Before David was born, I was told, by the friend of family, never, ever let the baby in your bed. Chris and I tried to follow this advice. But it was very difficult. At first, David slept in a bassinet next to our bed. I was nursing him and when he would wake up, I would get him from the bassinet and take him into his room and nurse and rock and then bring him back to the bassinet. Many times I would put him down and he would wake up. And he never seemed to sleep for more than an hour or two without needing to nurse. Obviously, Chris couldn’t nurse him, so it was up to me.
When David was almost 2 months old, I started a new job. I worked in the evenings as an Administrative Assistant for a psychiatric practice and most of what I did was transcribe reports. I would bring David to Chris’ work and then leave to go to work. Chris would take David home. By the time I got home from work, I was exhausted. I was pumping and Chris was trying to give David bottles of breast milk. David was not happy and would nurse and nurse and nurse once I got home.
Since I was getting home at 10 pm or so, David was nursing most of the night. At first, that meant that I was dozing in the rocking chair. But eventually, I was so exhausted, I began nursing him in bed. Both of us would fall asleep. When he woke (maybe 2 hours later, if I was lucky) he would nurse again, but as he was in bed next to me, I didn’t have to get up. I didn’t really have to wake up. After a while, both of us became experts at nursing and sleeping at the same time.
After about 6 months, Chris took a new job for a lot more money and I was able to stop working. David still wasn’t sleeping for longer than 2-3 hours at a time, but since he was in bed with me (and Chris) and I wasn’t working, it wasn’t such a big deal. We also tried putting him in his crib and letting him cry it out. It was horrid. He cried, and cried forever. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and got him. Both of us were in tears. It was at this point that I realized that David NEEDED me. He wouldn’t always need me in that way, but why shouldn’t I give him what he needed?
So, David slept in our bed. It wasn’t always great, but I slept better most nights. He didn’t sleep through the night until, well, he was almost 2.
When David was 17 months old, I got pregnant with Michael. I tried to continue nursing David, but I just couldn’t. It was just too uncomfortable. So, we began weaning David. I write “we” because Chris had to be actively involved because when David saw me he wanted to nurse. David still slept in our bed and held my hand to go to sleep rather than nursing. It worked.
David was 26 months old when Michael was born. His spot in our bed was between Chris and I. Alex slept at our feet and Michael slept on my other side. Michael never slept in the crib. He was in the bassinet only when I needed to put him down someplace safe. Michael was a very high-need baby. He suffered from birth trauma and I’m not sure if that is what caused it, or not. Michael needed to be touching me at all times. He would not be put down. He would not be held by anyone else. If he wasn’t touching me, he screamed. This made it very difficult to manage anything.
When David was a toddler, I bought a sling. David did great in it and it took a lot of the pressure off of my back when I was trying to carry him. Thank goodness I had gotten used to using it with David because Michael lived in the sling. He could nurse in the sling and he would sleep in the sling. If I took him out of the sling and tried to put him down, he screamed. It was horrible. Showering meant that I would hop in soap up, wash my hair and hop out. I think I got to the point that I could get in and out in 3 minutes. Michael would either be on a blanket in the bathroom or in his baby chair. And it didn’t matter if I sang to him the entire time or as he got a bit older, could see me while I showered, he screamed.
Once in a while, Michael would allow David to play with him and calm him. That was great. But since most of the time I had to hold Michael, I wasn’t able to do a lot of things. Finally, I bought a backpack carrier and would wear Michael on my back while I tried to cook or clean. It worked.
As Michael got a bit older, we moved him to the center of the bed. So, Chris and I were on the outside and the boys were on the inside with Alex at the foot. It is a very good thing that we had a king sized bed. I don’t know how we would have managed otherwise. Michael would nurse throughout the night, but I wouldn’t wake up fully, so it didn’t matter. I think that Chris had the hardest time adjusting to the arrangement.
When David was around 3 we bought bunk beds for the boys. We started having David sleep in his own bed. For the most part, he did quite well. Sometimes I would wake up and he would be in our bed, but generally he was happy with his own bed.
When Michael started crawling, he started leaving me for short periods of time. He would “check-in” and either nurse or rub my arm 5-6 times in an hour. It was better, but it still wasn’t ideal. And he wouldn’t sleep unless he was touching me.
When David was 9 months old, I got involved with La Leche League. This is where I met my friend, Emily, who was a Leader. I’ve written about Emily and her boys and she was often my barometer. She told me, with great confidence, that if you baby the baby and toddler, you wouldn’t need to baby the teenager. I didn’t know if she was right, but I figured that the worst case would be that I would still have to baby my teenager. It made it much easier to meet the boys’ needs, when I had support of an experienced mom. Emily was only one of the amazing Moms that I met at La Leche League.
It was through La Leche League, that I learned about the Family Bed and Attachment Parenting. My confidence as a mother increased and while Michael was extremely difficult, I felt supported.
More to come with Part 2.