When your baby has different plans…
I had fully intended to co-sleep well into Nora’s childhood years. We even bought a king-sized bed so that my husband wouldn’t get booted from his own bed. I was ready to go to bed at 7 or 8 pm every single night for the foreseeable future to co-sleep with my babes. I love the idea of cuddling every single night and waking up to their little faces in the morning. Nothing gets me out of bed happier than my smiling baby daughter who is ready to face the day together.
However, it turns out I have a super independent baby. Since the first day she came home Nora has basically slept on her own. She had a bassinet beside me in my room until she was almost 3 months old and then she moved into her crib in the bedroom (mainly because she started to move around more when sleeping and the bassinet was on a hinge so she would end up rolling over, smashing her face into the rails and waking up screaming – it was unpleasant for everyone). She transitioned to the crib with complete and total ease. On nights when I’ve put her into bed with me, I mostly seem to just annoy her once she falls into a deeper sleep. During the day, she sometimes naps while cuddled into me but she’s perfectly happy to nap in her chair or on the sofa – all alone.
Suffice to say – my sleep training plan vanished. I thought about fighting it – putting her to bed with us anyway – but after my first golden rule of parenting (don’t judge reasonable parents’ decisions), my second one is ‘do what’s right for your family and the baby’ or ‘take the path of least resistance, especially when it doesn’t really matter’. Nora’s personality is definitely starting to emerge – she needs a great deal of alone time, is pretty shy with people, is extremely regimented/scheduled, and thrives when we let these personality traits shine. Nora’s happiest days start with her incredible internal alarm going off promptly at 6 am, has at least 2 hours of playtime alone, a great deal of books throughout the day, observing people from a distance (and a chosen few up close), at least one stroller ride so she can see the world, and being able to shut down 100% at exactly 8 pm. We NEVER tried to schedule this baby, she 100% scheduled herself, we just responded to her needs and the schedule emerged. The same thing happened with sleeping – we responded to her needs, and she sleeps alone in her crib in a nice dark room waking up at exactly 12:00 am, 3:0o am, and 6:00 am.
My plan for motherhood was to exclusively breastfeed for 2 years, co-sleep, have a loosey-goosey schedule, be loud and goofy with my baby, not worry about a messy house, and not push the whole book-worm thing. But… I wound up with a daughter who ended up in the hospital whenever she went breast milk exclusive, schedules herself very strictly, cries if you do something too loud, stares you down with skeptical eyebrows when you do something goofy, is already on the move so I need to keep the floors clear for her, and really really really loves books (like laughs and claps with every single book). More than anything, she is teaching me to be flexible and that parents do what they need to do… that any predetermined notions of what a ‘good’ parent is, are completely stupid ridiculous because the personality and needs of your child are going to reorient the way you interact with them and the decisions you end up making.
This is why I get so angry to see articles that either shame co-sleepers (calling it lazy or unsafe) or hype up co-sleeping as better (citing it as natural or safer). You can find studies to support both sides. There are studies that strongly advocate co-sleeping as a natural process interrupted by modernity (I agree!) and you can find other well researched studies that say co-sleeping greatly increases the risk of SIDS (I agree!) – but rarely do you find an article that talks about the complexity of doing what is right for one’s family, even when you have all the information (nor do you find the articles about how much increased anxiety and social distortion there is in relation to mothering because of unfettered access to all of this information).
I find that mothers who are posting and commenting on these kinds of articles are simply looking to justify a decision/opinion that they’re either way too strict about or overly guilty about. The mommy wars have become passive aggressive and implicit in everything that mother’s post online. It’s deeply disturbing because people are so intense about proving that they are doing the absolute best thing for their child and passing judgement on others. I wish that every mother who thinks she knows what is best for every child out there would realize that she only knows best for her own child. More than that, I wish that every mother who is questioning her decisions because of other mothers/people/friends/media knows that she is the best judge for what her child needs. The absolute best thing I can do for Nora is to step away from Mr. Google (Dr. Google? I’m not sure if Google should be granted a doctorate, he knows everything but he doesn’t really synthesize or produce unique research. So I guess Mr. Google) and follow her cues. She’s doing a really great job at telling me if she needs to be fed, wants to try something I’m eating, likes her stroller, hates a particular toy, is too young to really grasp a concept of something… she’s doing that all on her own.