This blog post idea comes courtesy of my husband Badgerman, who said “surely you should write a post about sleep, after all the moaning you do about it and British windows”. He’s heard me complain often enough about blinds and windows and poxy cream curtains that let all the light in to know my sleep is important to me and that I cannot fathom why shutters don’t come as standard on British houses.
The best way to get a good night sleep, according to the French and SCIENCE, is to have a very dark bedroom. It doesn’t need to be completely pitch-back but it should be as close to it as possible. It’s a known fact that the darker the room the more profound the sleep.
French people understand this so all houses and flats come with shutters as standard. Some have painted wooden ones and some have the more old-fashioned metal ones on the outside of windows. More modern constructions may have electric shutters but that’s not a statement of wealth, just practical.
I cannot get my head around why shutters are not standard everywhere. They are common sense for so many reasons, not just because they create a darker and more suitable environment for a good night sleep but also because:
1. If you live in a hot country (or just for hot summer days), you can half shut them to protect your house and yourself from overheating but you can keep your windows open and get the benefit of the outside air instead of just being shut inside in a hot house.
But for this to work, you would need windows that actually open widely, and these are not to be found in England (another cultural shock for me!).
2. The flip coin is that in winter, closing your shutters helps keep the heat in and the cold out, you are immediately better insulated. So, you know, you save money on heating.
3. It is added safety; robbers have an extra job trying to get in. It’s just common sense!
Oh dear… I have become one of those mums. You know the type: they just don’t stop boasting about their children, pictures in hand, until their interlocutor’s eyes glaze over and you know they are thinking ‘I don’t ever want to become this boring, I am NEVER having kids!’
The thing is, I thought I had avoided this particular trapping until now. I have been blessed with a typical child who is meeting her milestones pretty much as expected so although I do pay some attention to other babies in that way I am not concerned for my own. Of course I like talking about her, but I think (I hope!) I have engaged with people about other subjects as well. Little Girl is 6 months old and hasn’t got any teeth, whereas most of the other babies in my antenatal group have got at least two, so what? She could still not have teeth in three months time and I think I would still not be bothered. She’s not quite rolling yet? Yep, not bothered. She is not remotely sleeping through the night, darn it, I have a BABY not a toy so again not bothered. Actually with this last one, maybe ‘a little’ bothered but I am still coping much better than I could have hoped for in the days when 8 hours’ sleep were a right, not an item on my prayer list. I am reminded of a sketch from Michael McIntyre about the difference between couples who don’t have children and those who do when it comes to sleep. Those who don’t, go to bed and tell each other: ‘Have a good night, dear’ and fully expect it to be the case. Those who do turn to each other and say curtly: ‘Good luck’. But I digress.
When people ask me how Little Girl is doing, I’ll say that she’s happy, not sleeping well at all and she has started doing this or that. All in all, a three-minute conversation. Until last week.
Last week, we started weaning and oh my goodness have I been talking about it ever since. You would think that keeping a blog and writing two posts about it in the same week we started would be enough, especially considering my slow rate of post production. But of course not! I swear, I am a woman possessed. I have pictures AND videos. I show them to every person that walks to the door. My friend who I see at least twice a week, who on Facebook has access to the full uncensored pictures of Little Girl’s prowess, was shown the same picture twice because I couldn’t remember I’d already seen her.
At the same time, how could I fail to be impressed? My little girl is eating (well, licking) melon! Avocado! Chicken! LAMB! She paints mash all over herself and still goes for more!
That’s it, I have truly lost it.
Have you found yourself doing and saying something you’d sworn never to do before you had a child?
Before the Babykins was born, I hadn’t given much thought to the kind of parenting style I might adopt. The only thing I knew for sure is that I wanted to breastfeed. Other than that, my philosophy for the early days was very much ‘No Expectations, No Pressure’; the less you expect to be able to do anything, the less pressure on you to perform, the more surprising when you feel up to it! As it turned out, I didn’t feel up to anything for a good three weeks after the birth. It was a truly rotten time, and if I had thought I should be able to cook or clean during that time, I would have felt like a failure when it became clear it wasn’t going to happen. Instead, as I struggled to find even an ounce of energy to feed myself, I stayed in bed with the Babykins and went with the flow.
I liked the idea of a co-sleeping bed, but we couldn’t afford it and so our only hope was that the baby would take to the Moses basket and the crib and eventually to the cot. She did stay in the Moses basket for a while but outgrew it quite quickly, and moving her to the crib proved impossible. She is a very noisy sleeper as are a lot of babies, and during those neurotic first weeks, I struggled to relax and sleep deeply, and found it easier to help her fall asleep on my chest then move her next to me in bed. And so we ended up co-sleeping.
I dare say it has been more difficult for Hubby than for me to share our bed. The double bed is on the small side; he moves a lot in his sleep and was worried he might hit her; and of course he needs to get up in the morning to go to work, no wonder he was feeling twitchy at the start. In theory, I could catch up on sleep during the day. Unfortunately I am actually physically incapable of falling asleep anywhere other than in my bed in the dark at night so the old “sleep when the baby sleep” recommendation is wasted on me. But at least I can stay at home and potter about in a daze if necessary. In any case, we managed for a couple of months.
Since yesterday however, thanks to the incredible generosity of my sister and her partner, we are now the proud owners of a co-sleeping crib, which attaches to the side of our bed. It’s wonderful, with a lovely veil all around it in gender-neutral yellow.
Regaining my half of the bed last night felt like a luxury and I am somewhat relieved that the Babykins has her own space now, as she definitely has her daddy’s habits of sleeping with her arms all over the place! Our only other option would have been to invest in a King-size bed (still not a bad idea I reckon!).
It wasn’t the most peaceful night for me or her, but I wasn’t expecting it to be, it will probably take a few nights for her to get used to her new space. She did wake up more easily than when she is in our bed, waking around 1am, 2.40am and 4.20am, when I decided to move her a little bit closer to me and she then slept until 8.30am, which is pretty darn good!
When I say that we co-sleep, I often get a funny look from people, and a common comment goes along the lines of ‘you better move her out soon or she will never sleep well on her own’. But if I’m honest, I don’t really care. I don’t know any 10 year olds who still sleep with their parents, or any adults for that matter. When I was looking into it, I realised that it is a very Western concept that children should sleep in their own room and in their own bed from an early age. There are plenty of cultures where co-sleeping is a way of life. I am therefore not particularly worried about making a ‘rod for my own back’.
It is sad that health professionals in the UK are not able to officially recommend co-sleeping, although I understand why they cannot. Many of the midwives I have spoken to admitted to co-sleeping with their own children. The safety rules are easy enough to follow, and the benefits in my experience are worth it. More sleep for baby and mother, lower risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), easier to breastfeed, what’s not to like?
Co-sleeping is lovely. I love it when my daughter pats my cheek before going to sleep, or when she curls her hand in my hair, and that she snuggles herself close in her sleep so that we wake up nose to nose. I love it that the first thing she does when she wakes up is smile at me. I love it that she never cries at night unless she is pain somehow, and that I don’t have to get out of bed to feed her. For my own sanity, this is the route we have taken and I do not regret it.