Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Rock-a-bye-baby in the puff pocket

baby sleeping under a yellow cellular blanket in a cot At night just before my son goes to sleep we have a ritual he calls 'little baby in the chair' where he lies in my arms like he did when he was a baby. We sit in the chair I used to feed him in (which is the story chair now) and we talk about our day. He starts with "I had a nice time at nursery" - every day, even when he hasn't been to nursery and if there are any 'issues' to discuss we talk about them.

On Monday there was an incident at nursery where he pushed his friend Finlay so I talked to him about this and explained why it isn't nice to hit our friends. It seemed to do the trick as the next day when Hubbie went to pick him up he got an exemplary report on his behaviour. I have also found this bedtime chat helpful in the past when he's been fussy about food at nursery or seemed upset about something.

image of mother and child on rocking chair The bedtime ritual is ever evolving as he grows and the newest addition is where we talk about things that happened when he was a baby. He loves to see photos of his baby self and will ask to watch videos of himself over and over again. This week I told him about when we were in the hospital for the first few days after he was born and he used to fall asleep lying on my chest. He smiled at the thought of falling asleep on Mummy and it was a lovely way to say goodnight to have a cuddle 'like we did when you were a baby.'

Telling him stories about when he was a baby also makes me and Hubbie revisit memories of the early days. In particular Hubbie remembered how on the first night we came home he spent what felt like hours trying to get our newborn baby boy to sleep. He tried everything and was exhausted himself so when he finally succeeded he panicked that something was wrong and woke the baby up to make he sure he was still breathing.

Most new parents have similar experiences of sleep deprived madness - I referred to our boy as 'her' a few times, but was far too tired to correct myself. In my half awake, half asleep stupor just being able to function was a miracle. I perfected the zombie walk of the sleep deprived new parent. You see it in cafes, on public transport and in soft play centres everywhere. We're all just doing what we can to get through the day and night with this person we adore and who we would do anything for, but who doesn't respect our need for sleep or personal space.

image of mother and baby lying next to each other sleeping
So, it's with dismay that I heard earlier this week that according to new research co-sleeping with your baby increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome or cot death. A lot of parents co-sleep because they want to bond with their baby and it does make breastfeeding on demand easier. When my baby son was next to me I never fully slept anyway as I was so aware that he was there. We didn't put him in the bed, but on top of our duvet in a creation of Hubbie's making he christened the 'puff pocket.' This was a snuggly sleep space just for the baby fashioned into a sort of papoose that meant he was warm, but separate. I can't recall moving at all never mind rolling anywhere near him and spent a lot of time just watching him sleep and listening to him breathe. Now he is in his own room I still go in during the night and check my son is breathing - every night. It is no hardship for me and it reassures me that he is fine.

Fear of sudden infant death is so paramount for already frightened new parents that anything that's identified as a risk factor will cause them to be on high alert. I just wish that advice for new parents was presented in a kinder and more helpful manner. I remember how scary it is being responsible for this tiny person for the first time. If only every other news story didn't make me want to cry or hide my child indoors for the rest of his life.

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