Attachment parenting, Cosleeping, Parenting

Cosleeping and the Heeby Jeebies

24 January, 2012

When I was pregnant Samantha Cameron gave birth to her little girl Florence and as she was early they hadn’t sorted a crib yet so she slept in a cardboard box.

I remember thinking, as we were of course meant to by the Number 10 PR people, “What a down to earth thing to do”.

Since then I have had my own baby and took a cosleeping path and now I am less “Awww, down to earth” and more  “A CARDBOARD BOX!!! You would rather put your precious new little treasure in a bulk purchase crisp container than in your own bed???” What a typical cold hearted Tory.

(Just kidding. I know not every single Tory is cold hearted.  What? Yes, I do! I do know a Tory actually! I think one of my friend’s may be one. But he keeps it hush hush.)

But for real, I don’t think the Cameron’s put their baby in a box because of their politics, but because of the reason so many other people won’t share a bed with their Little Ones – fear. Parents are generally frightened of co-sleeping.

I can’t think why.

Ah, yep. There is a fair bit of fear mongering about bedsharing. This ad was put out a few weeks ago in Canada. But all sorts of research claims to show that co-sleeping can endanger your babes. One major piece studied Maori families in New Zealand and suggested SIDS was much more likely within Maori families due to cosleeping. (Perhaps this explains why on our recent trip to NZ so many mothers could not get their head around us bedsharing.) But as more comprehensive research shows SAFE cosleeping (no smoking, drinking, drugs)  is as safe – or even a little safer- than having baby in a separate bed. The Maori example was a prime example of getting the cause mixed up (much higher percentage of alcohol abuse and tobacco use.)  But it has put the heeby jeebies into many mothers.  Check out this overview here for a research summary.

In fact, I probably would have been like many mothers – cosleeping by stealth for varying parts of the night- if it wasn’t for my friend recommending the brilliant book “Three in a bed” . Ramona slept brilliantly close by me and I loved being able to stay in bed and nurse but I would have probably kept it a secret if it wasn’t for this book. I felt encouraged by it’s depiction of cosleeping as a completely safe, ancient aspect of parenting with all kinds of extra benefits- nurturing milk supply and supporting better sleep for mothers, being just a couple.

Having started work recently for a few days a week I am finding cosleeping gives me chance to catch up on all the cuddles I have missed out on in the day – it has really eased the transition for us. I am so, SO,  glad that a few key people in the early days of Ramona’s life encouraged me to read into, and get over, the Heeby Jeebies around bed sharing. It is one of my favourite mothering practices.

I have a bit more to say, as people often ask about the practicalities and the pros and cons, so rather than this become a whopper of a post I am going to end it here and do 2 more cosleeping posts later in the week.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your own thoughts/ fears around bedsharing…

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  • Valerie 24 January, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Yes, I did a post about that ad too, its so shocking. We co-sleep with Oscar, he is almost 3 now so starts the evening in his own bed and toddles through to us some time in the wee hours. We upgraded to a super-king size bed so we can all sleep comfortably. Initially we had a cradle co-sleeper, then a cot co-sleeper, then he was in between us. If any more babies come along there is no doubt we will be co-sleeping again.

    • lulastic 24 January, 2012 at 2:19 pm

      It is ALL about a big bed!

  • Gemma B 24 January, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Hi Lucy! Always been fascinated by the co-sleeping conversation but it was something we decided not to do. Not because of fear but because I’m a bit of a ‘stricty’ I suppose and I wanted there to be clear boundaries. Adam would’ve had Hope in with us in a heartbeat, but I’m sure he will also agree that anytime she has been in with us has resulted in being a terrible sleep for all 3 and subsequently either Adam or I having to sleep elsewhere. We all find we get a better nights sleep in our own rooms and beds and it’s a absolute joy when Hope comes in after 7 and joins us for morning cuddles! (Unless of course she starts her breakfast demanding straight away – think she’s having a growth spurt!) Anyway, we shall see what number 2 brings our way! There’s certainly not room for 4 in our bed!! Love and hugs x

    • lulastic 24 January, 2012 at 2:23 pm

      So cool to hear from you Gemma! 😀
      I was surprised at how quickly we got used to the “family bed”. When we used to look after our little nephew Huds years ago he would hop into our bed half way through the night and we would just be awake after that! I always thought “No way will I do that with my own kids! They must learn to sleep by themselves!”
      And now look at us :S
      Morning cuddles- total bliss!


  • Summersday 24 January, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Of course the saddest, most heart-wrenching irony about the cardboard box situation is that preemies, more than any other baby, benefit the most from skin-to-skin contact. Research shows they develop best and fastest like this. In fact there are stories of preemies being brought back from the brink of death (or even from clinical death!) by lots of skin to skin.

    I personally never intended to cosleep with my son as I simply didn’t wish him to intrude on my intimate time with my husband. I couldn’t imagine making love with a baby in or near our bed. But I remember so vividly the moment that I wanted to put him down in our expensive, organic cot. And I thought, no way. No way am I putting this tiny baby (he was a normal 3.5 kg!) into this huge cot. No way am I leaving this tiny vulnerable creature in there on his own (despite the fact that our cot had one side down and was flush against my bed!).

    From that moment on we’ve shared our bed with him and now have a futon mattress (where my husband sleeps) on the floor next to our double bed mattress (where I sleep with our 2.5 year old).

    I have to agree that cosleeping is just utter bliss. From the moment we started I couldn’t imagine doing things differently. And thank God, we still make love at least twice a week but just have to be a bit more imaginative about it (and/or not worry about snoring baby next to us ;-)). I remember when my mum told me her and dad were intimate with my sister and I asleep in the same room and I thought it was the most horrific thing I’d heard :p

    • lulastic 24 January, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      Hahaha sooo true.
      Someone was gonna bring up the lovemaking sometime eh?!

  • Summersday 24 January, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Oh of course the waking up with baby is the sweetest of sweet moments. The moment when he rolls over and smiles and looks straight in your eyes. No calling, no screaming for mum. Just lying peacefully next to mummy when he wakes up 🙂 heavenly

  • Summersday 24 January, 2012 at 11:17 am

    With all due respect to Gemma, I think many people would argue quite strongly that there is no such thing as setting ‘clear boundaries’ with a newborn or even a small baby. Especially when you’re fulfilling their most basic need-to be close and safe, right next to their carer, right throughout the night.

    • Gemma B 24 January, 2012 at 2:35 pm

      Hehe please don’t think that by setting ‘clear boundaries’ i mean that we banished Hope off to her own room the moment she was born! The boundaries were for us more than anything, so we as a couple were on the same page. Hope slept happily next to us in her moses basket until we realised each others noises were keeping us all awake and then she happily moved to her own room after a few months. She has always been a good sleeper, so that helped, and she is a very happy little girl who bonds with everyone. (She’s now 3 1/2 and when if shes tired she will often ask to go to her bed – she loves her own space.) I don’t think our approach is right necessarily, it just worked for us, and so long as children are happy and loved then it’s all goooood! 🙂

  • Vicky 24 January, 2012 at 11:20 am

    These adverts are horrifying – education, not scare tactics are what is needed. After struggling with night feeds in a chair with my first born, I started co-sleeping from a few weeks with #2. #3 co-slept from night 1. We make sure hubby is aware and I ‘protect’ the baby naturally and avoid quilts/pillows near baby. And I agree completely about extra mummy cuddle & sleep time when I return to work! There is room for the whole family in our bed – just not too often :). Now my girls will snuggle together in their bed too.

    • lulastic 24 January, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      Hey there! 🙂
      Love the idea of the siblings cuddling up, so so adorable.
      I am always surprised when people say they think they would roll onto baby and smother her – I have found that even when in the deepest sleep my body is somehow aware of Ramona and make sure she is okay.

  • Summersday 24 January, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Sorry to clog up your comments Lucy but a few quick things:

    -our babies are only babies for a very short few years. We might as well enjoy it to the max by cosleeping, breastfeeding etc. They’ll soon be off for many decades, traipsing around the globe without us, with us missing them dearly. Might as well not have any regrets about how we limited our snuggling with them!

    -there is some weird myth that parenting should be easy and full of wonderful sleepful nights. thats just not the way its meant to be! its a modern myth so that parents can traipse off to work at 6 months (once they’ve forced their babies to ‘sleep through the night’)

    -all the negativity around cosleeping, even breastfeeding etc feeds into a culture revolving around seperating children from their parents. once you’ve seperated them they’re such easy prey for marketers for all manner of products. this isn’t some weird hippy conspiracy theory-look to the highest level of government for discussions around how childhood has been eroded, partly by marketers pushing children into being ‘little consumers’ pretty much from birth (through those ‘educational’ DVDs that are nothing of the sort).

    when my boy was just 1 year old, a lady asked if he was at nursery ‘yet’. I said he was far too young for that. to which she said ‘he has to be independent at some stage, you know’. umm, he was still just 1 year old!

    we really need to unpack our assumptions around what parenting and childhood really is and see how much of it is actually authentic to ourselves and how much of it is actually from externall sources. a perfect example of this is how i’d always assumed we would sleep separatly from our baby because of the countless john lewis etc catalogues i’d looked at whilst pregnant. this is despite the fact that my parents coslept with us til we were pretty old! so the marketers managed to get to me in the meantime!

    • lulastic 24 January, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      YES! All of this!
      You are actually one of the “key people” I refer to in this post. You have really encouraged to parent by instinct.
      I really appreciate your thoughts on modern parenting, such a major challenge to the status quo, which I agree seems to be designed to emphasise “independent” yet also “blithely conformist” children as the ideal. Such a bizarre mix.
      Like you, I imagine when Ramona is a teen and know I will never regret too many cuddles but will regret missing any opportunities for closeness.
      But you say it so much better.

  • Valerie 24 January, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Its wandering off a bit here, but I agree with the point about parenting ‘not’ being easy. Oh sometimes it is, it most definitely is. But most of the time its hard work. It seems that for some parents the number one goal in life is to spend time alone without their child. It is an odd one, I have to say. I am not talking about co-sleeping per say, because some people are not cut out for it, but rather a general clambering for life pre-baby. And I don’t think anyone ever got to their death bed and regretted hugging and kissing and spending too much time with their children. ‘Darn it’ if only I had’nt co-slept those few early years’ lol

    • Summersday 24 January, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      I love the way you put that Valerie! So true. I was really shocked to hear that in France, this obsession with ‘pre-baby’ life is so strong that breastfeeding rates are extremely low and that apparently women get tested twice a week after birth to check their vaginal muscles have recovered post-partum so they’re ready for their partners. Its all about being ‘la femme’ rather than a mother and its apparently ingrained in their culture (someone please correct me if I’m wrong!). It is sad not least because its the children that miss out the most. They’re the ones who are programmed to need physical love and attention from the word go. If you want to stay ‘la femme’ forever, don’t have kids! But if you do have kids, at least try and give it your best shot! (Its also amazingly ironic how the French think of themselves as feminists but perceive a woman’s role in life primarily in relation to her functioning as a lover!)

  • minibreakmummy 24 January, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    I co-slept with my son when he was little. It was the easiest way to do night feeds with the minimum of sleep disruption. I read up on it (including the Three in a Bed book you mention) and did everything I could to ensure his safety. To be honest, I would have felt more anxious if he were in a cot in his own room.

  • Bethany 25 January, 2012 at 4:40 am

    Hey Lucy, enjoying your thoughts on this! I’d love to co-sleep and like the attachment parenting philosophies. I just can’t get over being advised not to by Plunket and the like (in NZ). I can’t help but think that if something went wrong and I had been advised to act otherwise then I’d never forgive myself. So best just to follow the guidelines set down by people who’ve done a lot more research than me. It’s all about fear and I can’t get past it!

    • lulastic 25 January, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      Hey Bethany Gordon so nice to hear from you. Your post did make me a bit sad though as it is so important to mother in the way your heart tells you. While p l un ke t are the ‘ experts’ in New Zealand other experts from across the world agree that co sleeping is safer than having baby in the other room- experts including the world health organisation, unicef and our own Nhs. New Zealand health authorities have probably taken on board higher incidences of smoking and drinking parents (maori population) and have decided to blanket advise against it rather than explain the principles of safe co sleeping.
      I totally understand that it is hard to parent in a way that is different to the norm. I’ve found loads of support through local attachment patenting groups, I really recommend doing some googling for local groups. Also buy the book Three in a Bed – probably the most exhaustive research book out there and really instills confidence. Loads of love x

  • Valerie 25 January, 2012 at 10:40 am

    How do you know they have done more research than you? Maybe it has just been a directive handed down to be passed on. Bethany it would be such a shame for you to go against your instincts. What is to stop you doing more research on it yourself? You may find the results surprising. As I said before, its not for everyone, but if its something you are interested in, you cant always assume the ‘professionals’ know better than the parents. Whatever your choice I hope you and your baby are happy 🙂

  • eliminationcommunication 25 January, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    I despise that add. Do you think they’d dream of doing the same thing with unsafe crib practices and construction that result in infant deaths?

    I also have issues with labeling long sleepers as “good sleepers”, it implies that those children and adults who wake up at night at intervals and resume sleep, or who to go to the bathroom, or to attend to thirst, or some other need are “bad sleepers”. Sleeping 10-12 hours straight (which is the expectation at least in the US) is a very poor way to sleep and is not how most people spend their nights. Waking is normal, healthy, and safer. There are babies who sleep longer lengths than others naturally but they are the exception not the rule. Normal sleepers are wakers 🙂

    • lulastic 25 January, 2012 at 10:05 pm

      Totally. It is safety thing I think, coming to the surface in order to check their comfort and their needs.
      Ramona stirs every 2-4 hours at night sometimes – I just like to think she has an excellent survival instinct.

  • Sarah Phillips 25 January, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Such a sore subject for many, and for the NHS. As a midwife I am constantly trying to help people get through their sleepless nights by any means possible. Bed sharing is veryuch frowned upon at work, but as a mother who bed shared with twins, as still does at times, I can’t help but convey my passion for it. I just think of hand as mammals and as mammals we should be keeping our young close. No wonder babies scream when they are put in a cot at 2 hours old, they haven’t a clue that they are safe! All they know is that mummy has gone 🙁 well done on brooching this sensitive subject!

    • lulastic 25 January, 2012 at 10:45 pm

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂
      Although it seems that most of the NHS leaflets here do emphasise that there has been no evidence of cosleeping alone (i.e without other factors like drink/ drugs etc) increasing risk of SIDS? Maybe practitioners just struggle with things out of the norm?

      I must have been pretty fortunate to have had people like you at the hosp when they asked about our sleeping arrangements- very encouraging. Makes such a big difference- thank you

  • Hippyshake « Lulastic and the Hippyshake 29 March, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    […] some ways I am your typical modern hippy. I am a cosleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding mama with a nappy free baby, I reckon my parenting probably belongs […]

  • Jenna 14 April, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Wow, it may seem like I’m a bit slow in replying to this post but the truth is I’ve just stumbled across your blog and I’m gradually working my way through all your posts because I absolutely love it!

    I have a 4 year old daughter and an 18 week old son. With my daughter I did everything by the book (you know which book I’m talking about………the one that says if you’re doing everything right your baby will sleep in their own cot, will only feed every 4 hours, should be left to cry or they might get too dependant……….yeah that one………love that book me). Well, lets just say I had no sleep at all for the first 2 weeks because my daughter would scream the second I tried to put her in her moses basket and I’d been told how dangerous it is to sleep with a baby so I wasn’t about to risk that………….far better to suffer post natal depression and go slightly insane through lack of sleep………. My daughter also wasn’t putting on weight but I was given any advice about breastfeeding other than “top er up with a bottle”. Great advice that, after 2 months she refused to breastfeed any longer and I was utterly devastated.

    With baby number 2 I didn’t read anything prior to his birth. The only thing I did before he was born was have a very strong idea of what I DID want to happen at the birth rather than going with the flow and having things be taken completely out of my hands and I got myself to a LLL group to talk about the problems I had had breastfeeding and how I really wanted to give it my best shot this time.

    Well, I can confirm that the birth of my son was amazing……yes I had an epidural but I was in control the whole time, I was able to feel my son be born but have no pain in doing so. He latched on straight away (and has pretty much been there ever since!). I stayed in hospital for 2 days (why rush home to the stress of wanting to clean the house, cook, look after my daughter etc when I could just concentrate on my new bubba and making sure we’d clicked before we left) after he was born.

    He is still breastfeeding now (with a little baby rice as he’s gone back to feeding every hour so I figure he’s needing just a bit extra). He has slept in his own cot (moses basket to start) which is crammed in our room because 1/ I wanted him close to me and 2/ It’s cold walking across the hall. With my daughter it was never a question of her sleeping in my bed. You just don’t do it……….DO YOU KNOW HOW DANGEROUS IT IS?!?!?!?! With my son, at first I was worried about the safety aspect, also the “if he starts we might never get him out” and then the “how do we get to the rumpy pumpy?”. I remember talking to friends when my daughter was little and hearing how they co-slept and thinking “are you mad?”. Now, I think I am the crazy one…………..When I look back and think of the hours I spent standing in my daughters room, not because I was gazing adoringly at her (I did a lot though) but because everytime I took a step towards the door she’d wake up and scream! BUT DON’T PICK UP THAT SCREAMING CHILD BECAUSE THEY’LL GET DEPENDANT!!!! I eventually progressed to sitting on the floor next to her cot and inching my way out the door. This is normal no?

    Anyhoooooo, my son has been pretty good sleeping in his own cot. When he wakes, I bring him in bed and feed him (sitting up) and then put him back when he’s finished. Although for the last two weeks he has been waking up about 4 times a night (between midnight and 7am) so the temptation to keep him with me is seriously growing. When I stay at my parents my little bubba sleeps with me as I just couldn’t bring myself to put him in a travel cot. I am due to return to one of my jobs soon (3 evening shifts 6pm-10pm) so I am going to miss out on the feeding him to sleep and as he won’t take a bottle I feel its going to be pretty stressfull for bubba too. I think I want those extra cuddles just as much as he will and being able to let him feed and I can just drift back to sleep I can imagine will be bliss. Yes I understand that babies who co-sleep take a little longer (and a little more work) to get them to stay in their own beds eventually but knowing how quickly 4 years has gone with my daughter I have learnt that nothing lasts forever……not even the bad bits so I definitely want to make the most of the best bits.

    I still feel sad at how unconfident I am with my son sometimes rather than just going with what feels right for us but I am gutted at how I let so many people influence me (and not in a positive way) when bringing up my daughter in those first few years. I am really trying to let attachment parenting lead me as it feels right. Thank you to blogs like lulastic for helping me feel strong. x

    • lulastic 15 April, 2012 at 11:08 am

      Thanks Jenna, so lovely to get your comment. I’m sorry your early parenting was wrought with a sense of insecurity. I think it so often comes down to who is around you. I was so lucky to have a few mammas who really encouraged me, but I also relied heavily on the internet. I was asking about one question a week on sites such as The Green Parent forum!

  • Vicky 10 September, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I did the cosleeping stealth thing and feeling guilty that i was being a bad mother until I read your blog, since then I put my daughter in with us with no hesitation and she sleeps much better. I think if cosleeping is something you do intentionally then it’s perfectly safe and helps build up the bond between you and your child. so thanks for showing me that cosleeping is a wonderful thing

  • Elle Revel 15 August, 2014 at 2:47 am

    Hey, love you site! We have a 5 week old, Marceline, we aren’t currently co-sleeping due to all the huhar surrounding it. I am exclusively breastfeeding and sometimes however I do feed her laying down and we’ll fall asleep. We know she sleeps better that way but still aren’t totally comfortable with it. We’ll see how it goes!