Why Co-Sleeping Was a Big Mistake

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When Wilbur was born, just 19 months after Joni, I only had experience of one child. Joni, as it turns out, was an easy baby to manage. She’s laid back and relaxed and generally compliant. She slept. She could have slept in bed with us or on her own – it didn’t matter to her as long as she was asleep. When Wilbur was born things were different.

Wilbur was a hungry boy who fed every 45 minutes, his sleep cycles were short and he slept lightly. Having him sleep in bed with us was a conscious decision but not for his benefit. It was for my benefit – remember ‘happy mummy, happy baby’? Well, that’s not always true in the long term.

I’m a firm believer in not feeling guilty about decisions I have made as a parent – I am always doing the best I can at the time I’m doing it with the knowledge and resources I have. However, that doesn’t stop me being able to reflect on things and realise that something’s weren’t perhaps the best. Obviously, there’s no way to know whether things would have been different if we’d taken a different approach.

It was the best thing for me to be within reaching distance of Wilbur in the short term when he was smaller as I could sleep more, but this was unsustainable. I didn’t actually sleep well beyond the newborn days – crammed in between a baby who likes to stretch and a husband who very tall and likes to adopt a ‘frog’ pose in bed at all opportunities. We don’t have anywhere else that Chris could sleep and I wasn’t keen on that anyway. The other reason, perhaps the most crucial, was that I liked the co-sleeping. The nose to nose cuddles, holding hands, that new baby smell and comfort of his little body so content next to mine. It was nice.

By the time we could move into a new house where Wilbur had his own room the precedent was set and his head didn’t smell quite so sweet. We fought this battle, that we are still fighting to get him into his own bed, to sleep through the night and to not scream and shout and be angry. Am I selfish for pursuing this battle? Perhaps I have made my co-sleeping bed and should be lying in it? It feels like the rod I have made for my own back is, in fact, impaling me elsewhere.

Co-sleeping, breastfeeding and Wilbur’s personality have meant that whilst our bond is strong the separation anxiety is intense for him. He goes to a childminder for a couple of short days a week, with his sister, and I feel like I get punished for it. He flits between aggression and clingy-ness when we do spend time together. He screams and shouts and scratches and pulls my hair. He kisses me too and stops playing to give me a cuddle. He’s intense.

Today I reached the end of my tether. Wilbur had a 40 minute screaming fit for no apparent reason at all whilst emails with bad news and things I needed to respond to where flashing up on my phone that did not stop ringing. One of those days, I know. Other people have it worse and for longer, I know. I can’t help feeling like I’ve helped this along though by presuming this little boy would be like his sister – so, do I just lie in this bed I have made and hope that one day it’ll improve? I dunno.

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8 Responses to Why Co-Sleeping Was a Big Mistake

  1. Lisa Maltby says:

    If it’s any consolation my little boy sounds very similar and he never co-slept (purely because he’s such a wriggler!) and was mainly bottle fed. I think it has more to do with personality and a bit of the whole ‘mums and their sons’ stereotype (but I do think boys are more clingy with their mums in general). You can’t blame yourself for his temperament. My son is 3 and a half now and seems to be much better and no longer screams when I drop him at nursery but he’s still quite a battle at times! The best thing you can do is set boundaries and be consistent – so although it may be hard now getting him to sleep by himself now I think you are doing the right thing in the long run.. Good luck! Xxx

    • bornin2011 says:

      Thank you so much. That is more reassuring than you realise! Especially because your son sounds so amazing. You’re right – been trying to enforce some boundaries this week – not easy xx

  2. Jem says:

    If having my two has made me realise anything it’s that you can parent them how you want, they still end up completely differently. Wilbur sounds like Isabel, whereas Oliver sounds like Joni (once we’d figured out that milk thing) – both with breastfed, co-sleepers etc. You just get what you get.

    • bornin2011 says:

      Someone said that to me this week actually – you get what you get – I think, when I think rationally, that you’re right. I guess I want someone to blame and the only person I can think of is myself!

  3. Karen says:

    I agree with Jem and Lisa; you didn’t create his personality by co-sleeping, but we mothers do seek around for the One Thing We Did Wrong. In truth he is himself and you’ve been doing nothing but meet his needs, and he’ll grow out of his needs when he’s ready. I don’t think there’s any robust research showing that co-sleeping/breastfeeding etc creates dependence, but I do love the theory that it creates strength and security in the long term. It’s just that the term really can be quite long.

  4. Josie says:

    Co- sleeping I fell into too a little like you, happy mother (one that sleeps) equals happy child, I couldn’t agree with that more. There are so many factors in who are children become; I agree with the others though a child’s personality is not down to you co- sleeping. Some of his behaviours he has learnt though as do ALL children may be, those can be changed.
    Have you tried a routine chart, that might work really well for. Like you I’m a working mum too and sometimes emails etc just have to be answered! A routine chart which both your children have a huge part in creating with you, will make them feel empowered and in control (really important at Wilbur’s ego- centric stage of development). The chart can have pictures/ photos whatever works for you. This can be done for morning/bedtime routine (whatever you need) you could have a week chart too showing what they’re doing each day. Wilbur’s behaviour when he’s back from his childminder (he is seeking revenge- children are so smart unconsciously) Brooke used to do this to at a similar age. A few things you can do, acknowledge his feelings and share yours and arrange “special time” 10 minutes a day or an hr once a week, whatever works for your routine. I know as mums we are always with our children but always there is something to DO, if we make a time which we talk to them about and excite them about ” special time” they really look forward to it. When it is special time turn the phone off and be completely and utterly with them. This is a great tool to use when your children want you at that exact minute, remind them about their special time later and that you can’t wait but right now you have work to do. Few things I hope may make this stage right now a little easier. Parenting is great but forever changing, once you’ve cracked one thing another pops up. I really enjoy reading your posts and your children are beautiful!

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