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Growing Families:
Ahead of Our Time

By Dee Russell
Honeoye Falls NY USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 1, January-February 2001, p. 27

I remember my first words when Holly, my first baby was born. "I got my girl!" I always loved babies, especially little girls. My dream had finally come true! Holly nursed like a champion right off the bat. There was only one problem. She could only sleep for about a half-hour each night after I put her in her crib before waking. Before she was born, I imagined I would have my little doll-baby, dress her up in sweet dresses, and when I was done playing with her, I would just set her down. However, she had other ideas. She nursed to sleep, I would place her in the beautiful crib we had bought, and then I would try and get some sleep. It usually took me about 25 minutes to relax and fall asleep. Five minutes later, she would wake again, and I would have to go through the whole routine: go get her, change her diaper, nurse her to sleep again, and try putting her back in the crib. Often, as soon as I placed her in it, she would awaken. So I would nurse her again until she was asleep and then ay to put her in the crib, praying that this time she would stay asleep. After several tries, she finally would, for another half-hour! The process left me so tense, that I needed almost that amount of time to unwind and drift off to sleep myself.

We lived with this pattern for a couple of weeks. I adored her in the daytime, and dreaded the nighttimes. When she napped during the day, I did household chores. I should have napped too, as my lack of sleep was turning me into a zombie! Finally, one night, when she woke up for the third time, I had an exhausted, exasperated reaction, to which my husband replied, "She's only two and a half weeks old!" With tears in my eyes, I lay down and nursed her in our bed, and finally got a decent night's sleep. I had found the solution to our problem. However, this happened in 1978, when cosleeping as an alternative way of parenting hadn't caught on in the popular press. It was a great discovery for me that I could finally get some sleep, yet I was really reluctant to share my discovery with anyone.

When people would admire my beautiful little girl and ask if she was a "good baby," I would surprise them by saying, "No." I loved her to pieces, but she needed to be held or nursed constantly Today we would call her a high-needs baby, but neither that phrase nor the phrase "attachment parenting' had been coined yet. When she was 15 months old, we went to our first La Leche League Meeting. When the Leader heard me talk about our story, she recommended I read The Family Bed, by Tine Thevenin (Available from LLLI, No. 91-7, $9.95). I absorbed it quickly and felt that I had finally found what I was searching for. Reading about the history of families sleeping together made it all seem right. TV shows like "Little House on the Prairie" validated a new baby being in bed with his mother.

What worked best for us was to have Holly start the night off in her own bed and then move into ours when she woke. This not only allowed my husband and I some private time, it also helped me get off to a sound night's sleep. When I had my other children, I had no doubt where they would sleep.

I'm not sure how I would have survived Holly's infancy if I hadn't, however reluctantly, decided we needed to have a family bed. I suppose I could have just let her cry herself to sleep, but my tender heart wouldn't allow that. I'm glad I was there for her as an infant and through the succeeding years. Holly just graduated from Boston College and will start this summer volunteering for a year for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Oakland, California. Although she will be far from home, I know she feels confident that her father and I will always be available to her, just as we were when she was a baby.

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