, Uncommon John
“Discombobulated, perhaps, by recent evidence that has clarified that the risks of bedsharing are limited , and that breastfeeding protects against SIDS (a finding which some SIDS researchers have never wanted to accept) several authors teamed up to to rehash and respin some of their old data, much of which uses poor, outdated definitions of things like co-sleeping and breastfeeding.

Unicef Statement – calling into question the methodology used
“The impression from the press release is that infants in the general population are at a 5-fold risk of SIDS when the parents bed-share and don’t smoke, which is untrue. The risk is considerably smaller than 2.7 and might not even be significant. Considering these findings, it is surprising that the authors have focused on the risk among non-smoking, non-drinking bed-sharing mothers, when there are groups at far higher risk.”

Bedsharing and SIDS- Why we have it all wrong by Sarah Ockwell Smith – a helpful list of the variables not included in the study and a great comparison to driving cars!
“…the Carpenter research has many flaws, aside from the damaging call to action they propose they have just missed far too many variables for the research to be considered of any use to society.”

Bedsharing by Analytical Armidillo – not only does it discuss the dangers of a blanket ban but discusses all the research proving safe cosleeping is actually HEALTHIER for babies!
“So here we have internationally recognised doctors … stating actually co-sleeping may be protective against SIDS.”

NCT statement
“NCT does not support a universal instruction not to bed share as it could lead to an increased likelihood that a parent or carer inadvertently falls asleep while holding the baby, in a chair or on a sofa, which is much less safe for the infant.”

If only our media were better at finding this stuff and giving us balanced reporting (GOSH,  I’m just a blogger tapping away on a laptop with a newborn strapped to my front and a toddler trying to put her Thomas the Tank Engine down my pants and I can manage it! Pull your finger out, Guardian et al.)


PS Have you found any cosleeping must-reads? Do share!

PPS I’d hate for you to miss a post… enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!

Attachment parenting, Cosleeping, Parenting

The Family Bed- Cosleeping as connection

27 February, 2013

A few weeks ago Ramona woke up in the middle of the night, full of beans. She sleeps in the middle of the two of us, so if she wakes one of us can cuddle her back into dreamland. This time she woke up instantly, and gleefully, and she shouted “LEEEG! Where ARE YOUUUU? There you are! Other leg?! Where aaare youuuu?? FOUND you!”

Yes, YES, my friends. She was playing hide and seek with her limbs.

After stifling my giggles I stroked her head and she snuggled back down into a deep sleep.

People ask us alot if Ramona, just over two, will ever have her own room. I suspect she will one day, but we are in no hurry at all to usher her out. It is too much of a crack up! Ha. But, really, I still just find it the most perfect way for us. I know that she sees it as her place too for now, and that that won’t last forever- it won’t be long before she will be hankering after her own space I am sure.

Cosleeping as connection

One of the primary reasons I am still enjoying cosleeping with our toddler is the almost subconscious connection it gives us. I have had to work some crazy long days over the last few months, having breakfast with Tim and Ramona before leaving and not seeing them until Ramona is fast asleep. Getting to breathe in my daughter’s presence, to have her find my hand in the night, to share dreams seems to make up for missing out on a whole day.

I find cosleeping helpful too after a day of being together but being a bit out-of-sync. You know those days? When it is hard to put an agenda aside, when you miss the cues, when playing is last on your to-do list and you end up handing your child over to that magnificent pair of scallywags, Charlie and Lola, on Youtube? A fresh start and a new dawn is ALWAYS helpful, but I sometimes wonder if sharing sleep gives it an extra boost. That by being close for those night time hours just helps us to re-connect and find our natural parent-child rhythm again.

Last week I heard about the term the Japanese use for cosleeping, where the Family Bed is the norm until kids are quite old; it is “Kawa”. Kawa is the same character used for a river cascading between between two banks; they see parents as the strong, supportive edges, the life-giving river child flowing through them. How beautiful! An anthropological study found that the Japanese see cosleeping as a way of nurturing interdependence between child and parent, an interdependence that fosters good relationship for life.

Perhaps cosleeping isn’t for everyone, I do know lots of parents who just wouldn’t entertain the idea. I would never in a Brazillion years tell a parent what to do, or judge them for not doing what I do. But I hate that many parents are scared into not cosleeping. The way the media report cosleeping is incredibly skewed, citing examples where clearly unsafe practices have been used (bed sharing when drunk/ excess bedding) to deter it. It saddens me that fear and propaganda would drive people away from this beautiful, ancient way to connect –  particularly when countries that practice cosleeping have the least incidence of SIDS.

Admittedly, I am pleased as a pickle in punch that I am not nursing through the night anymore, and happy that Tim is able to comfort Ramona as much as I now. I reckon being the solo night nurturer for two would be exhausting. But I am excited about this little womb-baby emerging into our family bed in the Spring time. Where the four of us can laugh at each other’s crazy sleep talk, bond in our dreams and wake up facing the day together.

I just hope the two kids don’t start playing dream Hide and Seek together – that would be far too raucous, thanks….

PPS I’d hate for you to miss a post… enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!

Attachment parenting, Cosleeping, Parenting

Eight approaches for happier sleep

5 November, 2012

Yesterday morning Ramona woke up at 4:30, full of beans. She planted some kisses on our faces, did a morning fart, followed by a belly full of giggles, and began climbing all over the bed. “Awake! Me! Pojo??” Pojo is her word for porridge, she was ready for breakfast and up for the day.

Grumpy is not the word. I was mad all day. Mentally flipping the bird at every stupid email I received, I stomped around the office, grizzled under my breath my whole cycle home. I was reminded what it is like to be deeply unhappy with a child’s sleep patterns.

I spent many of Ramona’s first months feeling this way. She’d take forever to go to sleep at the sensible time of 7 pm and then wake at the crack of dawn. I disliked spending an hour doing a night time routine and getting her to sleep, bobbing up and down the stairs to her throughout the evening, and then peering out of the bed covers at the clock and seeing 6 am shining back at me just a few hours after I rolled under them.

It was only when Ramona was a year old that I realised I wanted to take a more relaxed, less structured approach to her sleep, and since then we have all been much happier. Of course, we still have the odd terrible night, an evening with a wired tot who won’t sleep, or a crack of dawn morning. But on the whole my mind is free of sleep anguish, and that deserves a celebratory doughnut.

I’d say adopting eight different approaches helped me feel much happier about our sleep situation.

  • I got the “sensible bedtime” idea out of my head. The most sensible bedtime for a child is when they are tired. Sometimes, due to a late start or long nap this is ten pm. Mostly for us it is somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30. It took me a while to get this, even 8:30 pm seemed outrageous to me, so I’d try and try and try to get Ramona in bed at The World Will Approve O Clock. Once I let go of this, our evenings got a whole load more relaxed.
  • I decided that beds were overrated. For a year, Ramona took her naps on me in the sling or on the sofa, but always began her night time sleep in bed. Once I realised she was often much happier falling to sleep at night time on the sofa I began to see the benefits. We’ll cuddle up amongst the cushions, then after she has drifted off, while my husband and I read or chat, we can put a film on, or continue the get-together with our friends. Because she is right with us she’ll rarely stir much and then I just take her to bed when we go.
  • We abandoned the routine. Sometimes the bath, songs, story schedule worked. Mostly though, Ramona hated the idea of going upstairs and leaving behind her crate of toys, the lovely people in the lounge and a kitchen of food. She’d be upset about being carted off somewhere else, or we’d end up doing story after story until she was ready to snuggle down. Not making such a palava of bedtime made the transition to sleep so much more natural
  • I watch her cues and set the scene. Sometimes Ramona will ask for “bed”, sometimes she’ll just ask for “mummy milk” (as opposed to “Daddy milk” which is what she she calls dairy! Mahaha…) or sometimes she may yawn, get a bit angsty. At this stage I will put the lamp on, quieten down the house and settle on the sofa with her. This transition is much easier for her mind to cope with!

  • I accepted that kids all have different sleep needs, and they are fairly good at meeting that need if we allow them. Ramona can rarely sleep more than 11 hours at night. If she goes to bed at 7 then that is a 6 am wake up call. ER, NO THANKS! Getting up at 8am makes us all happier but that does mean I have to accept that traditional bedtimes don’t suit us! She still naps for an hour, an hour and a half. But if she has a few short naps then she might go for a number 14 hour night sleep!! I just trust her in all of this and shrug off the concept of a 12 hour night.
  • I accepted our new normal. Once I got used to the idea that Ramona would continue to stir at night, and would continue to need me, my mind calmed down and my new state of contentment really helped! Instead of waking up and thinking “She woke 4 times and she is nearly two!!!” And being appalled at my poor parenting, I now simply recognise that she just has superior survival skills….because obviously, we are built to stir all night so we can respond to danger and stoke the cave fire! Also, perversely, the few times she has slept all night I’ve had a rubbish sleep due to a lack of lovely nursing hormones. Wrong, that is, I tell you!
  • I rejected the “creating good sleep habits” rhetoric. Mainstream parenting advice claims routines, sleeping through, self-soothing and sleeping in a separate space sets our children up for a lifetime of excellent sleep. Erm. There is an MAJOR flaw in this in that we have been repeating this record for decades and we are some of the worst sleepers in the world!!! Nearly 40% of us suffer from insomnia. Mainstream advice is clearly doing something wrong.
  • I embraced a “live intuitively” philosophy. I try as much as possible to let Ramona be self-directed, to eat when hungry, cuddle when she needs it, jump on the bed if she fancies it, and sleep when she is tired. I hope all of this stuff will allow her own gut to be the loudest voice when it comes to making important decisions, that she will be less reliant on the sways of peers and external evaluation. Learning to respond to her body and its need will surely give her a confidence and a wholeness that will give her a much needed resilience. Knowing that I may be suffering a little less undisturbed sleep than others for the big picture, the future well being of my daughter, makes it a tiny, insignificant suffering!

These ways aren’t for everyone, I know.  If you are content with the fixed way you do thing, please, don’t change a dot!!! But maybe some of you are like us, and do want to take a more abandoned approach to sleep and parenting, and I hope our story will encourage you to do that. For me, stumbling across other families that did this gave me the freedom I needed to parent this way boldly, and not secretly! I liked these two pages, especially…

This collection of quotes from homeschool families who just roll with it, sleepwise. 

Letting kids find their own sleep patterns

Finding a bit of freedom around this whole sleep situation has been a part of my attachment parenting journey. For me attachment parenting is all about choosing connection, over control.  I am down with boundaries- i.e, I wouldn’t give Ramona sweets before bedish time, or have a massively exciting game of tickles just as she began to yawn, but integral to my parenting is a relinquishment of my need for high control. Allowing Ramona a certain amount of autonomy is important to me, and these approaches to sleep extend that philosophy to her bedtime.

So… *asks timidly, trying to be brave* … what do you reckon?!