Bringing Up Baby
I love my children. I love to wrap my arms around them, hold them closely and kiss their soft faces as they sleep at night. But I know that as much as I love them and always want to hold them close, sometimes what a child needs most is his own space. It is for this reason that I feel strongly, as a parent and an early childhood educator that the place for children at night is in their own beds.
Q Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I have an eight-month-old son who is bottle-fed. I have a problem getting him to sleep all the way though the night, and to take longer naps. I am also having problems getting him to drink more than four ounces at a time. He wants to eat four ounces or less and then wants more about an hour or two later. He only takes two to three naps of about 20-45 minutes each. I hear that they are supposed to be sleeping about two hours at a time.
Twenty years later, I still have vivid memories of my first year as a parent, dreading bedtime. Our daughter would fall asleep with little trouble. That wasn't the problem, especially after my husband and I figured out that waiting for her to fall asleep when she was tired was easier than trying to "put" her to sleep when we were tired. But would she stay asleep for a few hours, or would she awaken to nurse after 45 minutes? We approached every night with apprehension.
Editor's note: On September 29, 1999, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning against parents and children sleeping in the same bed. The Commission based its recommendation on research published in the journal Pediatrics showing increased incidence of SIDS, suffocation and strangulation when babies sleep with their parents. The recommendation created a furor. Newspapers, magazines and web sites were filled with the voices of parents and experts who were up in arms.
In recent years, there has been a good deal of discussion in support of the family bed. Proponents argue that babies, in particular anxiety-prone infants, both need and deserve parental indulgence, even at night. Moreover, many champions of co-sleeping assert that parental failure to respond to these children will eventually result in needy, anxious, depressed or distant adults.
You will see the family bed referred to as "night time nurturing," or "family co-sleeping." Hey come on - let's call it what it is: The lazy parent's bed. And I don't use the word lazy pejoratively. (Everybody else does but they're wrong.) With my first baby, I was vigilant. I wouldn't let him sleep in the bed. I'd nurse him and my husband would whisk him away like an efficient nanny. "He has to be able to comfort himself," I told my husband.
Do you feel that in today's world, children are being pushed to develop quickly and not enough time is spent on enjoying the moment and allowing children to progress at their own pace? Are you sometimes concerned that modern toys, including television and computers, may hurt rather than help your children's development? If so, the philosophy and approach to early childhood developed by Rudolf Steiner may work well for you and your baby.
Six-month-old Jeremy is lying on the living room rug, looking intently at a board book, when his Uncle Luis breezes in through the front door. "Hiya, fella!" he says, lifting his nephew high in the air. Jeremy frowns in protest. Putting the baby down, Luis turns to Jeremy's mom, Lucia Chan. "What's wrong? Did he get up on the wrong side of the crib?" "No...I think you just interrupted him," says Lucia. "Huh?" This from Luis. Both adults look down at Jeremy, who has gone back to his book and seems utterly content.
Imagine a place where babies don't cry and children never fight. Jean Liedloff found such a place. She spent a total of two-and-a-half years living with the Yequana Indians in the Venezuelan jungles. She describes them as an isolated Stone Age tribe, yet, on every measure of well being that she could think of, Liedloff found the Yequana to be better off than Westerners. After babyhood, Yequana parents and other adults don't initiate contact or activity with their children but are readily available when the children need them.
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