The minute babies are involved, everyone has an opinion - and most people dump them unwanted on you. While I am sure most people simply seek to help, the overwhelming avalanche of information can make it hard to find YOUR way with your baby and listen to your instincts and not guidebooks. Said guidebooks can certainly help, but they're not sitting in your house with you and they also don't know YOUR individual child.
One distinct point of opinion I've heard various times now is "goodness, she's already spoiled", relating to the fact that Lily only falls asleep in her pram, in the carrier, rocked to sleep in our arms, or breastfeeding. The fact that she cannot fall asleep on her own has been labelled by many as "spoiled" in the best of scenarios and "dangerous" in the worst of scenarios.
Before I delve into the issue, let me outline our routine and why we do it that way. This is MY way, mind you, and if you as a mother do it differently and it works for you, please don't let this text give you the impression I judge you.
I deem the opinion that a baby can already manipulate their parents as nonsensical and see their need for closeness and safety as absolutely logical and not "needy" and co-dependent (I mean, it's a baby, of course it depends on you! What else is it going to do? Walk out of the door and buy food?). We never ever let Lily "cry it out" and she gets soothed the minute she needs it. We don't "wait it out", but we comfort her and show her much we love her. We see it as our duty to give her the ultimate sense of safety and love so she can thrive the best she can.
For starters, she sleeps in our bed. I have read so much debate about whether children should sleep in their parents' bed or not, but let me tell you about my experience. During pregnancy I was terrified I could accidentally murder her in her sleep and I bought a balcony bed and a bassinette, just in case. In her first night on Earth she was just a little bundle and still I had her in my small hospital bed. Immediately, I knew that the idea of me killing her in her sleep by rolling over is absolutely ludicrous. Parental instincts forbid that in my opinion, and in the early months she even slept under my duvet and when I got cold, I woke up, checked on her and gently pulled the duvet up, making sure she wasn't covered in it.
And the baby balcony, in case you're wondering, is storage now.
During the day Lily always gets cuddles and soothed when she's in distress. Either I wrap her in the wrap cloth or carrier, or I sit down with her, breastfeed and when she's fallen asleep I read or watch Netflix quietly. Her napping doesn't disturb my day, I incorporate it into it. Now, I know the minute you have two children or more, the daily routine cannot only suit one baby anymore, but that's a bridge to cross another time, and it still doesn't mean you cannot incorporate your child into the day, instead of needing it to function a specific way to suit you.
When I hear people say or read in books "your baby will never learn to be independent if you let it sleep in bed with you or rock it to sleep", I want to cry. First of all, it's an effing baby, OF COURSE it needs me and depends on me. I, for starters, don't know of any thirty-year olds who still need their mama's boob to fall asleep or want to sleep in bed with their parents. So that statement is nonsense.
Secondly, why do so many people, especially in supposedly civilised regions, have such problems with proximity? Why is the need for proximity seen as a means to manipulate, even to provoke? When Lily cries she never does it to manipulate me, when she seeks comfort, she doesn't do it out of spite, when she needs me to enter the scary realms of sleep, she wants guidance, not being spoiled. It baffles me how anyone can interpret it as a personal affront towards them - even a stand-off of powers where you have to dominate the baby, or else it dominates you.
Do we really want to think of our children in these negative terms? I, for sure, don't. Also because I believe it to be counter-intuitive to "teach children independence". First and foremost, I don't think independence is something a child can "learn". All you can do as a parent is equip your child's quiver with the right arrows and let it explore the world inch by inch on its own, always knowing you're there with her.
To illustrate I'll give you an example. Imagine two people stand in front of a large, dark abyss. Both need to walk a thin rope from one end to the other. Who do you think will be faster to take the courageous step onto the rope? The one who has people cheering him on from the back and someone standing down in the abyss, promising them to catch them should the fall; or someone who's standing there entirely alone, knowing in the abyss could be dragons, wolves or other unspeakable horrors that could kill them?
I am pretty sure we can agree the first one would walk first and feel much better doing so.
Why would anyone think a child feeling completely left alone will make a better adult? The only lesson learnt will be, "I cannot rely on anyone but myself, so I don't even bother asking for help." If that is what you seek from your child to accomplish, we may not wonder that depression and burn-out rates are sky-rocketing as we speak.
I may be proven wrong, but I believe that Lily will sleep in her bed earlier on her own BECAUSE she gets the support she needs now. And with sleeping alone I mean not only the fact that she'll sleep alone in her bed, but that she'll also enjoy it. We can only expand our radius of exploration if we feel safe where we are. Knowing that we always have a refuge to return will make us venture out into the dark more easily and readily - especially when we can rely on that said refuge is always reliable and at the same spot - that we don't have to "earn" our refuge. If I am not sure whether the refuge will still be there once I leave it, I might never leave out of fear.
Now, to the people who may say, "I let my child scream it out and he turned out fine". You don't know that. These scars run much deeper than the visible sphere and problems related to them may occur much later in life or be so smoothly incorporated into the character that it doesn't even strike you as a result of your emotional neglect. Also, I don't want my child to just "turn out fine", I want her to be the best she can possibly be - not in an ambitious way, but in the way that I have equipped her as good as possible. And, no, I don't think "preparing your children for the hardships of life by taking away relationship and love" is the right way to do it. I believe a human being fares much better by being confident, kind and able to ask for help.
Please don't interpret this text as, "if your child doesn't sleep in bed with you or you don't breastfeed it to sleep you're a terrible parent". This is NOT what I am saying. Every child is different and I am far from saying my methods are the only correct ones. I am just saying that whatever we do, we shouldn't take love off the table to "educate" our children, nor see them as combats in a stand-off. Why do we see human proximity and reliance on other people as something negative? We don't live in the war-era where this nonsense approach to child-rearing emerged.
Having said all this, it still sometimes makes me doubt myself when I hear people saying such things, but then again, there is no other way for me to do it, so it must be the right way for us. I, for once, could never let my child scream it out, as it breaks my heart. And, honestly, I don't know how anyone in sync with their paternal instincts could do such a thing...