The Mama Letters: Papoose baby

I became an attachment parenting convert about 10 days after Will was born. That's when I began calling him my little papoose baby - because he wanted to be close, always.

(Side note: I wrote this post before all the recent Time magazine "Are you mom enough?" controversy about attachment parenting and I'm a bit frustrated by the faux, exaggerated picture it paints of attachment parenting, but that's another topic!)

(Caveat: I do not judge anyone else's parenting choices and I hope I carry no dogma. This is just my own experience.)

Getting ready for Will's arrival, I read several parenting books. I wasn't totally comfortable with the extreme end of scheduling sleep and feeding (ala Ferber, Babywise, etc), but neither was I totally comfortable with AP (attachment parenting), even though I also had The Baby Book by Dr. Sears, purchased on a recommendation from a friend.

A friend had recommended The Baby Whisperer to me and I loved it. It made sense. Genius. Perfect. It seemed to promise magical answers an some modicum of control. Ah, yes. Control. That appealing word. You can sell me anything if you promise control.

Of course, all this idealism was before Will was born. After he was born, well that is a different story.

He wanted to eat more than every three hours. He didn't go to sleep on his own. I didn't know how to get him to sleep except to rock or hold him until he fell asleep and then creep to the crib and lay him down, praying he wouldn't wake and I'd have to start it all over again.

Things were NOT working well. I was so sleep deprived I felt like I was going crazy. Late night hallucinations, anyone?  I was so exhausted, I just wanted to lay down with him beside me. But that was cosleeping, and I didn't plan on cosleeping. That wasn't part of my control agenda. And besides, wasn't that dangerous? And I knew absolutely nothing about cosleeping. How did you do it anyway?

Enter a postpartum doula from Get Babied (thank goodness). She'd had 5 kids of her own and was an experienced cosleeper. She showed me the ropes and eased my fears. She told me how Will needed me to feel safe and comfortable, how he knew my smell and enjoyed my warmth. That night I laid down on the bed with Will beside me, tucked into the crook of my arm. He fell asleep promptly and peacefully. I was blessedly and gratefully horizontal! The relief was instantaneous. Giving me permission and practical tools to cosleep changed everything from there on out. No more visual hallucinations at 5:00 in the morning.

So, I will confess, now, that we are cosleeping. I didn't choose it out of some belief or guilt that its the superior way. I've fallen into it because it works. I've done a lot of research about it, and how to do it safely, but it still feels like a guilty confession because of all the propaganda out there against it. I feel as if I'm coming out of the closet. But I'm getting sleep. He's getting sleep. And isn't that what matters?

I will also confess that I went into this whole baby care thing with a rather mechanistic idea of what a baby needs - food, sleep, burping, diaper changes, baths, etc. It wasn't conscious, but I didn't quite comprehend how much a baby needed love, safety, closeness, bonding - and I consider myself to be a pretty touchy-feely earth mama type. I didn't understand the way he'd want to be glued to my side. But now I see with new eyes, the way a baby needs his parents - not just to provide physical needs, but to provide connection and nurturing.

I'm still working out what all of this means to me, to my parenting choices and philosophies. It's a nightmare trying to figure this stuff out, with all the conflicting information - much of it sounding so authoritative or threatening of doom and gloom if you don't follow their advice. Some people instinctively know what path to go down, but it hasn't been  so easy for me.

The one thing I know now is that a baby is not a little machine that runs on time like a train. He has no definitive manual. And I can't "control" him. He's a unique creature that requires love and patience and that vague idea is what is guiding me from here on out.


  1. You are right, a baby is not a little machine. They do what they want to do, whenever they want to do it. I fell into the attachment parenting camp, because that is what worked for us. I never planned to co-sleep. But after 2 months of baby waking up every 2 hours, I was a mess. As soon as he started co-sleeping he would sleep a lot longer and thus a happy momma! Now he sleeps in a crib because down the road he realized that it would be fun to stay up and jump on top of us and be silly all night. :)
    You really do have to do what works for you and your baby.

  2. Early on with my first, I stopped reading all the parenting books because their loud, obnoxious commands drowned out my own voice. As you know, I still struggle, and I like to know what other moms do, but we each have to find our own way. Mine seems to be somewhere in the middle - I definitely can't do the 3-hour EASY schedule, but it seems neither I nor my babies sleep well for long periods together (with the exception of when they're sick). But that doesn't mean I don't sometimes choose to take one of those middle of the night feedings lying down on the guest bed, only to wake an hour later!

    Go your own way, girl!

  3. Yes, yes! Bless you for listening to what your baby was telling you!

  4. Hi baby..Touch and being near to momma is one of the most comforting things in the whole wide world. I'm cosleeping on the other end, and out of all of the drugs they are giving my momma, there's nothing that makes her more peaceful than spooning and co-sleeping with her because that's what she did with me. It calms us both down and gives us peace, so know that you can trust your gut and your baby and give him what he needs. There's not any one way to do this because everyone is a different little critter, but I'm glad you are in a place where you are taking the best possible care of both of you, and that means having a very similar cycle. I love you, am sending you strength and peace and the power to trust your intuition over anyone else's - because you will know more about Will than anyone else in this planet!

    XOXO- HH