…and now I have four children…
I just finished reading an essay about why one mother never uses a baby monitor, in which she writes:
I developed a habit of lolling around bed in the morning, not responding to my daughter’s cries down the hall until they progressed from gentle mewling to outright fury. And in that spirit, I refused to buy a baby monitor.
These days, it seems, there’s no such thing as an off-duty parent. These days, there’s no such thing as an off-duty parent. Even when your children are sleeping, you must remain tethered to them by an electronic gadget, one of those modern-parenting must-haves that our own parents somehow survived without.
Well, I’m gonna agree with her on one point – when it comes to infants and very young children, there isn’t such thing as an off-duty parent, unless that parent takes a break by leaving her baby with another aware, alert and responsible adult. Babies are a huge lot of trouble for the first few years, including at night. Their health and safety requires pretty much 24 hour attention.
And as for our forebears not needing electronic gadgets to tether themselves to their babies, well, that’s because until not that long ago, most women breastfed their infants, including at night, meaning they stayed close anyway, without the need for any sort of electronic gadgetry.
Obviously, each parent knows her own baby best, and I am not suggesting that you should always jump to attention at every little whimper and sigh your baby makes during the night, but I cannot imagine “lolling in bed” while my infant screamed in the next room. Would you do that to any other relatively helpless and dependent group of people? Put them in a bed with bars in another room and then refuse to respond to them until you felt like it? Disabled people? Elderly people?
And frankly, even if I had no intellectual problem with allowing my babe to cry and sob in another room, every fiber of my maternal instinct would be screaming for me to respond to my baby. I wouldn’t be physically able to do any “lolling” when my baby was crying out for me from another room.
I sleep with my baby. We start the night with her lying down with me on our bed until she drifts off. Then her daddy moves her to her own crib, which is set up right next to my side of the bed. At some point during the night, she asks to get into bed with us, and I pick her up, and snuggle her in between us. She sighs contentedly. I sigh contentedly. We all sleep happily. At some point soon, we will have her own room finished, separated from ours by a bathroom, and we will begin the process of moving her to her own sleep space – probably starting with naps after she’s about two years old.
This is what works for me. Your mileage may vary. Lots of people I know say they cannot sleep well with a child in their bed. That’s okay too, of course. I think the best sleep strategy for a family is the one in which the most people get the most sleep, and everyone feels comfortable and satisfied. For Jon and me, that’s keeping our baby close. I would not sleep well at all with her in another room. Plus, since I am separated from her all day while at my job, co-sleeping recharges our attachment batteries, so to speak. We need the touch time.
But whether you have the baby in your bed, in your room, or in another room, it’s imperative that you be able to hear her, and hear her well. In my opinion, putting the baby in another room with no baby monitor is just plain mean. It’s also risky.
What do I mean by risky? Well, there is increasing research that maternal awareness and response to infant noises and behaviors during sleep reduces the risk of SIDS. As a mother who has co-slept with three babies now, I know first-hand how symbiotic mother-baby interaction is during the overnight hours in a shared sleep space. A lot of mothering happens while we are in bed together, and I believe that it’s mothering that helps to keep my baby safe.
Leaving SIDS aside, however, what if your baby were choking? Or vomiting? What if part of the crib collapsed? What if one of these things happened while you had her in another room with the door closed, and no baby monitor on? You wouldn’t hear her. She could die. This is just plain irresponsible, in my opinion.
I understand the desire not to “overparent” children. I get that. But babies need babying. It’s bigger kids who need to be treated like, well, bigger kids. Sometimes parents get the two confused.
For sure, don’t micromanage your five-year-old’s relationships with other kindergarteners. Don’t attach a GPS tracking chip to your 10 year old. Don’t refuse to allow your 12 year old to walk to a friend’s house. Don’t call your 19 year old every single day at college.
But for God’s sake, DO make sure you can clearly hear your infant or young toddler when she is alone in another room at night. That’s not overparenting. That’s good parenting.
READ MY BABBLE BLOGGING
Jack Lail put the whole thing together.
Please consider attending and joining what is sure to be a lively discussion on some very interesting and hot topics.
I remain the eternal optimist.
C – who turns 17 months old this week!!! – loooooves her new tutu. She asks me to help her put it on all the time.
Check out what happened to my mother at her house. If anyone can help, please let me know.
H. has abandoned the dreads already, and miraculously, his hair is back to normal.
2009 will mark 10 years since the publication of “Attachment Parenting.”