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Sunday 17 December 2017

Is three a crowd: should baby be kept out of the marital bed?

Couples who share a bed with their baby can enjoy stronger bonds and better sleep, but the downsides range from loss of privacy and intimacy to child safety. But is it worth the risk?

Lovely happy family in the bedroom
Lovely happy family in the bedroom
Claire Gleeson
Joanna Fortune,Child Physchologist Beacon South
The baby can be a lot of work
Tamara Ecclestone

As every new parent knows, nothing is more precious than sleep. Sometimes the mere thought of a bit of shut-eye has frazzled parents salivating.

So it's no wonder that most of us will do anything it takes to grab a few hours of uninterrupted kip.

And it seems money can't buy you rest if 'sources' are to be believed.

Jay Rutland, who is married to billionaire heiress Tamara Ecclestone, is considering leaving the marital bed in order to get his beauty sleep because his 30-year-old wife insists on bringing their 10-month-old daughter, Sophia, into bed with them every evening.

Whether or not to co-sleep has always been a contentious issue, with some people saying it causes friction between couples and others believing it helps everyone to get the sleep they need and helps babies to feel more secure.

We spoke to two mums and a parenting expert to find out whether having three in the bed will cause the little one to force one of his parents to 'roll over' and find another place to sleep.

Juliana Kadlecova lives in Greystones, Co Wicklow with her husband Ladislav Kadlec and daughters Slavomira (3) and Miroslava (2 months). Originally from Slovakia, the mother-of-two says she never intended to share a bed with her daughters but it has proven to be the most convenient way to ensure they get fed and everyone gets rest.

I read about co-sleeping while I pregnant with our first daughter but from birth, we put her to bed in her cot.

I had problems breastfeeding, and after three months I was advised to co-sleep with her which made my life and breastfeeding so much easier and more comfortable. Now our second baby has been sleeping with us since she was born and is exclusively breastfed like her sister.

Because I tried both ways it's very easy for me to say that there are many benefits of co-sleeping - including; being in tune with your baby, getting used to breastfeeding, having similar sleep patterns to your baby and not having to worry about getting up to go to the cot every time your baby wakes for a feed and later trying to get them back to sleep over and over again.

Instead I feed my baby while lying in the same bed - so I definitely get more sleep. And because I don't smoke, drink or use any drugs it's completely safe to co-sleep with her.

I think it's the best method to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) because you will realise the change in your baby's breathing immediately.

When I was a first-time-mum, I found it difficult to fall asleep while she was in the cot because I was afraid something would happen to her.

But after she moved to our bed I wasn't scared anymore. No baby monitor comes with a 100pc guarantee, but the fact that the baby is next to you can give you a peace of mind.

Also before we started co-sleeping we were warned by some people that we would lose the intimacy in our relationship, but we have been lucky enough to have another baby so I don't think we lost it.

When our older daughter was 18 months old we bought her a bed. We told her she could sleep half the night there and then could come to our bed, which we didn't mind at all. With our second one, we will see how things will work out as time goes on.

We always wanted children so their well-being is our highest priority as we realise how precious the moments we spend together are."

Claire Gleeson from Drumcondra is married to John and has a 14-month-old daughter called Kate. She put her job as a GP on hold to look after her baby and says while she didn't make a conscious decision to become a co-sleeper, she now believes it is the best option for all three family members.

Kate sleeps in our bed every night but we didn't plan it that way from the beginning.

Like most parents, we were keen to have her in with us as a new-born and had a co-sleeper crib attached to the side of the bed.

She would always wake immediately if put down away from me, so having her right beside me was a necessity if we were to get any sleep at all.

When she was a bit older we put her in her cot in her own room and would take her in with us as soon as she woke.

But it became easier to move her cot into our room altogether, so we took one side off and have it 'side-carred' to our bed.

Despite it being something we sort of fell into, the longer we did it and the more I read about it and spoke to other parents who co-slept, the happier I was that it's a great practice, and really good for baby's sense of security.

We now all get a lot more sleep. If Kate wakes in the night, I'm right there beside her so it's easy to soothe her back to sleep.

It also makes the night feeds so easy and it's lovely to wake up with a warm baby snuggled beside you.

Some people say it isn't safe to sleep with your baby, but as long as you follow the guidelines - which include a firm mattress, no blankets or pillows near the baby's face and no bed-sharing with a parent who smokes or has been drinking - most of the studies that have been done show it to be a very safe practice.

In terms of emotional health, I don't believe for a second that there's any detrimental effect as small babies want to be close to their mothers.

People often warn you that "you'll never get them out of the bed", but I've only ever heard this from people who didn't co-sleep.

A lot of the parenting 'experts' stress the need for a baby to be sleeping independently, but independence is something which develops naturally over time and shouldn't be forced on a baby.

Privacy

Having a baby obviously affects your relationship, regardless of where they sleep. You have less time, less privacy and sleep is a lot more precious.

Yes, of course having a baby in your bedroom changes things, but as long as both parents are happy with the sleeping arrangements, those problems shouldn't be insurmountable - and fortunately for us, there are other rooms in the house.

There are so many 'experts' out there telling you how and where your baby should be sleeping - so it's easy to feel you're doing something wrong if your baby doesn't sleep an uninterrupted twelve hours in their own room.

But that's not how normal baby sleep works. I found life got much easier once I stopped trying to get her to sleep according to 'the rules', and just went with my instincts."

Joanna Fortune is a psychotherapist specialising in parent and child relationships. Based at the Solamh clinic in Dublin 18 (www.solamh.com), she agrees with Claire and says every family is different so should do what works for them.

I believe parents should do what feels right for them as opposed to something they have read in a book. There are both pros and cons to co-sleeping with your baby, this is why you must think it through in advance and decide what will work best for you.

On the plus side, it can mean that when babies wake in the night they go back to sleep a lot quicker. It can be much easier for breastfeeding mothers and the physical closeness is good for nurturing the mother-infant bond as babies learn to trust and feel reassured through skin -to-skin contact at this stage.

But there are cons too, not least of which is sharing your bed with a wriggly baby (particularly as they get a few months older). This takes getting used to and may interrupt your quality of sleep. It may also make the transition of moving your baby to their own bed much harder for both you and your child. And it will of course impact on the level of intimacy in your relationship.

But having a baby will do this regardless - for at least for the first while as most new parents will testify. So it is really important that you stay invested in your relationship with each other as well as your baby.

As babies grow the benefit from seeing that their parents have a life outside of them helps to develop their capacity for people permanency later on.

My advice to parents would be to use your judgement. If your baby is becoming restless and increasingly wriggly they may need to sleep in their own cot to get better quality sleep.

There is no universal right or wrong time to do this, but depending on how old your child is the approach you take to managing the transition will be different.

trust

Many new parents worry about getting it right or wrong with their babies. But the most important thing is to attune to your own baby in your own way and trust your instincts - act on what feels right for your family because each baby is unique and each parent is unique. Positive Parent-Child attunement is the most important factor in bonding and attachment with you and your baby."

It gives us great peace of mind

I just went with my instincts

Every baby is different

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