Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Mommy? I'm scared,": Legit or sham?

Any parent of a child old enough to talk has probably just drifted off to sleep, desperate for a few hours of much needed respite, only to be wakened by little (or big) feet padding down the hall, a little hand opening the door and a little voice saying, "Mommy? I'm scared." Different families will handle these inevitable times in vastly different ways according to each family's needs and beliefs. I thought I might share how we handle things in our family.

First of all, Steve and I practice attachment parenting. While the practical working out of this differs from family to family, it is essentially recognizing the crucial importance of helping each child to form a secure bond with her parents. One way we see this at work is through nighttime parenting. Attachment parenting recognizes that our job as parents does not end at night. Children have nighttime needs as well as daytime ones and those needs are equally important.

However, moms and dads have needs, too. Moms and Dads need sleep and need time alone together. It is not easy, but it is possible to make sure everyone's needs are met.

In our family, we keep our babies nice and close until I have nightweaned them (at about a year old) and they are sleeping through the night reliably (12-18 months?). After that, they are moved in with a sibling, but they still continue to 'visit' us now and then -- sometimes a lot of 'now and then'! If we have no current baby in with us and the child is still little (say, under two or so), they are free to just climb into our big bed. Otherwise, they can visit the quilt basket:

This basket stays under my dresser and contains two quilts and one waterproof, flannel-topped pad. If the child has any possibility of wetting at night and isn't in diapers, they/we put down the pad. Then, they can grab a quilt and rest securely beside our bed. The philosophy behind this arrangement is that it meets our children's need for security (to be comforted by Mom and Dad's presence) without making it too comfy and encouraging them to visit when they aren't legitimately scared. Sure, they'd love to sleep with us all the time, but they have each other. :)

(Just for interest's sake, the two quilts are large 'crib-sized'. One was made by a friend of mine for my older son when he was born and the other one, I made myself! It is the only quilt I ever did and it is from the book, Bend the Rules Sewing by Amy Karol.)

What about your family? How do you handle nighttime visitors?


  1. Keeping a basket ready like that is a great idea. We have the benefit of sleeping Japanese style (on futon). It is much easier to sleep with your kids when you can spread out all over the floor, and when you don't have a springy matress causing the little ones to roll toward the heavier parents. We also have no worries about someone falling off.

    When my first was born I was determined to do things "American style". Then a friend introduced me to Dr. Sears' books. Reading his books just sort of freed me up to a new way of thinking. When my first child was nearly one year old we started sleeping "Japanese style". We got rid of our bed and switched to futons. In Japan, children generally sleep in the family futons until the time they become elementary school age. That was the case for my husband, so he was totally comfortable with that arrangement. He was the one who mourned the oldest two kids moving out to their own beds the most.

    Right now we have the youngest, who is about to turn two, still in with us. Our 6 year old, who is autistic, has his own bed, but visits often. In the winter he ends up with us quite a lot because he kicks off his covers, and since we have no central heating wakes up from the cold.

    One thing I have noticed in Japan is that there are very few thumb-sucking children, very few kids walking around with a passifiers in their mouths, and no children's books about "giving up my blankie before going off to kindergarten".

    Sorry that got so long. Maybe I'll write my own post about that sometime!

  2. Thanks so much for your comments, Sue! I loved reading about your experiences in Japan, particularly the fact that your dh was so supportive. (I am also very blessed with a very supportive dh in all facets, including nighttime parenting.) Hearing about the futon-style sleeping all together for several years just gives me an "Ahhhhhhh" feeling, the happiness of when things are just the way they should be.

  3. Well... Often they crawl into bed with me without waking me up, so I really don't mind all that much..

  4. I agree, Kate. I would actually say that if a kid climbs into bed with me in the wee hours of the morning and doesn't wake me up (or squish baby), I love it, too. :) These days are so short with our little ones, aren't they?

  5. I think this is a great post. We've had varying types of experiences with little one's sleep situations. I wonder how you weaned your little ones from night feedings as I always find that hardest but there are times I get to the point where I need the sleep. If you have any tips to share, would you be willing to e-mail me???

  6. Erna,
    I am one of the worst people to ask about babies and sleeping. My current baby is, bless his heart, the worst sleeper I have ever had. LOL!

    However, I do know a thing or two about night-weaning. That might be better as a separate post. I will try to type it up in the next few days. (I still need to do a 'bread' post, too!)

  7. I'd love to read your tips on night weaning. :0)

  8. Erna,
    I have my post all drafted out, so I will post it early this coming week. :)