Adventures in Attachment Parenting: Bad Habits by Allison Silver
When you hear the term “bad habits” what comes to mind? I think this term conjures up a different vision for everyone. When I hear the term “bad habits” I instantly think of people picking their noses, spitting on the floor, and walking around with their hands down their pants. Not all at once, mind you. But having been a preschool teacher, I think these three were the most popular “bad habits” that I saw on a daily basis.
What does not come to my mind when I hear “bad habits” is sharing a bed with my child or holding my daughter while she naps. A few days ago I received an email from a high school friend asking me if she was creating “bad habits” since their four month old daughter sleeps with them and does not have a consistent bed time. She wanted to know if it was possible to have a bedtime routine and bed share.
I reassured her that she was not screwing up her child for life by not yet having an established bed time. And yes it is possible to develop a bed time routine and bed share. However, not all bed time routines work for everyone. Experimenting with different things is the best way to discover what works best for you and your family. With that being said, our typical bed time routine right now consists of putting on pajamas at 7:30, reading books in our family bed, and then nursing our daughter to sleep. She is typically asleep between 8 and 9 o’clock. This routine has been a work in progress since she was eight or nine months old and it could all change tomorrow. Remaining flexible is key when developing any type of routine.
I was super happy to offer another mom some reassurance regarding her decision to bed share. But I couldn’t stop thinking about that term “bad habits.” It’s a bit unrealistic to think that a four month old should have a consistent bed time, but I really think our western society makes us feel bad or inadequate if we don’t have our babies sleep-trained and in a crib by the time they are three months old!
When our daughter was two months old I thought something was terribly wrong because she would not sleep anywhere but on me! My husband and I invested in several contraptions that were designed to help her sleep. What a waste of money that was! None of it worked. I really felt like something was wrong with me as a parent. When she was almost three months old I received The Baby Sleep Book by Dr. Sears as a Christmas gift. Seriously, that book changed my life. I realized pretty quickly that nothing was wrong with me or my child and we were both normal. When I finally embraced the idea that all babies are different, I stopped trying to fit into this mold that just wasn’t working for us. I instantly felt less stressed and felt a sense of relief when I read that Dr. Sears believed in co-sleeping. It was as if I now had someone’s permission to continue doing what I knew was best for our family.
It’s unfortunate that our society places so much importance on solitary sleep and frowns upon bed sharing. Contrary to popular belief, bed sharing, when done safely, is not a “bad habit” that is going to screw up your child. In fact, it might actually bring you closer to your child. I’m well aware that many people think that once you sleep with your child in your bed they are never going to leave. But honestly, how many teenagers do you know who still sleep with their parents? If she still wants to sleep in our bed when she is in college, then perhaps we may have an issue! But until then I am going to make the most of this precious time and perhaps focus my energy on curbing real bad habits that are much higher on my priority list.