Why did my mothering practices change?
While my research began in the medical library, the real “research” began in our home. I am convinced that God had a hand in the weird events that developed about a year before my research began. He was teaching me there was another way to take care of our second baby. Of course, I did not see it that way at the time. I don’t remember the order of these events, but will mention four major events that occurred early after childbirth with our second baby that changed my, and later John’s, views about parenting.
First, I was very much a part of our culture. I was adamantly opposed to sleeping with the baby. Our first baby had a crib in a separate room. I remember becoming very upset when I came home and found my sister and our first baby, now older, sleeping together on the top of our bed. My La Leche League leader encouraged me to sleep with both my babies as I am sure I often complained to her about how tired I was after each birth. I refused to follow her advice. I thought sleeping with a baby was very dangerous.
One afternoon I was nursing our second daughter before placing her in the crib. I awoke three hours later to find our daughter still at the breast. I was so exhausted I had fallen asleep on the top of our bed. What surprised me was how rested I felt and our baby was safe! That afternoon was the beginning of a different kind of parenting for us. For me sleeping with the baby allowed the baby to nurse at will and it gave me the rest I needed.
Co-sharing sleep is an advantage when breastfeeding. People who are opposed to having baby in bed with the parents don’t realize the dangers of nursing a baby during the night in a chair. Oftentimes the mother falls asleep and awakes scared because she almost dropped the baby. This had happened to me. Sitting up also restricts the nursing due to the mother’s fatigue. It did for me. I was tired and tried to get the sleeping baby off the breast as soon as possible so I could get back to bed myself. Or the room was cold and I was anxious to get back into a warm bed. There is a big difference in the amount of suckling occurring at the breast when the mother sits up at night to nurse as opposed to nursing the baby in bed. In addition, more babies die in their own cribs. A SIDS death is almost unheard of if the situation is normal and proper precautions are taken. By normal situation, I mean the baby is with the mother and not the boyfriend or some other person, and the mother is not a smoker and is not drugged or morbidly obese or incapacitated in some way. (NFPI offers information on safe bed-sharing at “links.”)
Second, in the early Sixties the University of California dental faculty at San Francisco recommended only one brand of pacifier for good oral health. This pacifier, however, caused a rash around our second baby’s mouth, so I discarded it. With our first baby we used a pacifier constantly. We did not use a pacifier with our last four children. It’s unfortunate today that most parents believe that their baby needs a pacifier. What babies really need is that extra suckling from their mother’s breast.
To be continued next week.