Motherhood is hard.
What makes it even harder is comparison, and all sorts of external influences, on parenting decisions. If you have been around Tea & Bannock long enough, you may remember this post on sleep and a baby from July 2017. I have contemplated going back and deleting it but I feel its more important to address it and share how my own internal beliefs and values have changed since then.
First, let me preface this discussion: please do what you think is best for your baby, and use your own internal circles and family, culture and beliefs to guide you. If you decide to use other resources to help inform your parenting decisions, look into the source of those resources, including the societal values. Also, I do not believe in mom-shaming. If you did agree with that post, and stuck to your guns and it worked, great. If you are like me and had other issues arise with “not bed-sharing/co-sleeping,” then maybe this post will relate to you. Finally, in the end, let your mama gut decide for you.
In the above mentioned post, I detailed how “bed-sharing is coming to an end for us.” This felt like a “natural” and normal process, because of the colonial research and writings I was using as a guide. Because of my own belief systems, and personal values, having Alba sleep in a separate bed at the age of 8-9 months was not realistic, nor wanted by either my husband, myself, and more importantly, her. Now, at 2 years old, she still sleeps with us.
“I think sleep is so important and I do believe that once we figure it out, she will sleep better and longer at night in her crib.” This was one of the driving factors on wanting to get Alba into her own bed and seems logical. Let me tell you, there are kids who sleep in their own room and own bed where this happens a million times a night:
Alba sleeps with us most of the time, and she sleeps very well now, rarely waking, and is really good at sleeping in.
One of the biggest reasons Alba sleeps with us, I think, comes from my own cultural beliefs about night time. I will not pretend to be the most ceremonial, but I do believe in the Creator and in the spirit world. Children are as pure and close to the spirit world as can be, and many teachings I have received point towards this. I will not go into detail as many of the teachings I have received are not meant to be written. We gave my daughter her own space and bed when she turned two, and to me, it has been important that she understand and realize she has her own safe space if she wants it but she is always welcome with us. When she does sleep in her bed, I do not sleep. Call it what you want, but I have come believe its my own intuition and spirit telling me to keep her near, and to keep her spirit near mine.
When Alba is sleeping sweetly in my arms I am so fully of gratitude, for her, for her health, for being loaned her. I say a thank you every single night that she is near me, as it is a privilege. I think about my own ancestors, who kept their children near at night for a reason, and the importance of it.
When I think about my previous intentions to get her out of our bed, largely it was fuelled by desire for a good nights rest (which it did not result in for me), but it was also fuelled by expectations by western society and colonial values. Things like nurseries, cribs, and separating baby from parents at night seem so institutionalized to me now, and I have tried to do some research in where it originates from. I have also researched methods to getting babies to sleep on their own and it is not something for me or my family. Sleeping with a baby has been around for centuries, and is natural. It is very Western for babies to sleep separate from the parents, and although nurseries existed and date to Victorian and Edwardian eras, they still had their nannies and nursemaids sleeping in the same room (and nursemaids are an entirely different topic that has to do with moms not breastfeeding, and crazy things like infanticide and baby farming that went on across the ocean). This was linked to wealth, and I think this is where the values got all mixed up. Even now, nurseries are associated with wealth, and the many things that go into nurseries are indicators of wealth and status and point towards capitalistic values, and not necessarily needed by a small child or baby. To me the most important thing a baby needs is love, sahkihitowin. This does not mean I frown upon nurseries (I love Alba’s little corner in our room), or ending bed-sharing, but I do challenge you to think about the origins of such ideals.
I want to close with this. If your baby/young toddler/child is sleeping in their own bed, on their own, it does not mean you are a better parent. If you are sleeping with your child every night, it also does not make you a better parent. Following your beliefs, and values, and doing proper research and listening to your mama (and papa) guts does make you a good parent. I can admit I do not know what I am doing half (most) of the time, but I am trying my best.
– claudine bull