Confessions of a Co-Sleeper

I’ve decided to write a book about sleep training. It’s clearly all the rage or at the very least it drives people into a rage and it’s bound to sell more copies than the other book I’m writing.
I’m going to call my sleep training book “Failing Asleep”. I think that sounds catchy and clever, but then I am profoundly sleep deprived, so right now the Bunnings advertisement sounds catchy and clever.
We sleep trained our first three children reasonably successfully, using everything from Tracy-The Baby Whisperer-Hogg to Gina-The Baby Fascist-Ford. We shush patted and we swaddled as directed, although I could not quite bring myself to “eat one slice of wholemeal toast and express from your left breast for 8.9 minutes at 6:53am”. Tracy and Gina, you know who I’m talking to.
Of course, our children’s sleep routines and self-settling abilities seemed fragile. The children would fall out of the routine as soon as they were sick, we went on holidays or the wind changed direction. So we often had to retrain our children to self-settle.
In 2010, we had our fourth child only 18 months after our third child, and you would think we were experienced parents who could confidently teach a baby to self-settle. As experienced parents all I can confidently say is that we consistently make the same mistakes.
And so we found ourselves after a year of chronic sleep deprivation, in need of remedial sleep training (for us as well as the baby). Too exhausted to do it ourselves, we treated ourselves in desperation to a sleep coach (or Sleep Magician, as she was called by our friends who recommended her).
After 3 days of intensive training, she left us with our child being exactly where he was 3 days before. We were poorer and perhaps worse than that, all hope of sleep had been taken away.
I have no doubt that sleep trainers work, I’ve seen it and it is nothing short of miraculous. But our sleep training did not work on our last baby. Our baby appears to be untrainable, unbreakable and untameable – pick any word you want. I’m going with unbreakable because it makes me feel he’s going to be a superhero when he grows up, and who wouldn’t want that?
When our sleep trainer left, she gave me a big hug, a bigger invoice and a detailed sleep programme which we followed faithfully, consistently and desperately for months.
Months and months and months.
Finally, we stopped. We conceded defeat. We resoundingly and completely capitulated to a greater force.
And now, when I wake up in the morning, I inhale the intoxicating aroma of milky morning breath and night sweat. My husband’s eyes smile brightly at me and I like to watch the three dimples that dance on the face next to mine. My sleeping companion puts his hands on my face and kisses me slowly. It’s the sweetest thing. My companion of course is not my husband, It hasn’t been my husband for several months; poor Husband has moved into the spare bedroom and I am co-sleeping with our fourth and final child.
It’s not ideal for any of us, I know that. But it’s significantly less stressful for us than shush patting for hours, controlled crying, controlled comforting, comfort settling or crying uncontrollably outside the nursery door.
Tonight I will kiss my husband goodnight and good bye, and then I get into bed with a little 2 year old boy with pink lips and three dimples. Defeat never tasted so sweet.
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About Shankari Chandran

Six years ago we returned home from London to Sydney with our four young children and life has been chaos and comfort chocolate ever since.
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7 Responses to Confessions of a Co-Sleeper

  1. Wonderful post Shanks. We used Tracy Hogg for our first too – you’d never know it now though! We have our 1 yo in bed with us often too cos if we do all the settling/comforting stuff while he screams he wakes the older kids! After much trial and error I’ve decided I’m a better mother for letting the big kids who need a good sleep for school etc rest undisturbed. If the baby boy is still in our bed when he’s 10 I guess that will be the time to engage an expert. Meanwhile, it’s also a bit cute, so I can live with it.

    • duckformationfamily says:

      Thanks honey. The needs of the many was a big factor for us too. There was just no point in keeping every one awake, life was easier and more restful for all of us once we put him in bed with us. I tried to respond to your comment earlier but I don’t think wordpress saved it – what I wanted to say was, I am loving your book reviews. I think I could dump novels in favour of just reading your reviews, they are so beautifully written. I’d never read a review that I thought of as poetry until I started reading yours. Good luck with the Australian Women Writers Challenge – one day I hope you’ll review one of mine. xxx shanks

  2. From a sleep deprived mum who's been up since 4am today! says:

    This is great – but what if you cannot sleep with your baby because they are too noisy? I am soooo sleep deprived at the moment – having virus after virus conquer and divide the family over the school holidays. However, I’ve never been able to co-sleep with my kids. Not by choice – but because I’m a really light sleeper. Even in the hospital – all those little noises they make, keep me up! What to do?!?
    Glad you have found a solution though 🙂

    • duckformationfamily says:

      Hey you, long time! I’m sorry to hear about the epidemics and sleep deprivation. I think you should make your husband co-sleep and you need to check into your own bedroom and bed and at least re-charge (semi-charge?) for a couple of nights. A friend of mine actually sent her baby to her parents’ house for a weekend because the sleep deprivation got so bad. I had never thought of that but now consider it ingenius as well an act of great kindness on the part of her parents. For my upcoming 38th birthday I’m asking for a day away (to write but I might end up falling asleep on the computer). Good luck with the sleeping and the viruses L, it was so good to hear from you. xxx

  3. I loved this post! I had been thinking that I should write a co-sleeping story since seeing all the media recently around co-sleeping. My second child, like your fourth, was untrainable. I had so many sleep specialists and early childhood nurses out to “help”. Nothing worked – she could scream for hours. I realise that co-sleeping has been deemed dangerous by the NSW (or was it Victorian) coroner, however I don’t think I would have survived the first 6 – 12 months without sleeping in the same bed as my little one.

    The problem for us now is that we have a 3 year old who still prefers to cuddle mummy at night (although she starts in her own bed) and a 6 year old who has decided if his sister is getting cuddles that he should have them too. Some nights it seems they have a race to see who can get into our bed first; however I know it won’t be forever and it is beautiful to wake up to a family cuddle while it lasts!

    • duckformationfamily says:

      Same problem here Jac, with the 2 year old (the subject of this blog post) and the 3 year old who wants a piece of that action if his younger brother is allowed to get it.

      I read about the coroner’s report on co-sleeping and SIDS. I’m not an expert, but for me co-sleeping has saved me from dangerous levels of sleep deprivation (ie. should-not-get-behind-the-wheel-of-a-car-exhausted) and the consequences of that kind of fatigue for parents, babies and the other children in the family is something that should not be overlooked or under-estimated.

      There are times when I really envy my friends who sleep alone, who can put their children in a cot and walk away without the cuddling thing we do every night. But I have to agree, it isn’t going to last forever and while it lasts, it is such a special thing. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I spent some time today on your website and wish you all the best with your family. xshanks

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