I know I haven’t been blogging much lately. It has been pretty hectic this side. We had a robbery about a week ago. Two TVs, some jewelry and my IPad were stolen. I am really missing my IPad as I use d to be able to sit with Nicky and write a post, but sitting at a computer is a bit difficult at times when he seems to need attention all the time. (Will hopefully get a nicer one with insurance anyway). So this has to be done in bits. I have him in his new play pen at the moment ? we’ll see how long that lasts.
Nope, that didn’t last long. But I managed to put him to sleep. The whole idea with this play pen is that he can sleep while I work during the day at the computer. And he can take his day time naps without falling off the bed. (I struggle to get him to sleep in the camp cot).
At night, however, his place is firmly with us, which brings me to the subject of this post – a book called “The Family Bed”.
We live in our bed. It really is a family bed. We sit and watch TV (with Nicky turned around with a toy or something), we eat, we sleep. The dog jumps on too. It is a comfortable, loving place to be.
When Nicky was just a little newborn, he had a camp cot to sleep in. As you know, the night time drill of waking every two hours, getting up and getting him from the cot was brutal. I did on occasion take him into the bed. But mostly it was up and down. And, if you remember, he often had to wait for me to get the formula organized. It was harsh.
I’m not sure exactly when we started co-sleeping. But I think it was around three months when his little mouth could cope with the sideways sleeping and sucking. Ever since then it has just been great. When he cries, I roll over and feed him, and we both go back to sleep.
Mostly, these days, he is sleeping through the night, with an early wake up and then back to sleep. But not always. And I don’t really keep track. Somehow we seem to be in sync, and I only have a few bad nights. And my wonderful DH is sleeping in the spare room most nights to give me space. So it’s working for us right now.
Co-sleeping does have its challenges, however, so I was interested to pick up this book, “The Family Bed”. I was also interested to learn more about it.
The book starts off by sharing a lot of stories about successful family beds. The overriding theme that came home to me through these stories was
- When baby is close to mom, both are more relaxed and baby feels more secure.
- There is less exhaustion.
I have definitely found this to be true. The up and down is so hard, as opposed to just rolling over and popping a boob in his mouth when he cries. We are both happy this way.
The book also covers some interesting historical background on co-sleeping. It has been very common in the past. Did you know that the largest bed was made for 102 people for the royal family in the 17th century? It just shows that togetherness, not separate beds and rooms, were more important in those days. There was even a weird practice called “bundling” (1750-80) where people would sleep, fully clothed, next to visitors. Martha Washington, and even the Puritans did it.
So what changed?
Obviously there were religious objections to the bundling, so that didn’t last long. The advent of the Nanny, complete with separate nursery and feeding schedules had a huge influence. Modern society has also evolved their family patterns from a large extended family household, where relatives could help with the baby, to a small nuclear family, where you don’t have all the help you need and creating an independent individual fast does help. Added to this came separation at birth through the hospital system (although, I have to say this is a bit outdated, the book was written in the 70s, and certainly the hospital I was at allowed me to be with Nicky).
People also had objections to the family bed. Did night nursing cause teeth decay? Not. What about SIDS? And the fear of rolling over the baby? Babies have surprisingly good reflexes (although I have to say I am so glad to be over that risky period).
I think the best illustration of the benefits of the family sleeping together and sharing affection can be found in anthropological studies. Compare the Arapesh and Mundugumor tribes (as documented by Margaret Mead) and you will understand. (p68 in The Family Bed)
The Arapesh people are extremely gentle, loving and trusting. They love children, and a mother will suckle her infant whenever he cries. She does not concern herself with schedules or whether the child may or may not be hungry. The child cries, the mother picks him up, and if he so wants, she nurses him. Through her ongoing attempt to soothe the uncomfortable child, he learns first to trust his mother completely, and later his other fellow tribesmen. The child is allowed to wean when he is ready. He sleeps with his parents.
The Mundugumor people are exactly the opposite. They despise the pregnant woman. When a child is born, he is placed in a hard, uncomfortable basket. He is nursed only when he simply will not stop crying. His mother stands while she nurses him, and as soon as he stops sucking, if only for a second, the baby is put down. Instead of letting the child wean when he is ready, the security seeking child is pushed away from his mother. She forces him to wean long before he is ready, but at a time when he can survive on other foods. These people all lack trust in one another. Until the government outlawed it, they actively practiced head hunting. They are hateful and distrustful.
There has been a lot being said recently about the horrible levels of violence in South Africa. The kind of person Oscar Pistorius is, keeping guns in his house and not hesitating to use them. That’s pretty common here. It’s also pretty common here to have your house robbed. I guess we are just used to it. I just thank God that we were not at home at the time, that Nicky was protected. It is just so awful, but you know, there is one little small thing we can do to stop this cycle of violence. It starts with showing love to a little baby. Yip, it’s that simple. Show love and trust and you create it.
Now. It’s all very well to have these high ideals to answer a baby’s cry every time. But how hard is it? I really do my best, but Nicky still cries.
Here are some creative ways I have been using lately:
-When I go to the toilet – if he cries, I either put him in the camp cot where he can see me from the door, or this new thing – put him in the dry bath with his bath toys.
-At Pick n Pay (the grocery store) – give him a sterrie stumpie or other cooldrink bottle to play with.
-He hates having his nappy changed at the moment (hates lying on his back, wants to flip over the whole time), so I have to give him a toy to play with. This doesn’t always work, but I try and do it as quick as possible. I do try and change clothes with him sitting. Any suggestions here would be appreciated!
-When I take the car out – I put him in the car seat immediately. (You have to understand this is a process: open garage door, open gate that separates dogs from front gate, drive car out, close all these -lock up.. and yes locking up is a big deal here with all the locks and security gates).
-Keeping him busy in the kitchen: he is now bored with playing with the bottle. So I have to give him a new thing to play with. After toys my new thing is pots he can bang, although he is more putting them in his mouth at the moment.
What about the challenges of a family bed?
– Falling off the bed. We initially got a metal rail thing to put on the side of the bed which really did help. But now that he is crawling… We have to be in the bed when he is there. This is why I have a play pen for his day time naps because I have to nurse him to sleep i.e. I need to be with him in there for a bit to get him to sleep. At night when we are there, it’s not a problem.
– Being squashed. It can work sometimes, depending. But Nicky likes to sleep spread out. One funny position is when he lies parallel with the pillow. There have been times when I’ve slept on the end where Coffee dog normally sleeps! But on the whole my DH lets me sleep by going to the spare room and then coming back in the early morning to look after Nicky while I have a quick shower.
– There are other problems, but solutions can be found. 😉
I’d love to hear from you guys the interesting ways you use to keep little one occupied (for the crying problem), and how you have handled the family bed challenges.