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Bed-sharing – by order of the tiny tyrant

There were three in the bed and the little one said “roll over, roll over” so they all rolled over and Daddy fell out, Mammy took an elbow to the face and gave a shout.  That’s how we roll in my bedroom these days.

I remember us on our honeymoon, putting down time in an airport while we waited for our next flight to some other new fun destination.  Airports weren’t places of torture like they are now, they could be enjoyed to some extent.  We could shop, eat, drink and just pleasantly pass time.  I bought us two of those neck support pillows, one pink and one red, in the hope they would help make long flights more comfortable.

Fast forward seven years and the same neck pillows have been dusted off and are back in use.  Except we are not going anywhere.  Picture the scene – it’s cold and both parents are wearing warm hoodies in bed.  There are no pillows to be seen but both heads rest awkwardly on those damn u-shaped neck support excuse for a pillow.  The duvet only covers both parents to their waist.  And in the middle of the bed, all stretched out and delighted with himself is the tiny tyrant.

Bed-sharing didn’t come easy to me, I was terrified of sleeping with a small baby.  My older daughter had no interest in it whatsoever and while she couldn’t ever have been described as a good sleeper (although her categorisation did go up a couple of notches after her insomniac brother showed us just how bad it could be) she did sleep in her moses basket and cot.  She loved that cot, wouldn’t sleep in our bed at all, even if she was sick and I would have preferred to keep her close.  She slept in that cot until she was 3.5 and had to be prised out of it.  In contrast her two year old brother slept in it for one full night, just the once.  I’m not exaggerating.  Once.  The cot is long gone.

In that scene above we had decided to give bed-sharing a proper chance, seeing as he ended up in the bed with us anyway.  We took all safety precautions we could think of – no pillows, blankets etc., bubs was all cosy in his grobag, we were cold but hey cold and asleep beats warm and awake in my middle-of-the-night parenting reasoning.

From the moment he was born my son knew what he wanted and most definitely knew when he wasn’t getting it.  And what he wanted was me.  Always and forever, me.  I wanted to keep him close too and didn’t have any expectations of putting him down – his sister didn’t have any time for mama’s arms substitutes either.  But I didn’t anticipate that even when he was already asleep he would know so clearly, and so quickly, each and every time he was moved to the crib.

The midwives on the ward saw in him immediately what I would come to accept, and one built me a “fort” of pillows in an attempt to allow me get some sleep while he was in bed with me.  That terrified me altogether as even though they positioned the pillows in a way to make it as safe as possible, I remained unsure.  But he slept, I didn’t really and that was that.

Varying attempts at home to get him sleep in the moses basket failed.  Maybe he hated the moses basket and would like the space of a cot we thought!  But space wasn’t what he wanted, he was happiest when tucked into the crook of my arm.  We also took the side off the cot and positioned it at my side of the bed so he could technically be “in” the cot but still beside me.  That didn’t really work either.

He is two and a half now, and a few months ago we got him a toddler bed.  The very first night he slept through the night in it!  We didn’t sleep of course as couldn’t relax wondering what was going and where he was.  That was a initial anomaly in the sleep pattern though and hasn’t been repeated.

He goes asleep in his little bed after many stories.  When he first wakes he can be easily soothed back to sleep in his bed.  When he wakes a second time he could be helped back to sleep and sometimes is, but depending on the time it is usually just easier to pick him up (along with the three teddies that accompany him everywhere) and install him in the middle of our bed.  Most nights he cuddles up against me and goes back asleep.  Other nights, like last night, he has nightmares are screams out so I like being there instantly to calm him.  He still dislikes blankets and spends a disproportionate amount of time kicking them all off.

He will inevitably sit up and announce he wants to “lie on mammy” so I become his pillow.  Nearly every single morning I wake to a big smile from my little boy.  I may sleep on a 6 inch corner of the bed as he encroaches on my room, but I know it won’t last forever.  He won’t still be sleeping between my husband and I when he’s going his leaving cert.  If he is, we have bigger problems.

Bed-sharing isn’t for everyone and ideally I would prefer if we all slept happily and well in our own beds.  But when the option is sleep together rather than awake apart, it’s an easy one to make.

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