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The one thing I'd love to do with my baby that I just can't.

I want to sleep closely with my little man, but I am terrified.

I wake with a start.  “Where’s the baby?” I cry out loud.
I look to left where he should be laying next to me.  Here’s not there.  I look to my right, he’s not there either.  
I frantically search the rest of the bed under and on top of the doona.  The blankets are flying everywhere.
Oh my god, where is he.  Hubby must have rolled on him.
I push my husband over in his sleep.   “Where’s bubby” I say out loud.  He groans.

Then I wake. For real this time.  I had been dreaming.  But everything I dreamt I did, I had done.  Everything I dreamt I said, I had said.  Yet this was an all too familiar dream.

My anxiety around co-sleeping has been ingrained into me.  In a former life I worked with families at risk where co-sleeping was heavily frowned upon and discouraged.  For these babies the risk of SIDS due to co-sleeping was very high as the parents had substance addictions, smoked and/or were drowsy from being highly medicated.  There is an ample amount of research to back this up.

So of course, these children would be at greater risk than children whose parents didn’t fall into this category.  But I ignorantly felt this applied to all children.  I would see friends of mine post photographs on Facebook with their partners co-sleeping.  At the time, I thought “Oh my god, you’re putting your baby at risk.  Why would you do that?”  I just didn’t understand.

After I had my baby, while I was still in hospital, the midwives encouraged me to have lay down feeds with my babe throughout the night.  They said this way I was able to get some sleep too.  I loved these lay down feeds as I felt so close to my baby, which is exactly what I wanted being a new mother.

I did this for several nights, but after I put bubby back into his bassinet I would wake up in a panic thinking I had rolled on him.  It was worse when hubby put bub back in his cot not me as I would wake up not being able to remember putting him back, which of course I didn’t, hubby did.

When we returned home the nightmares continued.  I can remember one dream where I sat straight up in bed and saw the pile of clothes breathing on the bed.  I thought bubby was underneath them struggling to breath.

Another time, I was sleeping during the day while hubby had bub in the other room, when I jumped out of bed, tore all the sheets off the bed and tore all of the sheets out of the bassinet trying to find the baby.  I rushed into the lounge room and found them playing happily together.  Hubby took one look at my frazzledness and demanded I go back to bed.  I can just imagine my frizzy hair all a mess, stumbling through the door way, wearing a lopsided sloppy joe and track pants.  What a look!  I thought this anxiety was a normal part of being a new mother.  But then I realised, it was because of those lay down night feeds that I was worried I would fall asleep with bub next to me.

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The turning point for me started during the last weeks of pregnancy when we went to a SIDS Information Night held in Canberra.

 We wanted advice about how to swaddle a baby safely, how to set up a cot to reduce the risks etc.  We learnt a lot.  But what really struck me was that they had a slide about ‘safe’ co-sleeping*.

I thought at the time this was a major step forward for SIDS.  After all I had heard so many people say that they co-sleep with their babies but of course they didn’t do it safely as no one had shown them how.  So it seemed only natural that there should be information out there on how to do is safely – as people are going to do it anyway right?  But despite this, I still had anxieties about co-sleeping.

Then over during the first few weeks of having bubby home I was able to determine why I was having nightmares.  The times I didn’t do a lay down feed I had peaceful sleeps; the times I did, I would wake up panicking.  So I stopped doing them.  Which is really a shame because I loved being close to bub during those feeds.  But at least I stopped having nightmares.

During this time I joined a lot of parenting pages on Facebook where many women talked about how co-sleeping with their babies has really helped them and their relationship.  How their children grow up to have wonderful ‘secure’ attachments to them, and how these children are very well adjusted little people.  There is a lot of negativity around co-sleeping, and certainly I still believe it needs to be done safely. But when it is done safely, and the mother is comfortable doing it too, and the baby seems to be responding well to it, then why not?

So my journey of co-sleeping has been an interesting one.  I have gone from being completely against co-sleeping and being ignorant of the benefits, to accepting safe co-sleeping as a beautiful way to foster a relationship between child and parent.

It’s a shame I still can’t co-sleep with my little man though.  I would love to feel that closeness at night, to have those warm cuddles.  But six months later, I am now able to doze with him on the bed when hubby is home, which I am really happy about.

Despite knowing all the benefits of co-sleeping and the safe way to go about it, I still don’t think I can ever co-sleep during the night, but I am very pleased that I am at least able to doze with him during the day, if only for a short time.

And most importantly, bub seems to respond well to me lying next to him too.

*I deliberately haven’t written about what ‘safe’ co-sleeping looks like.  Rather, I encourage readers to contact their local SIDS service and discuss safe sleeping options.

This post was originally published on Canberra Mummy and has been republished here with full permission.

Do you co-sleep?

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