My partner and I are expecting our first baby in a month. I stumbled across your site when I found myself frustrated and overwhelmed by the language people are using to talk about babies and young children. It started with a woman telling me that she was ‘babywearing certified’. I tried to keep a steady heart rate while she explained to me the benefits of ‘wearing her baby’ and how important Attachment Parenting was. (Although the principles sounded lovely, I couldn’t shake this sense that all this hype was centered on giving the appearance of being baby centered when really, they just seemed to want to erase the lines of individuality between mother and child. I did very little research before realizing it [AP] wasn’t quite for me so excuse me if I seem a little misinformed.)
So there I am sitting at my laptop frustrated by the accessorizing of these little people, and I searched “against babywearing objectification”, and there you showed up. Within a few hours I had soaked up your articles, read up on Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber and was emailing my partner (right now I’m in South Africa and he’s in Canada).
We are so relieved to have found guidelines to strengthen our own desires and beliefs on how we want our relationship with our child to develop! Thank you so much for your site!
I do have a few questions.
I’m currently relying on the internet as my only source of information and haven’t found anything on infant sleep and what to do in the first few months…
I bought a bassinet and my mother in law has gifted us a fancy crib (not a drop one)… When baby is more mobile, I want her/him to be able to move into/out of his/her sleeping space easily, but in the meantime what is the ideal sleeping situation?
Thank you and Merry Christmas!
Thank you for your letter. I’m thrilled to be able to open the door for you to discover Magda Gerber and Dr. Emmi Pikler’s approach to infant care. I laud your instinct to acknowledge your baby as a capable, unique individual worthy of respect, and I hope I can help give you all the support you need to parent a little differently from those around you. That’s the challenge, but the benefits are huge. You will never regret treating your child as a whole person from the very beginning. You’ll be amazed and gratified by the relationship you develop with your baby.
I’m not well-informed about Attachment Parenting either, but I have learned a little from AP readers since beginning this blog. I agree that the spirit and the principles are lovely, and developing a secure attachment with our babies is vital. But as you read in my controversial post on the subject, I take issue with the term “babywearing” because, to me, it connotes a lack of respect for babies. We don’t “wear” another person.
We live in a society in which babies are often objectified, perceived as cute little things rather than whole people with a point-of-view worth considering. We love babies but don’t always think to respect them. The use of terms like “babywearing’ perpetuate this perception. Whether we believe the practice is necessary for bonding or not (Magda Gerber did not), or whether we think words matter or not (I believe they do), the term objectifies babies. No question.
Now, let’s talk about this exciting event in your life — your baby! And a very important part of your baby’s life — sleep.
The crib and the bassinet sound perfect. The bassinet will help you to have your baby near you while he or she sleeps in the first couple of months so that feeding him in the night is more convenient. The crib is good for sleeping as soon as you wish to begin (sometimes easier to start there for daytime naps), and also a safe play space for your baby in the first three months, because he has room to move. The ideal logistics are what works best for you and your partner, and that will take some figuring out as you go.
Ideal for the baby’s sleep is the development of a consistent routine, a calming sleep ritual, and a peaceful day with minimal stimulation: fresh air when possible (an outdoor crib or playpen is a wonderful investment), attentive touching and holding balanced with time free to move.
“When baby is more mobile, I want her/him to be able to move into/out of his/her sleeping space easily.”
I understand your wish to accommodate your mobile baby, but I’m going to try to talk you out of giving your baby freedom to move in and out of bed. I have heard a little about infant floor beds, but I see problems with giving babies freedom to leave their beds at night. First, the issue of safety and parental peace of mind: can parents sleep knowing the baby might be up and crawling around?
Second, Magda Gerber emphasized that there is no true freedom without boundaries. Too much freedom overwhelms babies. It’s harder for a baby to relax, feel free to drift off to sleep when he has the option of leaving the bed. Babies are capable of choices, especially in terms of play, but the decision to go to their beds and stay there is a burdensome amount of power for them. We don’t ask babies to choose whether they want to go in the car, get dressed, or change diapers, and I don’t believe it’s fair to expect babies to know when they should be in bed.
Even toddlers struggle with this power when they are moved from a crib to a toddler bed. I recommend postponing this move as long as possible. A toddler may be capable of climbing out of the crib, but he still feels more secure, cozy and nested in this enclosed space. The ‘freedom’ of the new bed is a distraction that often keeps toddlers up at night, testing the new boundaries with their parents. Babies are calmer and ‘freer’ when they have boundaries and are clear about what’s expected.
Thank you again for your note. I’ll be counting on you to stay in touch!
Happy Holidays to you!