It is an anthropological and biological look at babies. How are babies around the world parented and why? Is there a biological foundation for these parenting techniques or are they primarily cultural?
I encourage everyone to read the book. It's fascinating. But I'll also share some of the info and insights with you here in my new series "Is She A Good Baby?".
Whenever you find moms trying to get to know each other and make small talk, at least around here, usually sooner than later someone asks, "Is she a good baby?" I always answer "yes", but really, what am I supposed to say?
"No, I'm pretty sure she's the Antichrist, but we love her anyways."
One of the most enlightening thing I've learned in reading this book is that each culture (and each parent) defines their own parental goals, whether consciously or not, and that has a big effect on how they parent.
It also colors that question "Is she a good baby?" What constitutes a "good baby"? That depends on what your goals are.
|Bad Baby! You should be in a crib!|
If you place a very high value on independence and self-reliance, then this may be a reasonable way of looking at things. A baby who can sleep alone and self soothe at night is well on the road to independence. But I think it is interesting to note that not everyone has those goals for their children. In fact, in many cultures, they are aiming for something quite different. Group cohesiveness, familial closeness, and interdependence are the main goals elsewhere in the world.
|Bad Baby! How is your mother ever going to get any |
blogging done if you don't sleep in your crib?
Still other cultures see babyhood as a time to simply be cared for. They don't worry too much about "the long run" and save their teaching and training for childhood. Babies, to them, are there to be kept safe and happy until they are old enough to start participating in family life. These babies are kept close at all times (the better to care for them) including nighttime.
But what about the babies themselves? What do the babies think?
|Dangit Baby, that's not your crib either! |
Do you even have a crib?
So, from the mainstream American perspective, Ivy is not a very good baby. She usually needs someone to fall asleep with her, and she prefers to nurse to sleep if she can. She wakes up several times throughout the night to nurse. If you're shooting for independence, that definitely sounds like a very difficult baby. If you're trotting down the hall to soothe the baby in her crib several times a night - whew! But that's not what we're doing. Ivy sleeps in our bed. Well, I should say my bed. When the temps hit the 90's and our second floor bedroom got pretty hot and sticky (heat rises, who knew?) he found somewhere to sleep that had a little less body heat going on. And when she wakes up at night, I hardly wake up to nurse her and I certainly don't GET up.
In the past, that had been kind of bothersome for me. I wondered WHEN oh WHEN was she going to sleep through the night? When would I be able to just lay her down and leave and not have to lay down with her to get her to sleep?
But now that I'm thinking about it more, I'm not sure that I want independence to be my primary parenting goal. Frankly I think independence is overrated. It just makes everyone work harder. It takes a village, you know? There's nothing wrong with depending on your village if your village is dependable. And I think that's the message I'm sending Ivy when I let her sleep with me - I'm dependable and I'm here for you.
I generally prefer to sleep alone and I get better sleep that way, but that's just because that's what I'm used to. That's how I was raised (how most of us Americans were raised). To sleep alone in a dark and quiet room. But as the months go on, I'm getting more and more used to Ivy being in bed with me. It's not so bothersome anymore. And last night I had a sort of epiphany. Ivy woke up to nurse and instead of being mildly irritated, I just snuggled her in close and enjoyed her.
|Hmmm, you may be a "Bad" Baby, but you do |
seem to get an awful lot of sleeping done...
I pushed aside thoughts of how I myself "should" be sleeping. I don't HAVE to get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep to be well rested. In fact, humans are naturally biphasal sleepers, so the idea of getting all your sleep in one big unbroken chunk at night is a cultural construct. I don't have to be sleeping snuggled up to my husband. The married couple as the all-important center of the nuclear household, with the children peripheral or subordinate to that, is another Western idea as well.
With all of those societal impositions out of the way, Ivy and I both woke up well rested and in giggly spirits. Part of my problem with cosleeping was all those unacknowledged little beliefs I had floating around in my head about what was "the right way". I let myself feel guilty, frustrated, incompetent, and dissatisfied because of what my culture was whispering in my ear.
Once I realized that, I felt so much better. I enjoyed my night and the thought of how different it probably was from how the neighbor's family was sleeping. Because if you know me at all, you know that I'm the last person to feel bound to abide by what society says I ought to do.