Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Musical Beds


About ten seconds after Daisy was born, our lovely doula Hilary said to us, “Welcome to a decade of musical beds.” I didn’t believe her. But this morning, with everyone having gone to bed in their correct bed, this was how things looked in our house: Ollie in own cot, two girls in with Mummy, Daddy in Daisy’s bed. It is so common we don’t even comment on it; there’s no “Oh how did you get here?” or “Anyone know where Daddy is?”. We just get up, get on with our day, safe in the knowledge that the next morning will bring a new and exciting sleep configuration.

Despite an initial three seconds of trying our babies in their lovely little cots, we always co-slept out of necessity (Co-sleep bad? No sleep worse!), and I think our bed has become a refuge for all of them. I am usually aware that someone has joined us: Daisy is not shy of pulling back the duvet and finding the spot that suits her, but once she’s asleep she sleeps like a log. Lily is more subtle – sometimes we find her curled up at the end of our bed like a kitty, but like a cat she can also be restless and shuffle around. Ollie, however, is a bad co-sleeper – if he finds himself with us, he thinks it’s time for a grand play, so he will rampage, plant kisses, bestow furious hugs until both parents have been loved to wakefulness. At least we can still decide if he gets let in or not; the girls just arrive uninvited. However, in a few months time, when he gets out of jail, we’ll be adding Ollie to the nightly mix. Golly gosh, the fun that lies ahead!

I think that separating parents’ and childrens’ sleep is a relatively new and largely Western phenomenon. There are experts both strongly for and strongly against co-sleeping, and those who are proponents do recommend that you take safety precautions, especially when babies are tiny. We were always cautious, though there was the odd occasion when we’d be woken by a loud bump followed by a surprised wail. A quick visit to the boob usually sorted out any hurts, physical or to dignity.

I’m not here to say do or don’t co-sleep, because I believe that parents must do what’s right for their children, themselves and their family unit as a whole. What I really wish was that as parents we didn’t suffer so much angst about something so natural and easy. I wasted hours worrying about when and how I should move child A, B or C from our bed, more hours discussing it with friends on the phone, still more hours making myself feel worse about it by reading the wisdom of various experts and even more hours on co-sleeping message boards. While I loved and accepted co-sleeping, there was a part of me wanting to rush my children on, onward and upwards to the next thing.

We’re still in the thick of musical beds and various kinds of bed-sharing, but now that Lily is nearly seven and starting to look coltish and less babyish, I realise that soon she’ll be far too sophisticated to want to climb into Mummy’s bed. When I carry her back to her own bed, she’s almost too heavy for me. Now I’m looking at co-sleeping from another perspective, thinking that in a short blink they won’t be needing the comfort of our bed, won’t really be needing us at all except to pay their cellphone bills, and they’ll be wanting to stay awake all night and sleep all day. I must relish the bed-sharing while it lasts. They aren’t going to be my babies for ever.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

5 thoughts on “Musical Beds

  1. The time goes so fast, doesn’t it? I remember how worried I was when I moved Kiko from the bassinet in our bedroom to his cot in his bedroom. I thought he would be back in our room within hours, but no. He seemed to breathe a sigh of relief to be in his own space and refuses to sleep unless he’s in his own bed with the door closed (which is worrying me intensely tonight because it’s so ridiculously hot and for all I know he’s frying in there but if I go in and check the temperature he’ll scream the place down). It seems like ages since he last slept in here.

    I think whether a family co-sleeps or not depends very much on the child. Kiko is a bit like Ollie when he’s in our bed. He jumps all over us, screaming: “Daddy!” then rampantly tries to hurl himself off the end. But I know a mother who co-sleeps with her baby (now a toddler) and she feels so guilty about it, as if she has to apologise for it. She often says: “It’s my problem that I created for myself.” It’s a shame parents get so much pressure put on them about what is “right” and what is “wrong”. “Whatever works!” is what I say.

  2. Sometimes deep in the night when musical bed game was in full play, I would break the rules and sneak into one of the children’s beds that had been recently abandoned! It might be a bit of a tight fit, but oh the bliss of not having dear little sharp elbows poke you in the night.

    Gosh, you children kiss you on the cheek! Lugury (ala Monty Python). Our daughter’s favourite trick was to manually open up our eyes by lifting up our eyelids by our eyelashes.

    You seem to have a very manageable troupe of sleepers (until now, who knows what Ollie will turn out like). We had alphabet sleepers for children. Their speciality was making up the letter H (I (mom) – (child) I (dad)) with our sleeping bodies, which inevitably left both us parents clutching onto the edge of the bed trying not to fall off. Of course, children like variety, and so they made up the letters N, A, T (if mom left the bed in frustration), D (ditto)… the variations were endless.

  3. As mentioned in my blog, we had been co-sleeping with our son for eight months, but now he is disappointingly fond of his bed independance. The other day he wanted to sleep with me for his nap. I was sort of glad that he was remembering the comfort of sleeping with his dad. And then, as he was closing his eyes, he said ‘tout seul’, which in essence means: ‘Dad, go sleep your nap somewhere else’.

  4. Why, oh why do the pundits and the opiners insist on making parenting so complex that a natural tribal act like co-sleeping gets labelled a “problem?” You do what works for you, and stop worrying about it.

    When we were little, we used to do the lifting the eyelids by the eyelashes thing, whispering “Is she awake, do you think?” to each other. Mother would lie like an opossum, mouth slightly open. We would poke our fingers in her mouth, which would sometimes close quickly and bite those nosy little fingers. How my mother kept a straight face while listening to us discuss whether or not she was awake I will never know.

  5. Helen, Mandarine, I think it’s wonderful that your sons love their own space so much. I’ve never had an independent sleeper so I think it’s a stunning quality in a small person. Lilalia, my husband and I regularly escape to the recently vacated beds, leaving two little girls slumbering in splendour in the so-called marital bed. And Ms MHH, I quite agree, it’s tribal and natural and so what what the “experts” think. I like the sound of your mother’s sense of humour!

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