The other day, during a phone conversation with my mother-in-law, I mentioned that Wade was having a hard time napping because every time he’d get to sleep, Ronnie would come up singing or playing a guitar or running loudly and wake the baby. Her response was, “Well, maybe he’ll sleep good tonight.” That’s a pretty well-meaning and common phrase – I guess because babies are known to keep parents up throughout the night, causing sleep deprivation and such. But it made me think. So far in the last two months, I’ve never once had a problem with Wade keeping me up at night. He’s never had a crying marathon or refused to go to bed. Hmm… I must be in harmony with my baby.
Ronnie, my first child, kept me up many a night. I was extremely sleep deprived while caring for him – while my husband was deployed and my family was a few states away. But he was my first. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I thought I did. But I didn’t.
When Ronnie was almost a year old, I was introduced to the idea of attachment parenting. I didn’t do much research into the idea at first, so from the few tidbits I did know, I thought it was a great idea but something that wasn’t really realistic. Plus, it went against everything I’d grown up knowing about how kids should be raised. Little by little, I came to know more about the idea and realized that this style of child rearing was definitely more in line with how I felt intuitively about my mothering style. It’s parenting by God’s design and therefore is pretty instinctual. Society’s pressures about how we should raise our children gets in the way of that instinct and we end up with something totally different, though.
Now, there are some crazies out there that take this idea of attachment/gentle/natural parenting to an extreme. I’ve seen and heard of some pretty interesting stuff that I probably wouldn’t do with my kids. But, of course, every family should take its own path. My kids still have boundaries and rules – they in no way “rule the roost.” What we’re doing right now works for us – and I hope to keep it that way.
In order to stay in harmony with my baby, I follow the 7 Baby B’s:
- Birth Bonding: Having a natural child birth was the first step to ensuring a good attachment foundation. Because there weren’t any artificial hormones, anesthetics, or narcotics involved, the natural bonding process was allowed to take place. It was absolutely hard and I almost gave up, but with a natural oxytocin surge, my body actually fell in love with my baby and my baby fell in love with me. Wade latched on and nursed right away which set us up for a very successful breastfeeding relationship. That brings us to…
- Breastfeeding: When I’m feeding my baby, we are actually physically attached. Breastfeeding doesn’t just give him the best nutritional start in life, it also ensures that my hormones are in check. I’m able to remain calmer, happier, and more able to read my baby’s cues.
- Babywearing: Babies want to be held. God designed them that way in order to ensure their survival and when a baby is physically close to a parent, he thrives. I wear Wade in our moby wrap a lot throughout the day. As soon as I wake up and get dressed, I put my wrap on. He sits in it while I work at my computer or while I’m up around the house doing things. Its not often that you’ll see him in the stroller or carrier when we’re out. I get out of the car and he goes right in the wrap. He loves it. I think this is when he’s most comfortable and he often sleeps right through things (like church and a trip to Busch Gardens) when he’s so close to me.
- Bedding Close to Baby: I know some people think its crazy (or dangerous) that we sleep with our kids. But, when certain guidelines are followed, it can be one of the best things. Some precautions we take include never letting both of them sleep with us at the same time and putting the baby between mom and the side of the bed with a guard rail. I never take sleeping medicine or drink, so my alertness is never compromised. A breastfeeding mother is hard-wired to continue caring for her child even when she’s sleeping, so Wade is never in danger. This also allows for easy feedings throughout the night. I don’t have to get up to go get the baby and nurse him. I just help him to latch on and then lay there while he eats. Sleeping with our little ones actually gives us joy. Its such a precious moment to wake up to a smiling baby. Since Ronnie can’t sleep with us anymore (not safe with the baby), we sometimes put his toddler mattress at the end of our bed and let him sleep there. That way he’s still close to us. But, usually, he’s pretty good at sleeping in his own bed at night now.
- Belief in the Language Value of Your Baby’s Cry: Boy, oh boy, this is a big one. I always thought it was healthy for a baby to cry. In fact, I used to let Ronnie to cry-it-out at bedtime when I didn’t let him sleep with me. I realize now that crying is always communication by the baby. I have never let Wade cry or fuss for more than a few minutes at a time because I know that he’s always trying to express a need. And his needs might not only be that he needs to be changed or feed. He could just need to be held or assured that I’m close. Because we’re in harmony, I’m often able to just look him in the eye and let him know that I’m there to get him to stop crying.
- Beware of Baby Trainers: Everyone has a piece of advice. Because we’re confident in the parenting style that we’ve chosen and we know that its okay to follow our instincts, most advice doesn’t phase us. Everyone has and should take their own path.
- Balance: Although I haven’t felt any need to “get away” yet, I did get a little overwhelmed at one point. Keeping my cool with both kids proved to be challenging one day and I needed something to give. I ended up buying a baby swing to soothe Wade for a few minutes at a time while I dealt with Ronnie when I needed to. It helped. At first, I felt guilty because I didn’t want to loose the close bond that Wade and I have. I didn’t want him to feel abandoned by me and just stuck in a swing to entertain himself. But, he enjoyed it. And I had a free moment to read stories or change over the laundry or make dinner. Its all about balance!