Co-sleeping - the What, Why, How, Where

When Quinn was born we used an Amby baby hammock in place of a Moses basket or crib for her to sleep in. I reviewed the hammock a while ago, but it's now gone to live at my best friends house, ready for the arrival of her baby later this year.
When Quinn outgrew the hammock, we bought a cot. She didn't like the cot. We took the side off of the cot and put it against our bed so that we'd basically create a co sleeping environment but nobody would lose any space in the bed. She didn't like the cot.
It would be fare to assume that because she's spent a significant amount of time sleeping in a hammock, she doesn't like laying flat on a mattress, but I can confirm that this is utter rubbish, as she sleeps soundly on a flat mattress, as long as it happens to be my flat mattress.
Since birth we've partially co slept because I'm breastfeeding, and believe me, it's a million times easier to roll over for the seventh time in one night and offer your baby a boob, than it is to drag your arse out of bed to retrieve them from whatever they're sleeping in, before desperately trying to return them to said sleeping arrangement without waking them up. After the hammock was packed away for the last time though, we've unintentionally become a full-time co sleeping family.
How not to co-sleep. This picture represents a pretty unsafe co sleeping arrangement but was taken during daylight with me in the bed next to her blogging! I can't take pictures of her actually sleeping at night due to lighting!

This sounds like a complaint, but here's the thing - I love it! I quite often start statements with "If I had another baby" and then feel the need to massively reiterate that I am not having any more babies, but, if I had another baby, I would definitely just cosleep from the word go, with the hammock because it's nice, especially for naps.
Quinn doesn't really settle until somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30 at night at the moment which is totally normal for a 5 month old baby. Some babies go to bed of their own accord earlier than that - the one thing I don't agree with is enforcing a "bedtime" on a baby of this kind of age. Quinn goes to bed when she falls asleep, and she always falls asleep on the boob. Falling asleep whilst breastfeeding is a really important, healthy, natural behaviour on babies part. A baby should never fall asleep if he/she doesn't feel safe, secure, and protected - and a baby feels ultimately safe, secure and protected whilst breastfeeding. So anyway, she falls asleep on the boob between 8:30 and 9:30 and depending on what needs doing, I'll either tuck her down in the bed and get some jobs done (sometimes this involves actually eating something if I haven't yet managed to do so!), or sometimes I'll stay in bed with her and read, watch a movie, do internet stuffs etc.
The advice provided by the likes of NHS health visitors is that babies should be sleeping in their own cot/crib in their parents bedroom until at least six months of age, and health professionals have varying responses to co sleeping, but for the most part, they are required to advise against it. We co sleep after making sure that all risks of suffocation and falling from the bed are removed from Quinn's area. Practicing safe co sleeping is perfectly safe and may actually decrease a baby's risks of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), as opposed to co sleeping without taking appropriate safety measures - which may increase SIDS risks. There is lots of advice about co sleeping safely (removing pillows, not drinking or using drugs, not letting baby sleep next to Daddy) available from trusted organisations such as The Lullaby Trust and the National Childbirth Trust.
Quinn wears a baby sleeping bag to sleep in, over her sleepsuit, so she doesn't need to use our duvet or additional loose blankets. No baby should sleep with a pillow.
Co sleeping is, for one, the best chance I get of sleeping well, as Quinn will not last an hour in her cot without waking and needing to be breastfed to settle her back to sleep. She's feeding a lot during the night at the moment as the rate of her development is absolutely off the scale - she's pretty much mastering significant new skills on a weekly basis at the moment - but it's definitely easier to offer her short, comforting feeds during the night with both of us still half asleep when we're in the same bed. At 5.5 months she's finally at the point now where if she wakes, she can find a boob herself and latch on so that whilst I'm aware of her, I don't actually have to "get up".
I love the closeness that Quinn and I have, it's bordering on clingy by most people's standards (and that's me, not her), she isn't really held by other people (because I rarely offer and because she doesn't particularly like it), and I've never left her with anyone other than her Dad, so she doesn't really know anything other than me. Co-sleeping is an extension of that really, I'm her safe place, and being close to me is normal - anything that doesn't involve being close to me, is not normal, and as such, is quite daunting. It's lovely to have her snuggle up in to me all happy. The other night I got up to get myself a drink and came back in to the bedroom to find her, still asleep, but patting around with her hands trying to find me (very cute), I got in next to her and held her hand and she laughed in her dream and fell still again - it's moment like that that I realise co-sleeping is improving my parenting experience, not taking away from it.
It's incredibly rare for a healthy Mum to harm her baby in any way when co sleeping, and especially difficult to do so if appropriate safety measures are taken. Yes, there have been really very sad stories in the news in the last year of infant deaths occurring during co sleeping but it's important to consider that co sleeping alone wasn't to blame for these losses of life, and that further safety precautions could have been taken in all cases. We practice safe co-sleeping and I've never rolled on to Quinn or punched her in the face or anything of the sort. Co sleeping isn't generally recommended for formula feeding Mums of small babies, as when we stop breastfeeding we do lose an element of that "instinct" that means breastfeeding Mums remain aware of their baby in the bed. When children are bigger and more robust, there are no real concerns if they've weaned from the breast at 2+ years and decide to continue co sleeping. It's also not recommended for Dad to co-sleep next to a baby as he doesn't have that same built in awareness that Mum does of where the baby is for the duration of the night.
I'm in no rush to move Quinn out of my bed and have absolutely no idea when this will happen but it isn't something I've scheduled and definitely isn't something I'm keen to push whilst she's still breastfeeding several times a night. The cot still has it's side off up against my bed, not that she'll use it, and it's become a huge, padded bedside table!

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