My friend, Eric, was over the other day. He and his wife are expecting their first baby in May. I was showing him my web site and he asked me, “Do you have any cribs?”
“No,” I said, “and I don’t recommend them.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“Well for one thing, you simply won’t use it. And for another, the baby will much prefer sleeping with you,” I said. “If you sleep with the baby, it makes late night feedings so much easier.”
I showed him an ad for a co-sleeping bed that attaches to the parents’ bed. “You’ll get much more use out of something like this,” I told him. He looked at me like I was crazy! I could sympathize with his confusion – and his complete innocence as he approached parenthood.
Time and again I have seen first time pregnant moms get all starry eyed as they shop for cribs. Well-meaning grandparents step up and pay the price for this ‘essential’ piece of furniture. More money is spent on making the nursery just right. It’s part of the nesting instinct. But once the baby is born, those parents end up turning the crib into a storage area for all the cute stuffed animals they received as birth and shower gifts. And the beautiful nursery is seldom used until it is turned into a toddler’s bedroom.
Going to sleep in a crib all by herself is the last place the baby wants to be! And the nursery is just too far away from mom. For the first 12-15 months after birth, the baby still thinks of herself as part of her mother. She will sleep much better in the bed with her parents or in a sling or other kind of baby carrier. She needs the physical closeness as she adjusts to life outside the womb. At times when she absolutely must be put in the crib, a machine that makes the sound of a heartbeat and other noises heard within the womb will help her sleep. Those are the sounds she’s used to hearing. They are familiar and comforting.
My oldest son, Joseph, slept with me and my partner most of the time. Still I had a bassinet and then a crib next to my bed that I would occasionally try to use. He was an early crawler – in a hurry to be on the move. At 5 months he could crawl well! One day when he was in his 5th month I put him down for a nap in his crib and went to the bathroom on the other side of the apartment. I was sitting on the toilet when I heard a thump and then a series of short pat-pat-pat-pat-pat-pat-pat-pats coming closer and closer to the bathroom door. I opened the door with some trepidation to find Joseph right outside the door!
Wait a minute! How could that be? I just put him in his crib! So, I picked him up and carried him back to our bedroom and put him back in the crib and sat down on my bed to watch what he would do. That little 5 month old baby shinnied up the bars of the crib and launched himself head first out of the crib, landing first on my bed (I was there to catch him this time!) and then down onto the floor! Needless to say that was the end of the crib for Joseph!
Now I know that co-sleeping isn’t for everyone. You must decide what works best for you and your family. The most important thing to understand is that your little baby will grow up and away from you as quickly as he possibly can. That’s his job. Your job is to love and nurture and protect him as he grows. The early lessons he learns about the world around him in his first years he will carry with him throughout his life. If he is held and cuddled as much as possible in the first year, if all his needs are met quickly and with love, he will learn that the world is a safe place in which to live and grow.
When should you transition her to her own bed? There are many options here:
I write this article from the perspective of a mother and grandmother. When my children were young I thought that time would be forever. Now my sons are all grown up and on their own. Still they look to me for companionship, for support when they are in trouble, and to help take care of their own children. How we parent says more about us than how we make our living or how we practice our spirituality. We are everything to our baby or toddler. If we raise him with love and respect he will grow up to love and respect himself and others. And - if you sleep with him when he is a baby - chances are much better that everyone will get a good night’s sleep!