As I mentioned in our post Taking A Second Look at Co-sleeping (see here), we love bedsharing. I did my research weighing the pros and cons of co-sleeping during my first pregnancy. The more I read, the more the arguments that are used against co-sleeping fell down around me, including the idea that if you don’t sleep your baby by themselves, they’ll never learn to sleep alone or self-soothe and they’ll struggle to be independent in general.
As a zoology major in college, I took an Animal Behavior of Primates course. In this class, they discussed the progression of newborns from infancy to adolescence. Primates start their life literally attached to their mothers. They’re carried all the time and slept with mom. They’re no more than arms-length from their mother, most of the time clutching their mother’s hair with their grippy little fists.
Over time, though, primate mothers let them wander and quit pulling back their little ones. And when they’re old enough, the mothers are literally pushing them away. Intuitively, this feels right. I had a sense, even then as a young woman, there is a similarity between raising a human baby and how primates raise their young. So, why is society saying something else?
I’m not sure who came up with this notion on independent baby sleep or how, but I was sure boggled by it when deciding how I would sleep our baby. How are they determining this? Is it opinion or actually backed by scientific research?
But most of all: What if they’re right?! You hear an idea over and over again, and sure enough, you start to believe it. I was planning to stay home with our baby for the foreseeable future. What if you can become too attached, and suddenly your kid can’t function without you??
Then my husband blew my whole mind wide open when he said (nonchalantly, of course; and now it’s one of the defining moments of my mothering journey): “Well Carrie, independence comes from a feeling of security.”
This led me to put my faith in the opposite idea. What if kids practice curiosity and independence naturally when they’re kept as close as they want to be? What if having affection boosts your sense of self-worth? What if having someone respond to you when you cry tells you that you’re valuable? And what if knowing the value you have in your family and home inspires your ability to function in the world?
It sure made sense to me. And now that our oldest is 5 years old, we can affirm that this beautiful idea is true. At least in our experience. I am actually surprised by his independence, because I certainly didn’t teach him how! Let me give you a few examples:
- When enrolling him in preschool, I figured I would forgo the bus option and drive him in myself. His younger brother, a 3-year-old, wasn’t allowed to take the bus yet but would need to be driven in 3 times a week anyway. My 5-year-old begged to be allowed to take the bus. So, I put him on the bus route. From day 2 of preschool (day 1 was orientation with parents), he flew on that big yellow bus with no second thought. It’s now his favorite thing.
- I lose him at church. He prefers to be with other people. And he finds his buddies at coffee hour.
- He takes overnights away from us with his grandparents without struggle. He went tent camping with his grandpa last summer, and spent a weekend up north with my parents. He loved it all!
- He sleeps with his younger brother with no issues and no parent. Bedtime is a breeze. We read something to them and they pass out until morning. Somewhere along the way, he learned to self-soothe without training. Of course, he still ends up in bed with us from time to time, but it’s not anything we resist or are frustrated by.
Now, of course other sleeping options are necessary for different families. I’m not saying ALL must co-sleep! I’m just suggesting that to be wary of co-sleeping for fear of developing a leech child has no ground to stand on. It’s simply not true. So, if you feel that safe co-sleeping is for you and it’s the best sleeping arrangement for your family, do it! You may just be pleasantly surprised by how independent your co-sleeper turns out to be.
How does Marabou support women?
We live in culture where “bouncing back” is more valued than proper rest. As admirable as it may be for a sports star to get back on the field, the same rules don’t apply to postpartum recovery. The traditional resting period has been stolen from women through pressure to get back to their job or simply through lack of presence.
Grandmas, sisters and best friends who otherwise would have been there to help a woman transition into motherhood often live too far away to be of any help. Household chores and caring for older children inevitably fall on the mom. But she just delivered a new life! She needs rest.
Marabou Services is a unique gift registry which provides services instead of stuff. Most mom’s get too many onesies, too many baby blankets and not enough helping hands. Break out of a destructive cultural norm and start a Marabou registry today.
With a Marabou registry you can sing up for any service which will benefit you or someone you know during the postpartum recovery period.
Postpartum doulas for a first time mom
House cleanings for moms of multiples
Childcare for moms with older children!
Once your registry is created, add it to any other registry or post it to your Facebook and ask friends and family contribute to your postpartum service, rather than buying you more stuff.