Friday, 20 August 2010

Oh, the Guilt...

It's amazing how little sleep you learn to deal with. I browse the Baby Centre forums quite often, and find myself jealously cursing the mums with babies (mainly formula fed as far as I can see) that sleep through the night. The question in my mind is this: do you do whatever it takes to get enough sleep to function or do you follow all the rules and make like the walking dead the next day?

Left to her own devices, Baby Badger wakes roughly every two hours to feed during the night. Take away the 20-30 minutes required to move to a chair, feed and burp her and I'm left with 90 minutes until the cycle restarts. That's if, of course, I've managed to get her into her crib without waking her. It doesn't take a genius to work out that I'm not really getting enough sleep.

Obviously, over the last few months I have found ways to get additional sleep, or else I wouldn't be capable of typing right now! Father Badger, or perhaps a grandparent, takes her for an hour or so while I sleep, but I'm not really one for daytime naps - I'd much rather tick off a few tasks on the list so I have "achieved" each day. I've found a fairly reliable way of getting more sleep at night, but it comes loaded with guilt: co-sleeping.

The term "co-sleeping" is applied to more than one scenario. Sometimes it simply means having baby in the same room as parents, which is advised for the first six months to reduce the risk of cot death. Sometimes it refers to having the cot or crib next to the parents' bed. And other times it means having baby in bed with mum. In my case it's the last of these: I've found that if I feed Baby Badger lying on my side, I can drift off and she simply falls asleep once she's finished. She sleeps much longer, presumably because she feels full, warm and protected snuggled at my side. Strangely, she also seems not to need burping (I've not seen any evidence of spit-up).

The problem is this: co-sleeping my way is contraversial. There are risks associated with it: duvets or pillows can smother, baby could fall out of bed, or a parent could roll on to baby. Parents who smoke should not co-sleep, nor should you if you are a heavy sleeper or have been drinking or taking drugs. On the other hand, co-sleeping is in many cultures the natural way of keeping your infant at night, and there are ways to reduce the risks. I honestly believe she is safe this way. I keep the covers off her, my body surrounds hers with a hand on her bum, and I wake up in exactly the same position, as if I instinctively stay in the protective position. I awake when she stirs to feed, usually well before she feels the need to cry out of hunger. Surely these are all positive reasons for co-sleeping?

Last night we introduced an additional dose of guilt; something I swore I would never do. After the midnight feed I gave Baby Badger a dummy (usually referred to nowadays as a soother, but that makes me think of throat sweets). She slept until 4:40, giving me four hours of sleep in one lovely stretch, at which point I brought her into bed, fed her and fell asleep for another couple of hours (back to source of guilt number one). We'll try the same again tonight and if it works I'm just going to have to admit that a dummy has its uses.

Further information on co-sleeping:

Image: winnond /

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