I don’t know about the rest of the world, but here in the UK people happily take their pets to bed
with them. Dogs, cats, I’ve even heard of a rabbit curled up on its owner’s duvet each night, it seems that people are more than willing to give up space in their bed to make sure that Rocky or Felix doesn’t get lonesome in the early hours. Tell someone that you sleep with your baby in your bed though, and this nation of happy bed sharers suddenly wrinkles its nose and looks at you like you’ve just told them about some unsavoury personal vice.
I kind of get it, in 2008 (my last year pre-kids), I knew no one who slept beside their baby, well no
one who would admit to it anyway. Newly pregnant in 2009, we made lists of what we would need
for the baby, on that list was a crib, a moses basket and a cradle. Yes, three separate sleeping spaces for our tiny baby, in our tiny flat and nothing about this seemed strange. The crib we chose was a piece of architecture. A undeniably beautiful piece of artistry, a huge wooden sleigh crib, which would later turn to a toddler bed and later still a chaise lounge. It barely fitted in the room and yet I still managed to convince myself that it justified its considerable price tag, this was where my baby would spend 14 hours a day, only the best for my first born.
He never slept in it.
Born late at night, a violent and nerve-jangling entrance to the world, there was no way that I was
letting my baby leave my arms as we settled on to the ward at 2am. An older, Irish midwife
happened to be on duty that night and, unbeknownst to her, she is the person who has had the
greatest influence over me as a mother. Pushing aside the goldfish bowl cot on wheels, she leaned over and swiftly and expertly wrapped my baby up in a blanket, before tucking him beside me. “You need to sleep, he needs to sleep. There’s no way either of you will get any sleep unless you sleep beside each other.” And that was that. That was the way it was. The way it has been ever since.
The huge wooden sleigh sat, a glorified shelf for dirty clothes, books and toys. It never held a baby, not even for a night. There was a brief moment at around six months, when a nagging voice in my head (which sounded remarkably like my mother) told me that he would have to sleep alone
sometime and I spent 45 minutes with my hands through the bars, trying to stroke my crying baby to sleep, before I came to my senses and lifted him back into bed with me, as I sweated with guilt and sadness.
We are now six years and three babies into our parenting journey. Over 2000 nights spent with a
child sleeping softly beside me. 2000 nights of instinctively reaching out to my babies, tending to
their night time needs without either of us having to fully wake. 2000 nights of knowing that my
baby will never wake up alone. 2000 nights of safety, security and belonging. 2000 nights of little
toes pressing into my stomach, of wriggly toddlers and of early mornings. 2000 nights of creeping
around to get ready for bed. 2000 nights of being there consistently and unfaltering. 2000 nights of the sweetest taboo.
Please remember the following guidelines for safe bed sharing.
- Never bed share if you have been drinking alcohol or have taken drugs.
- Ensure your baby can not fall out of bed.
- Keep baby cool by using blankets rather than a duvet.
- Don’t use pillows with babies under one.
- Never sleep with your baby in a chair or on a sofa.
- Ensure that the space around your baby’s head is clear of any objects which may cover her
Victoria Machin - UK
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