I am a mother who broke all of the bedtime rules!
My daughter was a good baby, but never was a fantastic sleeper. By that I mean she never really seemed to like her cot or bed, as a tiny baby she only slept in the day in her reclined baby bouncy chair and even then only for 20 to 30 minutes. She hated her lovely (expensive) carry cot pram and only slept for any length of time if she was cuddled, laid on me AND on her tummy! However although she was tricky to get settled and go to sleep, she did sleep through the night in her cot until she was about 20 months old.
Then one night she woke up really crying, we were shocked, she hadn’t woken in the night for months. We struggled to settle her so gave her a bottle of warm milk. Next night, guess what? Same time awake again crying, we could only assume she was having some kind of nightmare but very soon I think she became used to having milk again so we were a bit stuck in a night time rut.
As time went on we decided to try getting her out of the cot and into a bed, we redecorated the nursery and installed a lovely ‘big girls’ bed. She loved it, but still needed company to get to sleep and still woke in the night. Obviously now she could climb out of bed and come to find me! Which she did each night. Very soon my husband was grumbling a bit as the bed wasn’t really big enough for three. Off we went to Ikea for a king size, that worked for a bit but really we were all uncomfortable!
I started to really worry and felt unsettled as everyone else’s children were sleeping in their own beds. It becomes a bit of a dark secret that you sit with your child to go to sleep, sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for a long time, especially when your mother in law is round to give you a lecture when you eventually come downstairs! On top of that she was out of bed each night, I decided I must do something, so I read all the advice and decided to put her back each time she got up.
I was hopeful, and took her back and sat with her, explaining she really must stay in her bed. Each time she drifted off I left, sometimes she slept on, sometimes not and we had to start again. However, each time I was back in bed and she woke again we went through the whole process again. My husband slept through it all, by the middle of the night I was exhausted and she had gone beyond crying to an awful whimpering when I took her back to her bed. The last time as I sat beside her she was quietly crying and reached out and just stroked my face, I can honestly say it broke my heart. All she wanted was the comfort and warmth of her mummy. I decided then and there I would never do this again.
In the morning I told my husband what had happened, I was more than a bit irritated as he had slept through the lot! He was rather guilty and agreed we shouldn’t punish her because she couldn’t sleep through the night. We assumed she would grow out of it.
She got bigger, a single bed with me and her squeezed in wasn’t too good, off again to Ikea for a nice double! Very comfy, each night she came to find me and we wandered off to the double bed in the spare room. She was showing no signs of ‘growing out of it’! As time went on I began to get more tired faffing about in the middle of the night, my husband is a very loud snorer so either he woke me or she did, I decided to just sleep in the spare room full time. Husband was fairly happy as he liked the big bed to himself and I did go and ‘visit’ him in there occasionally!! Fairly soon we stopped bothering with the pretence of our daughter even starting in her own bed, she went straight into the spare room with me.
We moved house, new room, she still didn’t want to sleep in it so we carried on, one of us sat reading the paper while she went to sleep and she and I sharing a bed. Four years later we moved again, and then suddenly she wanted to sleep in her new room, on her own! She was nearly 13.
No doubt you have really taken a sharp intake of breath at that! I don’t know what made her decide, it was her choice, no sitting whilst she went to sleep and no sleeping together, to be honest I was a bit sad!
She is now very nearly 16, we moved again and we all have separate rooms, and we all sleep really well, no wriggling and no snoring to keep anyone awake! I do occasionally sleep with her, if something scary has been watched on the telly!
The most important part of this long story is that my daughter is completely normal, she does not have any attachment issues, she is very independent, intelligent, funny and well rounded. She goes away from home with school and friends and has no trouble sleeping or with homesickness. I have asked her why, looking back she wanted to sleep with me, she simply said ‘I was scared.’ I asked her what of, but she didn’t really seem to know. I asked her if she thought sleeping with me had affected her positively or negatively – she gave me a teenage frowny sort of look as though I was mad and said ‘no,’ it was obviously just how we were!
So if your baby is in your bed, don’t stress. I promise you will look back at all the times you woke and could simply reach out and touch your precious child or just watch them sleep and you will remember those times as a gift. We spend so much time worrying about what others think, and my biggest piece of advice to any other mum, is to do what YOU think is right. Yes read a book or ask friends, but if you don’t want to take their advice, don’t worry! There’s no right or wrong and usually they all grow up and turn out completely normal just like mine!!
Every morning cuddle and night time snuggle will be something to savour and remember fondly when your beautiful little person becomes a teenager! The teen doesn’t want much ‘close’ time – you tend to get eye rolling and frowning and that’s if you’re lucky! Believe me you will be glad that you experienced all those extra bedtime cuddles.