There is so much shame involved in parenting. You have to do it just so, or else someone with a big mouth is going to put you down for something you did as a parent. Even if it’s as small as using the wrong brand of baby lotion. Usually, they mean well. Usually, they aren’t purposefully rude. Usually, if they have any children at all, they’re already in their thirties. Why do we let these people dictate the choices we make as parents?
When I first became a parent, nothing was going to stop me from being the best mom I could be. I was going to crush this thing. She was going to breastfeed until she self-weaned. We wouldn’t introduce her to regular food until six months. We were going to put her to sleep in a bassinet, on her back, with no blankets or miscellaneous items in the bassinet with her. No honey until a year. No water until six months. Only using carriers that were good for her hips. Feeding on demand! Cloth diapers! No binkies!
Well, most of that worked for us. Except for one big one. She wouldn’t sleep in her bassinet.
But the bassinet problem I was determined to solve. I would not be that failure of a parent that allows her child to sleep the “wrong way”. For weeks after I had my baby, I was only sleeping between four and six hours each night. She would cry and cry for food between seven and ten o’clock, but I wasn’t worried about that. Cluster feeding. They say it only lasts through the growth spurts, and I could deal with it for a short while. But what really burned me out was how I would feed her until she fell asleep, and lay her down in her bassinet, creep over to my own bed and pray to God that she stayed asleep for at least an hour. But God had other plans most of the time. Five minutes after laying her down I would hear little snuffles. The snuffles of a baby waking up. Pretty soon those would turn to little grunts, which would turn into cries, which would turn into bellowing.
I tried swaddling her. I tried a slower transfer from me to the bed, taking nearly ten minutes to lay her down. I tried a pacifier, which she rejected immediately. I even tried a rolled-up blanket tucked by her side to make her think I was still there. She wasn’t having any of it. If she wasn’t with mama, she wouldn’t sleep. We did this for six weeks before I realized it just wasn’t going to work for us.
This lead to me doing something I never thought I would do: I brought her to bed with me. My husband was surprised, but I think he assumed it would only be for a short time. Just for tonight. Well, that night I got more sleep than I had in six weeks time, and I liked it. Any time she cried, I would just tuck her up to my side and she would eat for fifteen minutes and drift off to sleep. At that point, I would drift off to sleep as well. No getting up out of bed, and she would sleep for three hours at a time, without fail.
This experience of mine, sparked some research into how babies sleep. I wanted to know. Why does the hospital make us sign a paper before we leave, saying that she has a bed of her own?? Why is this so important, and is this a completely American thing?
Just to scratch the surface of my research, I should point out that in the majority of cultures around the world, it is completely unheard of, to place your baby in a crib by themselves, and then retreat to your own bedroom. Most mothers of the world would cringe at the thought. But here in America, we feel that not only is it dangerous to share a bed, but that it will foster dependency in the child. We are told that sleeping together with your child is not nurturing and encouraging a bond, but it is over-bonding, and creating an unhealthy attachment. Whether this is true or not, there are some majorly accepted upsides to sharing a room with your child, and a bed as well.
Sleeping in the same room is said to reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.
Sleeping in the same bed results in more sleep for the parent as well as the baby.
Bed-sharing also helps encourage a good breastmilk supply.
The mother senses baby’s needs sooner in a bed-sharing situation.
Getting more sleep means I have a better attitude and my relationship with my husband, friends, and family improves.
Those were some huge pros! But there were cons to doing this as well though.
My husband couldn’t sleep now. We sleep on a full-sized bed, which is small for the two of us, but you add another little body in there, and it gets downright cramped.
The terror of rolling over. At first I was horrified at the thought of squishing her in my sleep. Until I actually tried sleeping with her, and now I know that the chances of me steamrolling her in the middle of the night are much less than I thought. I could feel her every movement, and I would wake up at the slightest grunt from her. There was no way I could roll over the top of her and stay there until she suffocated. In my research online I discovered that most often, the mothers who squish their babies are either overly exhausted, or under the influence. Either way, I would have to be in a deep, deep sleep for that to be a problem.
The risk of the bed itself. You are always told that your baby needs to sleep on a hard surface, with no blankets. Our bed is not the firmest, and I was always finding our sheets somehow creeping up to her shoulders. Not to mention, you aren’t supposed to put the baby between the two of you, because it increases the risk for suffocation. So she had to go on the outside, where I now worried that she could fall off the bed.
Well, she did fall off the bed. More than once. But thankfully we have a soft carpet, and although she bawled, she would get over it quickly and didn’t have any lasting problems because of it.
The moral of the story is that although we tried to follow the rules and do things the “kosher and accepted way”, sometimes (a lot of times), the “one-size-fits-all” view of parenting is not applicable. Every child is different, and has different needs, and as long as we are parenting as safely as we can, we are doing the best thing possible for our children. Shaming other parents because they are unable or choose to not parent the recommended way for their child, is unacceptable. We are all doing the best we can for our children.