Category Archives: Things I learned

Things I learned #5: the secret world of co-sleeping

Oh, the before and afters of being a parent! It is truly amazing to me how my opinion on certain topics can do complete 180 degree turns depending on what side of the fence I’m sitting on. I’ve lost count of how often this has happened to me since I became a mother. It’s totally dependent on experience, isn’t it? But that applies to everything I suppose. Random example – I always thought I wanted a small winter wedding in the middle of the city centre incorporating cobblestones, velvet capes, mulled wine and foggy breathe. In reality I had a big wedding in the country hills on a beautiful summer’s day. The theory and the practice can be oh so very different.

I’m dying to have a chat with you about the before and afters of breastfeeding but today I’ve been thinking about the before and afters of co-sleeping.

photo credit: Puzzler4879 via photopin cc

My mother tells me that in our house all four of her children were fantastic sleepers who slept peacefully, uninterrupted in their cots all night. No little shadows darkened their door or entered their bed. We were all bottlefed but that may or may not be relevant.

All the public health information in the mainstream media highlights the danger of sleeping with your baby and the current official recommendations say that “the safest place for your baby to sleep at night is in a cot in your room”. They also actively discourage you from having your baby sleep in your bed with you.

For as long as I can remember, I have heard people tut-tut and sneer when discussing other people allowing children sleep in their beds. “They can’t let them away with that kind of thing…”, “You’ll never get them out of the bed”, “Sure nobody can get any kind of sleep”, “They’re spoilt rotten those children, no discipline…”, “Too soft…”, “Nobody’s getting any action in that bed…” etc etc. I admit I joined in on occasion. For those not in the know, you would easily believe that only irresponsible or indulgent people shared their bed with their babies.

The first time I ever heard of the term “co-sleeping”, I was reading the weekly column of clinical psychologist and broadcaster David Coleman in the health supplement of the Irish Times. In response to a letter from a distressed parent who was having sleep problems with their small child, he was extolling the benefits of co-sleeping as a solution and I remember thinking, “oh, should he really be doing that?, isn’t that dangerous?”. I believed it was, because I’d never had first hand experience of it and everything I’d heard about it was linked to a negative connotation.

When myself and my husband went to our antenatal classes, one of the midwives mentioned off the cuff that it was okay to tuck the baby in beside you in the bed. In fairness, she whispered it. I raised an eyebrow. Why would you do that?, I wondered.

That was the “before”.

Then came the “after”.

As I mentioned before, I found the second night after baby S was born really hard. After a good recuperating sleep following the adventure of being born, he just wanted to be held. There was absolutely no way he wanted to be anywhere else except in my arms. I was awake all night. When I told the visiting midwife about it the next morning, she told me not to be afraid to put him in the bed beside me, that he would be comforted by my presence and we would both rest. She whispered it too. Like some secret we couldn’t have overheard.

She used the phrase “it’s okay”. And I believed her. So I did it. Not all night, every night but sometimes. I moved him between the cosleeper and our bed. Sometimes my husband cradled him on his chest. But we did it quietly because it felt like a guilty secret. When baby S was two weeks old, we went to our first breastfeeding support group in the local HSE centre. I have to say, it was just fantastic. Here I was surrounded by other women at exactly the same stage as me and my baby, going through nearly the same experiences. In the following few weeks I discovered through quiet conversations and hushed tones – so the public health nurse couldn’t hear – that I wasn’t the only one who was sneaking the baby into the bed.

In fact, here’s Things I learned #5: the secret world of co-sleeping – EVERYONE IS DOING IT!

Okay, not EVERYONE but many, many, many of the women I met – and we’re easily talking nearly 100 over a three month span (the birth rate appears to be through the roof where I live 🙂 ) – had their babies in their bed at some stage or another. We not just talking about the hardcore attachment parents here, we’re talking some Gina Ford fans too and everyone in between. As far as I could gather, when you have a small baby the general rule of thumb is “do whatever it is you need to do to have a happy baby and a happy mama.” I like this rule, this is how I live my life now and it’s working really well for us.

Co-sleeping may not be for you because it’s definitely not for everyone – and it actually wasn’t really for us for a long time – but don’t be afraid of the idea of it. There is literally acres of advice online and in many books with details on how to do it safely. If you’re breastfeeding in particular, you might get yourself some serious extra zzzzs. Now that I’m out the other side of it, it’s definitely something I’ll be embracing more readily next time round.

Related links:

Things I learned: a casual miniseries – giant maternity pads

Things I learned #2: breast pads

Things I learned #3: night sweats – sexy!

Things I learned #4: there go my waters!

Things I learned #4: there go my waters!

I feel a bit silly telling you this one but if only one person stumbles across this post in ten years time and it helps them out in some kind of way, then my embarrassment was worth it…

…When I was about six centimetres dilated in the throes of labour, the midwife asked me if I would mind if she examined me to see how I was getting along.  She asked me to stand up after my next contraction so that she could check the baby’s heart rate and then I could get out of the birth pool just for a couple of minutes for the examination.  My husband maintains that I stood up suddenly out of the water, put my hands on my hips and exclaimed “this is BULLSHIT”, but I have no memory of this. 🙂

I sat on the ground reclining backwards for the exam, which was interrupted by a contraction.  This was the one and only contraction I had technically on my back.

It was not cool at all.

I would not be recommending it as a positive position for pain management.

Suddenly, and I mean suddenly with all the drama of a ten year old’s English essay, my waters broke, as if out of nowhere.  How this came as a shock to me I still don’t know.  But I was SHOCKED. And terrified.

Because the waters were…HOT.

Seriously, what was I expecting?  My tiny naked baba had been living in there for nine months, of course they weren’t going to be tepid but for some reason it was the last thing I was expecting.  The midwife had to explain it to me. What a muppet…

Ladies (and gentlemen), waters are hot. Obvs.

PS. Is “waters” an Irish thing? I notice a lot of American and UK sites say “water” singular.

Related posts

Things I learned: A casual miniseries – Giant Maternity Pads

Things I learned #2: breast pads

Things I learned #3: night sweats – sexy!

Things I learned #3: night sweats – sexy!

I am a natural researcher. When I’m interested in subjects, I tend to read, read, read so that I can be as informed as possible.  Before I got pregnant and then during my pregnancy I took this approach, hungrily digesting all the literature I could until close to my due date I had overindulged and couldn’t touch another baby related book. I also found it very hard to see past the birth itself. I had some books on breastfeeding and baby care which I had flicked through but without any idea of what it was like to hold and touch my own tiny baby, it was very hard for me to concentrate on step by step instructions on baby bathing, latching on etc. So in actuality I missed out on a whole section of education – those delicate early days and weeks of new motherhood when the last thing you’d think of doing is touching a 400 pager. (Although my 8 page breastfeeding booklet from the community midwives was mottled with overuse.)

When I woke up in the middle of the night about a week after S was born so wet that I thought I had either peed all over myself or accidentally spilled a very large glass of water, I didn’t know what was happening to me.  My nightdress was saturated to the point where I could probably wring it out, my hair was stuck to my forehead and neck and my sheets were soaked all the way through. I had to get up, strip off and towel myself down. If it wasn’t for my sleeping baby and husband, I would have had a shower and changed the bed.

Then the next night the same thing happened again, and the next night, and the next night.  It was a bit scary actually. I’d never been a sweaty person and I tend to run on the cold side at the best of times so I couldn’t make any sense of it at all. I thought my body was broken. I was also bloody uncomfortable.  I was changing my night clothes and nursing bra twice a night. I had to wipe myself down and tie my hair up to keep it dry. I also started to sleep on a towel over the sheets to stave off the sheet changing. God knows there was enough other bodily fluids competing to ruin the sheets. (Breastmilk, lochia, saliva, tears, baby pee, baby puke – in case you were wondering.)

I was too embarrassed to mention it to the other women in my breastfeeding support group in case I was the only sweaty wonder. I also wasn’t seeing eye to eye with my public health nurse – a difference of philosophies, shall we call it? It wasn’t until my six week check with the GP that I found out it was night sweats. My hormones were telling my body to get rid of all the excess fluid still hanging around after pregnancy.  Not every woman experiences it apparently and it’s not related to breastfeeding. She didn’t half put the fear in me when she said she was still getting them six years after her last pregnancy! Shudder.

They stopped not long after that and I was very glad to be able to stay in bed and keep the same night dress on me all night. Six weeks was a long enough run. I was also very happy to explain them to a woman who brought it up at the breastfeeding support group a few weeks later and to give her some solidarity in her sweatiness.

So there you go – night sweats – one more thing I learned on the hoof on this exciting rollercoaster. Any other sweaty Bettys out there?


Related links:

Things I learned: a casual mini series

Things I learned #2: breast pads

Things I learned #2: breast pads

I only found out that I needed breast pads for my nursing bras, at least in the first few days after giving birth, when I was in my last couple of weeks of work. The sage-like mammies that I work with set me straight when I thought that I could use breast compresses instead. I didn’t really understand what a breast compress was. Listen, sure how would I? There’s been no babies in the family since we were babies and I only had one friend with a baby so I’d never seen any of these pregnancy/new mum related products in action.

Off I went in search of breast pads and decided to treat myself to some serious-looking Tommee Tippee individually wrapped, contoured and adhesive stripped breast pads. At €7 a box they seemed like a bargain.

It turns out ho ho, did I need breast pads! When little S was born, I had an oversupply of breastmilk for the first few months which meant I was keeping the breast pad industry in Ireland afloat as I tried to avoid my nipples shooting off by themselves, which happened frequently and in public, and soaking through my bras, tops, nightdresses and bedsheets.

When you’re beating your way through at least three pairs of breastpads a day, suddenly €7 for a box of 50 (oh, you clever marketing people! That’s only 25 pairs!) doesn’t seem like such a bargain after all. That’s when the cheapskate in me made a rookie mistake. My sister in law gave me a box of own brand breast pads from a leading pharmacy chain that came in a very pretty box but weren’t up to the job of taming my (literally) heaving bosoms.

I tried some cheaper brands and some supermarket own brand ones. A few of them had no adhesive on the back. This was a total disaster. Breast pads on the move are no good to a leaking woman, particularly in the summer when she’s having coffee with her friends and two perfectly circular but expanding wet patches appear on her white vest top.

A few brands sold themselves as being absorbant but thin and discrete. They turned out to be just thin and completely indiscrete when they let me down. Now there’s no doubt in my mind that they’re all perfectly adequate for most mothers but I needed that extra confidence (I sound like a sanitary towel ad, sorry).

I did find some nice ones like the Johnson&Johnson or the Nuk ones which rocked in at the same price as the Tommy Tippee ones but they actually had even less in a pack and I was getting to the bottom of the box quicker than I would remember to replenish them which led to a few dodgy outings when I thought I might just risk it. I’m sure you can guess how that ended.

So lesson #2 I learned was don’t cheap out on breast pads, it’s a false economy!

Cheap breast pads = lots of wet nursing bras and tops = more washing and drying = bigger cost.

The maths says it all – the pricey Tommee Tippee ones is was! They didn’t seem so expensive now. Not having to keep checking my boobs in public was price enough to pay. Funnily enough, it’s only in the last few weeks I’ve been able to do without. I don’t miss them I have to say!

Related posts:

Things I learned: a casual miniseries – part 1: giant maternity pads