Co-Sleeping

My New Favorite Quote on Co-Sleeping and Attachment-Based Parenting Practices

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“Prop them up now so they can stand on their own later…”

—Christina Robert

The other day on a mothering blog someone was wondering how to get her three year old to stop screaming in her crib at night when the lights were turned out. She said she didn’t want her child to get “attached to co-sleeping” because she was three (which I am assuming means she wants to prioritize independence and self-reliance).

I replied that her child might be screaming when she is put in her crib because she is frightened. She might need the emotional support of her primary caregiver right now. I think so many people believe that it is important to “toughen up” our young children; to prepare them for the harsh realities that the world has to offer; to make them independent and strong as soon as possible.

I think that one of the greatest misunderstandings about attachment theory and the parenting practices that arise out of these theories is that the parenting adults do not want to help in the creation of strong and independent children. In actuality, they do. Just not at the age of three and not in this manner.

Between birth and five there is so much is going on neurologically in a child’s brain that it is almost unfathomable. These critical years set the stage for a child’s patterns of behavior. Their brains are developing at a quick pace and they are learning important physcial, social and emotional skills–all this and so much more. These are the vulnerable and the impressionable years. These are the years that children need to learn they can trust adults to meet their needs. This will serve as the foundation for their interactions with other children and other adults in the future..

The commonly-held misconception that children who sleep in their parent’s bed, or whose emotional needs are met consistently year after year, will somehow end up dependent and needy, is far from the truth. What many people don’t understand is that by consistently meeting the emotional needs of you child in the early years, you are paving the groundwork for future success and independence.

Children whose needs are met consistently and sensitively are more likely to be strong, securely-attached, and confident young adults and adults.
Responding consistently and sensitively to a child’s cries and needs during infancy and beyond teaches the child that they can rely on someone to help them meet their needs at a time when they are very dependent on their caregivers for survival. In contrast, NOT responding consistently and sensitively can lead to anxious and insecure young adults. When their needs are not being met, they learn to not trust those who are most important to them in their lives.

On the blog, I summed up my response with the following advice and metaphor: “Prop them up now so they can stand on their own later.”
I think this quote and idea captures the essence of what attachment theory teaches us about child development and about parenting practices that best meet the needs of your child.

So keep on responding to your child. A child screaming in the dark is afraid. He or she may be experiencing anxiety from the caregiver separation. Being left alone in a mostly dark room is not comforting and could even be traumatizing depending on the length of separation. Find out what your child needs and help them to get the input or reassurance that they need.

Again, Prop them up now so they can stand on their own later. You’ll be happy you did. Your child will be happier, more confident and better able to form happy, healthy relationships as an adult. All the things you wanted for your child and more.

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Mother-Baby Separation: The First Three Years

The following article is very much in line with my thinking about parenting. As a single mother who works, it is difficult to maintain this proximilty to my child. However, I value the co-sleeping time with my child and view it as valuable parenting and bonding time. Christina.

Mother-Baby Separation

By Dr. George Wootan, M.D., Author of Take Charge of Your Child’s Health

http://www.drmomma.org/2010/07/mother-toddler-separation.html

I’m going to open up a big can of worms here, one that gets me into as much trouble as my thoughts on weaning: mother-baby separation. Imagine for a moment, that you are at the grocery store with your six-month-old. She starts making hungry noises, and you look down and say reassuringly, “I’ll feed you in half an hour, as soon as we get home.” Will she smile and wait patiently for you to finish you shopping? Absolutely not! As far as your baby is concerned, either there is food now, or there is no food in the world. Right in the middle of the grocery store, famine has struck!

Babies and toddlers, up to the age of about 36 months, have little concept of duration of time. To them, there are only two basic times: now and never. Telling a young toddler that Mommy will be back in an hour, or at 5:00, is essentially the same thing as telling her that Mommy is gone forever, because she has no idea what those times mean.

Let me submit to you that the need for mother is as strong in a baby as the need for food, and that there is no substitute for a securely attached mother. When he’s tired, hurt, or upset, he needs his mother for comfort and security. True, he doesn’t need Mommy all the time, but when he does, he needs her now. If he scrapes his knee, or gets his feelings hurt, he can’t put his need on hold for two hours until Mommy is home, and the babysitter – or even Daddy – just won’t do as well as if Mommy was there.

So, yes, this is what I’m saying: A mother shouldn’t leave her baby for an extended amount of time until about the age of 36 months, when he has developed some concept of time. You’ll know this has begun to happen when he understands what “yesterday,” “tomorrow,” and “this afternoon” mean, and when your toddler voluntarily begins to spend more time playing away from you on his own accord.

Of course, if you know that your child always sleeps during certain times, you can leave her briefly with someone while she naps. If you do this, however, the babysitter should be someone she knows well, as there is no guarantee that she won’t choose this day to alter her schedule and wake up while you’re gone. This could be traumatic for her if the person is someone she casually knows, and doubly so if the babysitter is a stranger. It is important to make every effort to be available to her when she is awake and may need you.

I realize that not separating a baby from his mother for the first 36 months of life may be difficult. Living up to this presupposes that the family is financially secure without the mother’s paycheck, and, unfortunately, this is not a reality for some people. I would not argue that a mother who must work to support her family is doing less than her best for her children by working. However, I believe that many women return to work not out of necessity, but because they (or their spouses) want to maintain the two-income lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. These parents need to do a little soul-searching about what they really need and not sacrifice their child’s best interests.

If you must leave your baby for several hours a day, there are some things you can do to try and compensate for the separation. One of these, of course, is nursing until the child weans himself. Another is sharing sleep with your child until he decides he is ready for his own bed. If you have to spend 8 hours away from your baby, make an effort to spend the remaining 16 hours of each day in close physical contact. That extra effort will go a long way toward helping him feel secure an develop a healthy attachment with you.

In our family, we have found that many events that would require leaving our baby or toddler at home are the ones that we don’t particularly mind missing. We also have found that because our children have their needs attended to promptly, they are happy and secure, and we are able to take them to most social gatherings. I don’t mean to suggest that you’ll never encounter any problems, but generally, you’ll find that if you take care of your baby’s immediate needs by holding him, nursing him, and loving him, he’ll be a pleasure to have around, well into the toddler years and beyond.


George Wootan, M.D. is a board-certified family practitioner and medical associate of La Leche League International. He and his wife, Pat, are the parents of eleven children and the grandparents of twenty-one. Dr. Wootan has practiced medicine for 33 years with a focus on pediatric, family, and geriatric care and chronic illness. He speaks nationally on the subject of children’s health, healthy aging, nutrition, wellness and Functional Medicine.

 

High Needs Babies: Read Dr. Sears

My baby was most definitely a High Needs Baby. I think it would have been helpful if I had known about these types of babies before I had here! The only way to soothe her was to hold her and to swaddle her. The sling is still the best way to get her to settle down because she simply gets too overstimulated. The sling is our miracle worker and she is three!

Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone

http://bellissimom.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/1548/

http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-not-and-should-not-sleep-alone/