What Rod? Our Experience of BedSharing to Age 4.

When my firstborn, arrived in 2002 Gina Ford frenzy was in full force. You weren’t a good mother if your baby didn’t sleep through by 12 wks and didnt have a routine you could set your watch by and you especially weren’t a good mum if your baby didn’t self settle to sleep in his black out blinded room.

I wasn’t a good mum.

My NCT class friends were good mums, their babies did what they wanted and what Gina said made them contented. Mine would only sleep at the boob/in my arms. If I put him down he wailed. They were good mums. I had failed.

So we tried controlled crying, I cried as much as my baby did. Then we moved onto Tracey Hogg. She made me feel a bit better, but not much. Every night we would try to get him to self settle, we would hold his hand/stroke his head through the bars of his £1000 handmade walnut cot that meant we couldn’t afford a holiday that year. Then we would slowly sneak out when his eyes closed trying not to creak the floorboard which made him wake and yell if we weren’t still holding his hand.

How I wish I had followed my instincts and let him sleep where he wanted and where I most enjoyed having him….but “good mums” didnt do that, good mums ensured they created confident children by making them independent as soon as possible at night.

My son is now almost a teenager and if he ever reads this will be mortified when I tell you he is desperate to sleep in bed with us as much as possible. He hates sleeping alone, has no confidence, is painfully shy and clingier now than he was as a newborn, when he hugs me I can feel the desperation and need in it still.

…..and then there was my daughter. She arrived 5 years after my first (with 2 more brothers in the middle). Five years of confidence, five years of wisdom, five years of regret. From day one (of her arrival in our own home) she slept in my arms. I gave her as much of me as she wanted and she I.

When she was 3 months we had her Christened. My Godmother rocked her to sleep whilst I fed and watered our guests. I bumped into her cradling my baby at the bottom of my stairs looking perplexed “where’s her cot” she asked me. I smiled. “She doesn’t have one”. “but where does she sleep?”………”with me”………”oh”. The silence spoke volumes. I knew what it meant……………

For 4 years 1 month and 14 days my daughter slept in my arms….and then it happened. One night she was fidgeting so much I couldn’t sleep. So I asked her to please keep still in our bed and suggested if she didn’t want to she could sleep in her bed (she has always had a bedroom and a bed that remained unslept in). It was 1am. She got up said “OK mummy” – walked across our hallway in the pitch black, got into her bed, pulled up the duvet and went to sleep.

The next night she announced “I want to sleep in my room tonight”. She took herself up, found her PJs and changed into them by herself and got into bed “reading” a book. I popped in to check and ask if she wanted me to read the story to her “no” she said, I asked if she was sure she wanted to sleep in her room “yes” she said. I asked if she wanted a hug “no” she said “but I want a kiss”. We kissed, said our “I love yous and God blesses”. She turned off her lamp and I left. With a tear in my eye.

She has spent every night since in her own bed. Our co-sleeping journey is over, a bittersweet ending of pride and letting go. How I miss her warm, small, soft body curled into mine. She gave me a gift  in those 4yrs of joy and I gave her one in return. The gift of true confidence and independence.


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About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
This entry was posted in Preschoolers, Toddlers and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to What Rod? Our Experience of BedSharing to Age 4.

  1. Emma Gregson says:

    Glad this mummy found what worked for her. I was pleased that both my boys went into a cot from night one as I couldn’t get a dot of sleep with them in bed with me for their grunting and fear of them ending up somewhere they shouldn’t. Your not a good mum or bad mum for choosing either route. Nobody brings you a medal for following the crowd. I always just try to remember, if somebody else has a problem, it’s their problem, not yours!

    • rebekah says:

      your lucky they went straight to a cot, my DD was happy in her moses basket which we kept close and im thankful she didnt need to bed share, though i loved the morning snuggles and miss them. i think what makes a good or bad mum is whether your choosing the route that most suits you, or most suits your child. i believe that being a good mum is being child-led, if a baby is happy on its own to sleep, brilliant, if he need to stay close, brilliant too, be there for your individual childs needs.

  2. Josee Planken says:

    Now I have a tear in my eye! Beautiful! And well done!

  3. Josephine says:

    My daughter was so unhappy in her cot, I let her sleep in my arms for the first four months. At a certain point, I noticed that she became fidgety and decided to let her sleep in her cot (right next to the bed). She has been sleeping happily in her own bed in our room since then.

  4. kooksybell says:

    I could’ve written this. For various reasons I didn’t really enjoy motherhood the first time and went along with what I thought I should do, rather then what I or my baby wanted to do. I did a mixture second time around and now I’m on my 3rd baby and 10months I’m doing what feels very right for me, and funnily enough its led by her! We’ve bed shared, baby wore, and I’ve no plans on stopping breastfeeding until she decides its time. Yet I get those looks. I’m a much wiser mum these days and I have to say that I wish I could have followed my instincts first time round.

    Being baby led should be the norm, it doesn’t matter what a book / your friends / mum / gran says, babies have different needs. One size doesn’t fit all. If GF (can’t type her name) says you should do this or that and g-d forbid your baby doesn’t want to do it (shock horror they’re not robots) then it makes for a stressful time.

    I have only come across your blog today and will be coming back to read more later, and I’ll be sharing this post for sure 🙂

    (Rewritten as I lost my first post!)

    • Sam says:

      What about going back to work though? I agree with it all in principle but it’s impossible when you have to work to be 100% child led. Mine wakes up every 2 hours in the night. If i could stay home i would be ok but this is killing me and im a worse mum for it :/

  5. Anke says:

    So very true. If only we knew how important it is to keep them close before the first child is born. And they grow up so quickly. Precious memories.

  6. katesurfs says:

    Gorgeous 🙂 My two girls have never slept anywhere but in our bed, and the older one is 3 1/2. I can’t believe how confident and secure she is. I was lucky to never have read any books about parenting, and my family lived so far away, they were never there to intervene! If mothers were just left to their own instincts, and given a good model in their society, they would certainly always know what to do with their babies 🙂

  7. kooksybell says:

    Reblogged this on lovefoodloveme and commented:
    This is the great blog I was talking about 🙂

  8. Fran C says:

    Just stumbled across this again. Thanks for writing it. We started co-sleeping with our 1st at 6 months. She’s still in with us at 3y9m, but is pretty clingy. I’m sure it’s because I put her to sleep alone in those first 6 months!

  9. Letitia says:

    This is lovely. Our 4 month regression made me bring our beautiful lg into our bed (only from her cosleeper, mind! Haha!) an I wouldn’t have it any other way now. Her little squidgy cuddles are the best. The only time she goes into her big cot for an hour or so is so that me and her daddy can do some bedroom yoga 😉

  10. Pippa says:

    So glad to have stumbled across your site. My first child is 5 weeks old. The first 2 weeks he wailed when ever he was on his back and would not sleep in his Moses basket. I thought I was doing something wrong as he should be on his back in a basket. But it was actually a midwife who I saw 1 week in while in tears that I should not worry and let him sleep with me. He would sometimes nap on his side in his basket but never for long. Now he sleeps on the bed in a ‘sleepyhead’ to feel more cosey- but by 4am he will only settle in my arms. I have wasted energy and upset him trying to constantly put him down. I think because society tells me he should be in his own bed or he will be clingy/ he is testing you/ needs to learn to self soothe. I felt like I was doing something wrong. Just today I was in tears as he would not nap (started fighting day sleep since 4weeks) and I kept trying to put him down. But now he is sleeping in my arms.. Im getting nothing done- but I have so little energy from the normal regular feeding and waking that it perhaps helps me preserve energy- so he is doing me a favour!

    I worried about my relationship with my husband- but if baby and I don’t sleep enough because I keep trying to put him alone I will never have the energy!

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