Do you remember that girl on the Magic School Bus that constantly said, “According to my research…”?
With a million parenting books and internet sites out there, many parents know a lot about all things in child rearing…if you’re not one of those parents there are a million parents who have read the books/websites you haven’t that are willing to share their knowledge.
I’ve really struggled with the concepts I want to talk about in the post because I haven’t known how to go about them. I knew what I wanted to write about, but didn’t really know how to write about it…honestly I still don’t.
First of all, I love research. I love learning about things and people’s different perspectives on different topics. Once I do my research I typically come to a solid conclusion about how I feel on the matter. For some reason though when it come to parenting there are a few things that I’m 100% sure about and then there are a bunch of things that I’m not so sure about. Pretty much every topic on parenting has “scientific research” to back up both sides of a particular view.
Before Josiah was born I made sure I was up-to-date on all the parenting research because I was going to do the best I could and doing my best meant soaking up all the knowledge I could so I didn’t make any mistakes.
Here are a few things that I had learned about through research before Josiah was born:
- Babies should NEVER sleep in an adult bed. As a matter of fact, it is in the best interest of the parents and the marriage that the baby sleep in their own room.
- Breastfed babies should NOT have pacifiers. If you do decide to use a pacifier, there are only 20,000 sizes and shapes of the dumb thing and there are two different materials the pacifiers are made of and baby WILL know the difference.
- Babies should start getting cereal at around 4 months old. By 6 months old they should be getting baby food. Most people will condone the idea of putting cereal in the bottles even earlier than 4 months because it helps them sleep through the night, but research is against that.
- Babies should be on a routine. They should be fed X amount of ounces every X hour. If breastfed they should nurse on both breasts or for at least X amount of time on the one breast.
- Active potty training should between 2 and 2 1/2…oh and you’ll need those fancy pull-ups.
There are more I’m sure, but I’ll stop there. I had made up my mind that although Josiah would sleep in a little bed in our room for the first few months, he would definitely not sleep in bed with us. Since I was breastfeeding there would be NO pacifier. He would start getting cereal around 4 months because that’s essential, right? Finally, Josiah would be able to get away with sleeping whenever he wanted for the first few months, but after that we’d be working on that schedule. And once he was transitioned to the bed in his room that was it — he was to sleep in his room. And yes, potty training would start at 2.
Here’s what I ended up doing:
- After about a week of Josiah being home and me getting up every two hours to nurse and feeling exhausted — Josiah ended up in our bed.
- After about two weeks of Josiah wanting to latch on constantly because babies suck in order to self-soothe, I decided to give him a pacifier. By the time he was around 1 1/2 old we started cutting back on it and by 2 he basically got it at nap time. By 2 1/2 he started biting the tips off of them so I slowly started throwing them away. When the last one was gone that was it — the pacifier era was over.
- I tried giving Josiah cereal at 4 months, but it didn’t work too well so took a step back on that and started again at closer to 6 months.
- I did transition Josiah to his bed in his room around 3 months old. I was even pretty firm about him going to sleep in his room. Many nights I’d let him “cry it out” like I was supposed to because it was essential to him learning how to fall asleep on his own. However, there were many times that I grew tired of listening to him cry it out and I nursed him to sleep. Also, even though he started out in his bed every night he always ended up in our bed because I wasn’t going to sit up in the rocking chair for 45 minutes while he nursed and went back to sleep.
- I tried starting active potty training at 2 and gave up after a week. At 2 1/2 I started trying again. I refused to buy disposable pull-ups because they were a waste of money so I bought cloth ones. I ended up giving up on potty training once again. A week after Josiah turned 3 he woke up and decided he wanted to use the potty and we haven’t seen a diaper or pull up since.
The fact that I let Josiah sleep in bed with us was something I didn’t share with everyone. Why? Because there are a lot of negative feelings about co-sleeping. As if co-sleeping means you’re a bad parent and you’re ignoring all the good research out there that shows how parents are killing their children by letting them sleep in their bed (a little exaggeration of course…). Heck, I heard from several well-meaning people about the negative impacts Josiah sleeping in the room would have on my sleep and my marriage.
In getting ready for Samuel to get here I’d changed my opinion on quite a few things. I’d decided that sleeping in a crib next to our bed was the only option for those first few months. After all, new research shows that the baby sleeping in the bedroom is beneficial. I’d gotten into the bad habit of bringing Josiah into the bed, but I didn’t want to start that with Samuel (at least until he was a little older because even Josiah still comes in our room to sleep every now and then). Since I knew I was staying at home, there’d be no need for a pacifier because it wouldn’t be a big deal for me to let him nurse as often as he wanted to soothe himself.
Since getting pregnant with Samuel, Jimmi and I (probably more me than Jimmi) have been re-evaluating our parenting style and ideas. We have both always been a firm believer in spanking (controversial I know…). Not in an abusive way either. Spanking is to be used as a form of correction. It is never done in anger and there is always a conversation afterward to ensure that there is understanding about why it happened. Although we are still firm believers, we don’t do it nearly as much as we did before. At this point we try to be more creative and let natural consequences work for us or let the “punishment fit the crime.” Disrespect is pretty much a sure fire way to get a spanking in our house and so is repeated disregard for a family rule.
Of course we’ve changed our lifestyle dramatically by choosing to homeschool, but I’ve talked about that enough in other posts.
Another thing that I’ve decided is that there is NOTHING wrong with my 4 1/2 year old wanting to sleep in my bed periodically. Once or twice a week he will actually go to sleep in our bed, sort of like a slumber party. We watch a movie and go to sleep. The rest of the time he goes to sleep in his room in his bed. Sometimes he will wake up between 2-5 a.m. and come into our bed. At first Jimmi and I had decided that Josiah was going to have to stop doing that especially with Samuel coming. Then we realized that we both enjoyed the fact that our little boy (because he is no longer a baby or a toddler…*insert sad face*) still wanted to snuggle with us, because in a few short years he won’t want to anymore.
When Samuel was in the hospital because I couldn’t be with him, the nurses asked about giving him a pacifier because they had to find a way to keep him calm. When we got home from the hospital I avoided giving it to him because I didn’t want to use a pacifier this time. That first week at home I nursed him almost constantly. After spending two nights in a row getting less than an hour of sleep at a time I gave in and decided that the pacifier wasn’t that bad after all.
That worked for a few nights but then we went back to me only getting an hour of sleep at a time. I finally said forget the rules and I brought Samuel into bed with me and the past four or five nights of sleep have been fantastic. After that first night I did some research just to see what was being said about co-sleeping these days.
I was surprised to see that there was a lot of research (not just moms saying they preferred it, but scientific research) and doctors saying that if a parent takes a few obvious precautions co-sleeping is actually beneficial and natural. Some of the things I read stated that America is one of the few countries in the world that says it is best after birth for a baby to sleep in a crib/in a room by themselves. America is also one of the few countries in the world that believes a baby will be spoiled if they are held a lot or not allowed to cry it out. I read something about how many people in other countries were shocked by the American practice of looking down on co-sleeping. One of the studies I read showed that the majority of the rest of the world practices co-sleeping and world-wide research shows that SIDS is not an issue in other countries like it is here.
Honestly, I’m not too worried about the research. First and foremost I’m just now getting over the feeling that I was cheated out of the first ENTIRE WEEK of Samuel’s life. I couldn’t comfort him when he cried, I couldn’t hold him unless I was nursing him, and I wasn’t even the one changing his diapers ( I wasn’t too broken up about not having to change meconium diapers, but still…). For the first week of Samuel being at home we joked about the fact that he was trying to make up for lost time because he wanted to be held a lot. After thinking about it for a while and thinking about my feelings on that first week, I believe he was.
The second thing that changed my mind about him sleeping in my bed was the fact that him being their just felt natural. Natural in the same way that breastfeeding does. Samuel spent nine months inside of me hearing my heartbeat, feeling me breath, being in tune with me. Why would I all of the sudden stick him so far away from me?
There are several things that the pro-co-sleeping researchers/doctors say that parents should in order to make sure their baby is as safe as possible. You can Google it so I won’t list them here, but just know that there are safety precautions to take just like with crib sleeping.
There will be people that will read this and think that we are being totally irresponsible in letting our children sleep in our bed, especially Samuel. Just so everyone knows, my marriage (or intimacy) has not suffered in the past 4 1/2 years since Josiah has started sleeping in our bed. I don’t anticipate that it will suffer in the future due to co-sleeping. Those same people will probably say that Samuel will be spoiled because I don’t let him cry it out. As a matter of fact, I’ve learned (from new research) that crying is a sign that you’re too late. A baby crying out in hunger is a baby that has been hungry for a while and crying is their desperate attempt to get your attention. Research shows that “attachment parenting,” which includes the concepts of co-sleeping, baby-carrying (keeping baby close the majority of the time), and not letting baby cry, actually produces independent and secure children.
Like I said before, “research” can support just about any side of any parenting idea. The thing is, you have to decide what’s best for your family. For us, the best thing for my family is snuggling my kids in bed and keeping them close because the older the get the further many of them drift away.