Becoming a parent was a downright unimaginable reality, prior to the moment that my baby actually entered the world (8 whole months ago *sniff*) Being a new parent is like treading water for what seems like an eternity while still feeling unsure if you are sinking, swimming, or drowning.
Some moments, John Fredrick is acting like the baby that he is, squirming about half naked, flexing his [freakishly strong] leg muscles, trying to kick off the changing table and pretty much downright screaming at me and I wonder, Am I doing this right?! And then there are many moments when I wake up to the world’s brightest smile, and as he reaches his tiny human hand toward my face, I just know that there is literally nothing better than moments like this. There is no manual. There are a million different and opposing views, and shades of similar opinions and practices. I accept that my child will maybe never say to me, “Mama, you did everything right!” and even if that did happen, I would still question myself. Doctors, nurses, other parents, family members and friends will all praise, question and criticize different approaches, because I completely understand how no one wants to think that their experience or method was anything less than it should have been. And for new parents too, I totally get wanting to be perfectly prepared, well-read and a sponge for new knowledge, because a year ago, I was too, and still am. But learning to be a parent also means succumbing to the fact that there are moments where I have no idea what I am doing, and there is no parenting book that can give me an answer to calm these nerves. These are the moments where I have to drop everything else I am doing, soften my heart, pray for wisdom and tune in to my motherly instincts, and that seems to work better than any other strategy. In this post, I wanted to share some of the approaches and practices we follow in our house in these early months and years, some of which are not as common, but we believe has made our parenting experience so memorable – and often easier!
Since we brought John Fredrick home on the day that he was born, he has been in our room with us. We absolutely planned to have a co-sleeping arrangement mainly for the ease of nursing and wake ups and diaper changes in the middle of the night. When we brought him home, I also could not fathom having him anywhere out of my sight! John shared this same emotion as well. We had a bassinet right next to my side of the bed, and I absolutely loved seeing and having him an arm’s reach away. And seeing as he woke up every 1hr45 minutes at night during the first few weeks, and my body was recovering, it was a blessing and a pleasure to have him close by. Since both John and I were exhausted, we would all go to bed together at the same time and do our bedtime routine together. I would nurse him, and then John would take him and hold him on his belly, often giving him his pinky to suck on so that I could get a few minutes of sleep while John Fredrick would doze off. John would then transfer him to his bassinet, unswaddled at the beginning, but then we found swaddling him at about week 4 helped him to stay asleep. From the beginning, co-sleeping was blissful! It made those million wake-ups much easier.
Bed-sharing is exactly what it sounds like: having your child sleep in the bed with you! When John Fredrick was about 8 weeks old, we started to bring him in to the bed to sleep with us at night. While co-sleeping with a separate sleeping surface for babies is encouraged by the general medical community, bed-sharing is not, due to (in MY opinion) 1) lack of education on SAFE bedsharing 2) the risks that entail unsafe bedsharing 3) lack of knowledge of the benefits of bedsharing. There are a lot of medical professionals, anthropologists and baby experts that support safe bedsharing as being very beneficial to the safety of baby (decrease risk of SIDS) as well as supportive to the breastfeeding relationship. Let me tell you, bed-sharing was a total GAME CHANGER for us. For the first time in what seemed like ages, I actually got some deep sleep!! How, you might ask? Well, instead of having to get up, reach and lean over and pick up a wildly physically little squirmy worm that is screaming for food, i would just roll over and nurse him before he even got upset and I didn’t even have to get up. I would nurse him in my sleep and he would fall right back asleep. It was amazing, miraculous and while I don’t regret waiting for the first few weeks, I definitely would start it earlier with our next baby. It did wonders for our nursing relationship and there was something about having our baby right next to us, hearing his breathing, sharing his warmth, waking up to his smiles and holding him close, that made these early weeks even more magical and memorable than they already were.
A few common questions we get:
i) Aren’t you nervous you are going to roll over him and suffocate him?
Yes. We were. Absolutely. That’s why we waited so long. I didn’t trust myself the first few weeks as a new mom, I was just so tired that I hardly knew what I was doing. And I appreciated having those first few weeks to move around in my bed as I pleased (not anymore! haha) But your parental instinct kicks in. We put him in a wearable blanket, no pillows and no sheets over him, nothing that could potentially go over his face. Admittedly, the first few weeks, John and I didn’t sleep very comfortably, just nervous of his presence in the bed, but we all got used to it and our sleeping arrangements are better than ever. Saturday mornings are officially the best because we all get to wake up together and lounge in bed. John Fredrick loves it. He loves having Mama and Dada there when he wakes up and he often reaches out both arms and has a hand on each of us almost to “make sure” we are still there. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
ii) Is it comfortable?
Yes and no. Definitely not as comfortable as having an entire bed to yourself. But whoever thinks that having children means staying in your exact same comfort zone, then they are in for a big surprise! John Fredrick stirs 1-3 times a night to nurse (more on that) but he never cries and he doesn’t even wake up. It has been like this since week 8. I don’t have to get up out of bed to tend to his cries in another room. Yes, my back is sore and I get pushed off the bed pretty much every night – I find it endearing and everything about bedsharing, including the discomfort, part of the experience which will eventually end, because we aren’t going to do this forever obviously. But John Fredrick loves it, I love it and yes, my husband loves seeing his baby sleep soundly next to him every night. John doesn’t get kicked off the bed so he sleeps just fine.
iii) How long are you planning on bedsharing?
I don’t know. That’s my answer.
Breastsleeping one is a newly coined term for something that has probably been going on hand in hand with cosleeping and bedsharing for as long as women have been having babies. As I mentioned, since we bedshare, when he starts to fuss, I literally just roll over and nurse my baby pretty much while I am 3/4 asleep. I don’t know how often I nurse at night. Definitely at leasts 1-2 times. But there are some nights where I nurse all night long. You heard me. My baby can be latched for hours on end. Let’s just back up here and admit that the nipple is the original pacifier/binky/soother. Pacifiers are meant to replicate nipples because…they are trying to replicate nipples! Cosleeping, bedsharing and breast sleeping are all extremely beneficial to the mother/child nursing relationship. The closer Mama is, the more baby wants to nurse, and the more baby nurses, the more milk is produced. I’m not a scientific person but that’s as best as I can put it. Here is a great post on the benefits of night feeding, which can be discussed day and night! Nursing is not just feeding, it’s providing comfort and security for your baby. John Fredrick is a nursing pro and is literally attached to me at least half the night, and periods where he is sick or teething or both, he is attached to me the entire night (like last night) Why on earth do we do this? Because I want to. Because I know that, while it’s not the most convenient for me, it’s the best thing for my baby. My supply is healthy, our nursing relationship is rockstar status and my baby is on the road to a very healthy, attached and secure relationship with his Mama. I’m proud of breast sleeping! I have written this entire blog post so far while breast sleeping – I am actually dead serious.
Babywearing is everything. Literally everything. It’s my Mommy passion. I love wearing my baby and John Fredrick loves “riding with Mama” is what I call it. Since I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to baby wear, even though I didn’t even really know what it meant. I am a follower of Attachment Parenting (AP) and I love Dr. Sears’ approach to secure attachment in the early years, one practice is baby wearing. Babies want to be held. Babies need to be held. Yes, they absolutely want to play and explore and discover, but a lot of the times, right into toddlerhood, they want to be held. I still see larger kids (3-4-5 year olds) wanting to be held and I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that frequent physical contact is something that all kids need to a certain degree for their development. But babies especially. I’m sure all parents know that some days, they just don’t want to be put down! They want closeness, warmth, and they want Mama and Dada. Baby wearing makes that possible, and helps me get things done! I cook, shop, clean, go for walks, eat meals, dine out all while wearing John Fredrick. When he is restless and squirmy, wearing him calms him down right away. When I have John Fredrick in a ring sling or a wrap or my SSC, he sees the world from my angle and observes my every move. He watches me cook, he sees the trees, feels the wind, follows the birds and then he looks right into my eyes and smiles. I always have him close enough to kiss and he falls asleep on me very comfortably. While my first love is my ring sling, I am inching down the rabbit hole of woven wraps and am loving everything I am learning. I love helping my mom friends out and talking about the benefits and touching moments of baby wearing. And it’s not reserved for just babies – and it’s never too late to start!! I want to be a baby wearing expert and maybe an educator one day!! It really is a passion and I love learning more carries.
If you are interested in learning how to “wear your baby” and what are the optimal carriers – because there are a lot of lousy carriers out there(!) – look up your local baby wearing group and attend a meeting, or do some research online, that’s how I got into it! Here is a good introductory link to safe baby wearing practices: http://babywearinginternational.org/what-is-babywearing/safety/
So there you have it, that was just a few of our daily practices we do with our baby. We love every minute of it, and I feel like cosleeping, bedsharing, breast sleeping and baby wearing are somehow stretching out this very short and fleeting season of babyness….I already sense that while he is still MY baby, he isn’t a little baby anymore and that makes me sad. It all goes too fast. So Moms and Dads, enjoy each moment and take pride in your practices and make sure you love each day.