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Like Joss Stone I’ll Lay With My Child Until He Sleeps — No Matter What ‘Experts’ Say

Like Joss Stone I'll Lay With My Child Until He Sleeps — No Matter What 'Experts' Say

As I lay on the bed with my five-year-old son and let him snuggle into my neck I wonder how long this night time ritual will last. I’m not sure when I decided I would lay with him until he fell asleep each night, I definitely wouldn’t call myself an attachment parent, or consider this my parenting style. But for whatever reason, it works for us and it’s a habit I don’t want to break. I also have to admit most nights I wake up and he’s crawled into my bed, many times without me knowing. He is just one of those children that sleeps better when he’s next to someone, something I feel we hardly ever discuss, and if we do, it is either in terms of our parenting style or a suggestion that we have somehow ‘spoiled’ our children or have no ‘control’ over them.

The NHS still recommends against co-sleeping with a baby and doesn’t really mention sleeping with a child, which means it is still deemed by many as a woo-woo way to tackle sleeping arrangements. This general opinion around having a ‘good sleepers’ meant I spent hours trying to tackle the bedtime routine for my first child, for her to only end up in the bed with us a few hours later. This game of bed musical chairs meant I felt like I failed, and sadly that my daughter had also somehow failed at sleeping well too. Bedtime and sleep was constantly on my mind those early years and caused me a lot of stress and mum guilt at the time — looking back it almost feels laughable now. My daughter is now eight and rarely comes into my bed, doesn’t like me laying with her before she falls asleep, and only started having a positive bedtime and sleeping pattern once I ditched all the ‘rules’. Which is why this Joss Stones instagram post about bed sharing and all children being different — so it is not about the parenting style more the individual’s needs — resonated with me so much.

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A post shared by Joss Stone (@jossstone)

In the caption she said: “We all sleep better when we are next to someone we love, I’m not sure why we expect all our children to be sleeping alone. No matter how different they may be they are expected to behave in the same way . Strange isn’t it. I love that my kids are different cos I don’t think I could fit three in this bed but if I had to I would.” And I felt every word.

With my daughter I was a stickler for the rules. Without realising it, I had taken on all the unsolicited advice of making sure she was in bed by 7 p.m. and ensuring she knew how to self settle. I’m not sure if she would have been a bad sleeper regardless or the amount of rules and restrictions I put into place (like setting a calm atmosphere, reading a story and ensuring she stayed in her room past 7 p.m.) were actually detrimental to her sleep. It often meant we spent two hours trying to tackle bedtime, for her to end up crawling into my bed in the middle of the night anyway. Looking back I think I wasted a good five years of my life stressing about doing her bedtime ‘right’.

I want to add this does not mean I let me children stay up all hours or think this is beneficial to anyone, parents need their time to unwind in the evening and anything after 9 p.m. tends to send my kids a bit doolally. However, I can’t help but think those hours I spent sitting outside the door, so she could see me but I wasn’t in the room (advice from a very influential sleep therapist who will remain nameless) were not only a waste of both our times but the reason I suffered from serious mum guilt, and a comparison complex that everyone else was getting it right and here I was getting it so wrong.

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Like Joss Stone I'll Lay With My Child Until He Sleeps — No Matter What 'Experts' Say

My Missed Miscarriage Made Me a Better Mum

When it came to my son I had a few more years of parenting under my belt and felt a bit more confident that I should follow my gut rather than every bit of advice. When he worked out how to climb out of his cot at 17 months (as you can imagine I was delighted with the accomplishment) I decided to ignore the pleas to keep him in a cot for as long as possible. After the third or fourth night of waking up to my toddler throwing himself out the cot and against the wardrobe, enough was enough — my heart couldn’t take it anymore and a cot bed was purchased.

“Looking back I think I wasted a good five years of my life stressing about doing bedtime ‘right’.”

Initially it was great in terms of not being woken up in the dead of night to a thump and scream, however he worked out pretty swiftly that it meant he could get out whenever he fancied. This is when I think I started to lay with him until he fell asleep, mainly so I could shorten the game of “go back to your bed”, and then put my daughter to sleep. Ironically, this meant she then had a period to play in her room without all my calming rituals. What? Pillow spray, meditation and hushed story in the dark aren’t necessarily required for a child to get a good night sleep? Who knew? Definitely not the countless sleep ‘experts’ on social media who I was following out of desperation. It was also around the same time that she stopped coming into my bed at night. Allowing her to form her own bedtime routine, which consisted of handstands, putting her ‘babies’ to bed, or disappearing into her own make-believe world allowed her to settle in her own way, without my rules, which actually set her up for a decent night’s sleep.

My children are now eight and five and we have stuck to this loose routine, which involves me laying with my son until he falls asleep and allowing my daughter to unwind in her own way, before I go in, select the audiobook she wants to listen to – currently The Baby-Sitters Club, which I love for her – and have a quick chat before we turn off the lights. It has taken away all the pressure of “doing it right” and I love that I get to chat to my son before he falls asleep and my daughter has her own grown-up time with me before her lights go out, without it being all an attempt for her to go to sleep.

“It has become a safe space for him to relax, talk about his feelings and express his anxieties. He will often wait for this time to say if something is on his mind.”

I’m aware that the days are long, but the years are short and I often wonder how long I will even be needed for bedtime, let alone giving cuddles to help him feel safe enough to snooze. I’m watching my thumbsucking, bunny-cuddling son become more mature and ‘manly’ by the day, as he starts to get more involved in football and other sports, so I now embrace these precious moments even more. It has become a safe space for him to relax, talk about his feelings and express his anxieties. He will often wait for this time to say if something is on his mind, whereas my daughter will voice her worries whenever she wants to. It makes this time feel even more important as he gets older. So for now I’m going to take every snuggle, even if its in the middle of the night, and block out the noise about how bedtime should look.

Lauren Ezekiel is an associate editor at PS UK, where she writes about all things beauty, wellness and parenting. With a degree in journalism and 12 years’ experience as a beauty editor at a leading Sunday supplement, she is obsessed with skincare, hair and makeup, and is often found offering advice to innocent bystanders. Her work has been published in Grazia, OK, Health and Beauty, The Sun, ASDA, Dare and Metro.