The issue of the family bed has been discussed in one of my email groups lately because a couple of our members are expecting for the first time. Congratulations, Mec and Tin! It is exciting times for all of us, including us old time mommies as we get to relive past experiences in babydom. In Pinoy Moms Network, Connie also talked about their family bed and how her girls always slept with them (she has a follow up post regarding this issue too).
When I had my first baby, I read all (well maybe not all, but some) the requisite book on pregnancy, birthing, and parenting. At first, I tried to go 'by the book' especially when it came to feeding and caring for my newborn daughter. I breastfed regularly by the clock and pumped milk when I'm away at work while leaving a strict schedule for her feeding times at home. Her bottoms were swaddled in only the finest cloth diapers to be had. I tucked her into her crib everynight and settled into mine for my ME time, as recommended.
That didn't last long...
What I found out was that my heart broke everytime she cried because she wanted to eat but it wasn't time yet. I cried along with her when wanted to stay with mom and dad longer but it was time for bed. I tried to follow the suggestions given for training them to learn to sleep on their own: Lay them in the crib, pat their back and say goodnight, walk out of the room. If the baby cries, wait 5 minutes, go in, pat on back, whisper comforting words, then go back out of the room. Repeat for as long as it takes for the baby to sleep.
Have you ever heard a newborn baby cry? It's the most helpless sound in the world, and I just couldn't stand listening to it without my heart crying along. So I said to heck with the rules, I'll do this my way. Picked up my baby and rocked her to my breast until she fell asleep. When she was hungry, she can have all the milk mommy can produce. When she wanted to sleep, it was in mom and dad's bed.
Little did I know, this was how it has always been done according to my lola (grandmother). Most Filipino moms I know also do it this way. This way is feeding on demand when the baby is hungry, carrying the baby when it wants to or need to, and sleeping with the baby until she is ready for her own bed. This is, in general how our girls were raised.
They say that children who are coddled too much end up being needy and dependent adults. I think the opposite. I think children who are comforted and loved grow up to be secure and independent adults, Because they know they always have the safety net of their family, they take bigger strides and take more chances. I coddle my children, sure, but I also teach them about failure and disappointments. They know they can't always have everything the way they want it when they want it. I believe we also have to find moderation.
My girls are now 14, 13, and 9. They are all sleeping in their own beds, but this was their choosing. They slept in our bed until they were ready and moved to their beds on their own. That doesn't mean that mom and dad's room is now our own again though. They still come and take naps on our bed, when they are not feeling well and need hugs, they still come to our bed. When they can't sleep, they come to our bed. And since hubby created a sitting area in our room, it has now also become the family room. They come in and watch TV in our room (even though they have one in their room), they come and have their late night snacks in our room, or just come and hang out with mom and dad.
So what if sometimes we don't have as much 'alone' time as we'd like. There is no such thing as ME time. What we have is a lot of US time, and from talking to even older mommies like my mom and lola, the US time is priceless...and fleeting. So we enjoy every moment with our girls because these times will be gone before we know it and we want to be ready for the next phase.