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Bedsharing with a toddler with medical needs

toddler sleeping NG tube bedsharing
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Bedsharing with a toddler with medical needs

toddler sleeping NG tube bedsharing
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When I was pregnant with my son I did everything “right”. Got the moses basket (donated by friends), bought the cot that turned into a toddler bed, and swore blind I would follow the medical advice to keep my child separate from me while sleeping. I wouldn’t be one of those parents who risked their baby by having them in the same bed.

And then my son was born.

First night home

It’s really true that the perfect parent doesn’t have children. Because that first night home, when my 3 day old son was screaming unless he was in my arms or feeding, was the longest night of my life. At a certain point I brought him into my bed to feed, and was too tired to get back up. I  scootched down the bed and wrapped myself around him and that’s how we slept for the next 2.5 years until my daughter was born and she joined us for a cuddle too. I had made a half hearted attempt to put her in a next to me sidecar cot (again a donation). But,at the first sign of distress I brought her into bed with me. Life was too short to be up with a screaming baby when I could be sleeping with a cuddly kid. 

Needing an NG tube

toddler in hospital cot

This all went great until December 2021 when my daughter had to have a NasoGastric (NG) tube inserted. We went into hospital for a week’s stay which turned into a fortnight. The cot in the hospital looked like a cage to my eyes. I was sleeping on a pull out single bed a foot or so off the floor. That first day was hard. The tube going in was distressing for my daughter and myself. I had to pin her down while she screamed, and then again later that day as she pulled it out and we had to repeat the process. 

At 8ish my husband had to leave to go get our son, and I was alone with my daughter. She was sleepy, upset, and getting formula pumped into her through her nose. So I got ready for bed and brought her in for a cuddle and a feed, hoping to calm us both down and have a little bit of normalcy in a very strange situation.

Bedsharing in the hospital

babywearing hospital NG tube

When the nurses came in at first they asked me to put her in the cot for safety. I told them that this was how we slept at home and that she doesn’t sleep well alone, let alone in a strange place, on a strange bed, with strange feelings on her body. While they  would prefer to have her in her bed, they left us alone. I was aware of people coming and going from the room a lot throughout the night. I’m sure most of that was to check the pump and how she was coping with the milk. However, I do also feel like there was an element of checking in on the sleeping as well.

To their credit it wasn’t brought up again. I think the one night my husband stayed in and she cried until 5am confirmed my assertion that she needed to be next to me to sleep! 

Bedsharing at home with an NG tube

After two weeks we came home with a lot of medical equipment and this became our new normal. We’ve had to adjust where we sleep in the bed to make sure the pump is near her so we don’t have a lot of tubing in the bed. There’s a risk of strangulation if you have too much tube. I wake up to the beeping of the machine, but it’s a case of rolling over to hit the button, not getting up and going to another room or squeezing a 2 year old’s cot into my room. 

She sometimes has bad nights where she’s feeling poorly or pulls her tube. Bedsharing lets me respond quickly with the least disruption for us both. I get much more sleep this way and I get cuddles off my baby. My son sometimes comes through to join us for a cuddle and I end up as a mummy sandwich, which is very cosy if a little uncomfortable! My husband has been relegated to the spare room for now, but my son usually sleeps with him – still not liking to be alone.

smiling parent and toddler with an NG tube

Spoiling a child?

I know people think it’s spoiling your child, and that at 2.5 and 5 they should be able to sleep alone. But every adult I know likes to sleep next to the person they love, especially when they feel rubbish. So why shouldn’t my kids get to cuddle me, especially my daughter with a medical issue? Bed sharing certainly made our hospital stay smoother, allowing us to feel as normal as possible in a stressful situation. And now, at home, it helps make the medical intervention seem as normal as brushing our teeth and putting on our jammas. 

You can get in touch with Gemma for carrying support, and for BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm services as a CalmFamily consultant. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.

Want to support parents with sleep?

If you are passionate about supporting parents with the reality of parenting, love sharing evidence backed information about the reality of sleep, and want to support parents to find ways to meet their own and their baby/child’s sleep needs then training with CalmFamily as a sleep specialist may be right up your street!
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