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In the hospital, the OB warned me that if Ronan kept falling asleep in my arms each night, he would have problems going to sleep on his own. He would expect that he could fall asleep in my arms every night.

At first thought, what’s wrong with that?

Ronan won’t want to be in my arms forever — I can’t imagine him eighteen and crawling into my lap, let alone four or five — and as long as I can lift him and he wants to, why shouldn’t I? I bet a lot of parents of older children miss the times their babies fell asleep with their head wedged under their chin.

Missionaries in Africa, besides trying to teach indigenous people how to have vanilla sex, also taught child rearing. In the West we don’t pick a crying child up and comfort them as much as in other non-Western cultures. There is a belief that you will “spoil” the child. In Africa and Asia they have another term: “Nuts,” because the kid doesn’t have a sense of self, and he or she just wants to be held. So they pick the kids up. The missionaries, as always, were really confused and angry by this. Stupid missionaries.

I forget which French King it was, but one of the more stupid ones decided the perfect human would result if you denied babies human contact and only gave them food and clothing. The result: the babies died. Babies need human interaction and plenty of it.

Terry and I aren’t attachment parents. We use a stroller, by gum, and it is a handy thing to have. But we’re not shy about picking up Ronan and letting him fall asleep in our arms, to the point that Terry’s parents are jokingly wondering if we’re spoiling him.

There are practical reasons to not pick Ronan up every time we put him down and he doesn’t fall asleep. One is that it can be strenuous if we want to sleep and Ronan wants to be held. If we fall asleep and forget about him, it could be dangerous if we drop him. (I keep telling Terry that you don’t sleep the same way when you’re holding a baby, but it’s possible.) Another is that eventually we’ll have to leave him overnight with someone — a grandparent or an uncle — if we have to go out of town or have an emergency or something. If Ronan is used to falling asleep in our arms, he may not like someone else’s arms, even a grandparent or an uncle’s.

Unless you have your own child, it’s hard to describe the bliss of holding him while he sleeps. Ronan has found this one place where his head slips under my chin. He seems to root around until he gets his head just right. Often he will grab onto my chest hair and pull, which is not fun, and we have to reposition the T-shirt to cover myself. Then he settles down and falls asleep after a long session of fidgeting around for a while. Often Terry has fallen asleep already and it’s just Ronan and I. It’s a really nice moment.

Can you blame me for wanting to enjoy that? Can it really spoil him at two weeks of age? I don’t think so.


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Comments (2)

I agree. You can't spoil an infant. And I love reading these beautiful touching stories, so perhaps I'm just being selfish. ;-)

Jennifer Kirby:

Hey Jason,

Sorry about the dreams. Obviously you are carrying around some major anxiety. But I am here to tell you that they are pretty sturdy--and yours holding his head up already! Wow! I think it took Sansa over a month to do that!

I am no expert but I think, based on my limited experience, that it is simply impossible to spoil a child under six months by holding them as much as they want. THey have no sense of separateness, really, at this point. They are just a ball of Id.

HOWEVER, after 4-6 months, I do believe it is important to begin the separation process. And, interestingly, it felt harder for me that it probably did for Sansa. But that is probably because we did it early.

Sansa had been in a co-sleeper next to my bed until her surgery at 3.5 months. As soon as she came home from the surgery we brought her right to her crib in her own room. She did great! I, however, had to sleep on the futon next to her because it just about broke my heart not to wake up with ehr right next to me.

Right afeter her 2nd birthday, she asked to sleep in her new toddler bed for naps, and that quickly evolved into naps and nighttime. But she kept waking up screaming in the middle of the night, so back to the crib she went (and still is).

The moral of the story? They tell you when they are ready for something, and sometimes you need to gently encourage them if the time seems right.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 21, 2007 7:06 AM.

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