Monday, August 14, 2006

On Sleeping With Babies

Can you imagine a gorilla getting ready to sleep, making a nest for itself, then taking its infant to another part of the forest and leaving it there? Or a chimpanzee letting its baby monkey cry it out? No, because any monkey that leaves its babies alone like that gets those babies eaten. Obviously, there must be some pretty heavy selection going on towards monkeys who keep their baby monkeys close to them all the time, even at night. And it only makes sense that nature would select for monkeys who respond quickly and reliably to their crying babies.
And somehow we think that because we have opposable thumbs these instincts don't belong to us. That responding to a baby that is crying alone in its crib is pandering to it. That a baby who doesn't want to sleep by itself isn't demonstrating a valuable survival instinct. That we can train out of our babies in a matter of days what eons of evolution put in place.
It riles me.
And it riles me that mothers are made to feel guilty when they give up on Ferberizing their kids, or when they never bother to try. And it really riles me that it's usually our own mothers or mothers-in-law who lay the guilt on us. We need our Mothers to inspire us to have confidence in ourselves, to teach us to trust our own instincts about our children.
I slept with Boy from when his head was under my chin and his feet at my belly button until he was out of diapers. Peanut doesn't sleep in our very bed, but she sleeps in her crib right next to us, where she can hear us snore and fart and (clutch the pearls) have sex. She knows she's not alone, and she sleeps better for it.
I sleep better knowing if she cries I can throw out my hand and rub her little head.
Of course, it is true that some babies don't care where or how they sleep. This rant is not aimed at their mommas. Nor is it aimed at people who are happy having their babies sleep in another room. I doubt that many people end up in therapy because their mommas let them cry it out. In the big scheme of things it doesn't matter. In the little scheme of things, though, it matters to some babies. And it hurts their mommas to feel guilty about letting them cry, then feel guilty when they pick them up and take them to their bed. And it hurts mommas to have their judgment questioned. This entry is for them.
Here's hoping we all learn to trust ourselves.

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