When my babies were born, I honestly couldn’t stand to let them out of my sight (or my arms) for any period of time, even when I had to. I found the first year of parenting the hardest (both times) because of the conflict within me when my babies were so little and so needy. Inside I fought the socialized “norms” that encouraged me to put my baby down because truly, all I wanted was to hold them, all the time. And the second time around, I felt like I was choosing between two sets of needs, and not always doing so great a job of it.
The first time around, I didn’t know about baby slings or wraps with enough advice to get me to use them efficiently. I had a ring sling, but used it during walks and events, not every day. My little one grew so fast with exclusive breastfeeding that, within a few months, it was actually painful to wear my over-the-shoulder ring sling for more than a short walk. The second time around, I found a Mei Tai carrier that worked much better for my larger babies. (And if there is a third baby, I’ll definitely spring for an Ergo carrier- easy to get in and out of, and lots of options for carrying.) I remember doing dishes and vacuuming, pushing J on the swings, playing in the yard- all with little K tucked snugly in front of me, just a bit higher out the outside than when she was in.
Because I wanted to hold my girls all the time, day and night, it was fortunate that my husband didn’t object to the introduction of the family bed. We’d read about it, I think, before J was born, but I didn’t really consider it much. It was nice, I thought, that other people did that. They seemed to like it. But I was a very sound sleeper and worried that I might not be attentive enough to sleep safely with a baby. We opted instead for a bassinet on wheels and parked it next to my side of the bed.
Once J was born, something new happened. Once a sound sleeper, where nothing could rouse me easily, suddenly every sigh, every rustle of fabric in the bassinet, every teeny-tiny sound brought me immediately to full alertness. (Interestingly, the opposite occurred for my insomniac dh. He could now sleep through anything, including J’s loudest cry, without any clue of what was happening unless I physically shook his shoulder.)
A few nights into new mommyhood, I figured out that nursing in a chair was brutal at night. Not impossible, but I was so bleary-eyed in the morning, and still recovering from my body’s labor, I knew I needed to try something else. I learned how to nurse laying down. (It was hard because my breasts were so big and I worried that J’s nose would be smooshed!) Once I figured it out, a miracle happened. I could relax, even sleep, while nursing. Suddenly sleepless nights were much improved.
I read again about making the bed safe for sleeping with a baby. We removed the covers, added a safety rail, and more often, little J would sleep in our bed, between me and the safety rail. She nursed frequently at night, even more often once I returned to work full time. And she and I both really needed the touching time that we missed out on during the day. I was drawn to her like a magnet, and at night we were able to cuddle close and be as I would have been all day long, given the choice.
The transition to her own bed was not as difficult for J as I had worried. Once K was born, we tried a co-sleeper sidecar, but she and I much perferred to be snuggled tightly together in the early months. After about 18 months, we began the transition to K’s own bed, and she wasn’t ready. Looking back, I wish I had been more patient with her timing.
I still enjoy the feeling of snuggling close in sleep with both girls. Unfortunately, both now steal the covers, kick, and rustle around too much in sleep to be as comfortable as it once was. But here and there, each will still sneak into our bed at night once in a while. And I’m lucky enough to still have the early morning snuggling and nursing with little K.
Gentle, loving touch is the best gift I can give to my girls. I’m lucky my magnetic children held me so thoroughly in their grasp. And I’m lucky I was supported by my husband in following my heart and sharing sleep, especially since that wasn’t part of our original plan.
I’m absolutely sure I can’t hold my children too much. All too soon, they were each able to walk and then run, leaving less and less time for holding in my arms. It’s such a brief period of time. I’m glad I was able to see it and hold on while it lasted.
Do you/did you/will you share sleep? Why or why not?
What are your thoughts and experiences with holding in arms, using carriers, wraps, slings? For new moms, what are your questions about baby carriers?