I love holding my babies. I've always felt like holding a sleeping infant is a form of meditation and I can feel my heart rate slow and my body relax as Felix naps on my chest.
I don't get to hold him enough. There are chores to do and places to go and I feel like I'm always rousing him to shove him in his car seat or his swing. I hate it and I get downright weepy when our snuggle time suffers.
Since the week he was born I've heard the same message.
“You need to put that baby down.”
“You'll spoil him! You shouldn't hold him while he sleeps!”
“He's going to want to be held all the time, you know?”
Y'all. It's time to settle this once and for all.
YOU CAN'T SPOIL AN INFANT.
I am a true believer in Dr. Harvey Karp and his theory on the Fourth Trimester. Basically, human beings are born less developed than other mammals. We're born before our nervous systems are fully developed because our big brains wouldn't fit through the birth canal if we hung out too much longer.
According to Karp, during the first three months of life infants are basically still fetuses and respond to womb-like environments. He recommends recreating that environment with the 5 S's - sucking, shushing, swaddling, swaying, and side position.
Let me tell you. It WORKS.
And it is easiest to recreate with a baby in your arms (although let's all take a moment and send blessings and gratitude to the inventor of the baby swing!).
I can't imagine how stressful and disorienting it must be to be an infant. Anything I can do to ease that transition is worth it, even if that means holding him constantly.
Honestly, I don't really have a choice. I have a physical reaction to my baby's cries. I can feel the cortisol flood my system as my blood pressure and heart rate rises. The idea of putting Felix down so he doesn't “get used to” not having his deepest needs met is not something I'm interested in.
I like to tell people I'm a hardcore attachment parent... for three months. I believe in the fundamental philosophy that you create happy, confident children by meeting their needs consistently. Now, as they get older, the philosophies on how to meet those needs can vary.
However, with an infant, it's pretty simple. Babies like to be held.
Not to mention that I find the idea of babies “manipulating” adults ludicrous. Y'all, Felix is legitimately overwhelmed by pooping most days. The idea that he is capable of the advanced psychological development necessary to manipulate me into getting what he wants is downright laughable.
Now, I do believe as he gets older and more developed I will need to cut the proverbial cord so he can learn to self-soothe, entertain himself, and grow more independent. However, the idea that his age is not a massive contributing factor to those determinations is insane.
For example, a New York Times editorial recently asked “Do you have the guts?” to sleep train at 8 weeks. Apparently, Dr. Michel Cohen of the popular Tribeca Pediatrics in Manhattan advocates sleep training babies at 8 weeks of age. From what I can tell, he began this practice because some babies slept through the night so that meant ALL babies could sleep through the night. No matter that some of his patients report FOUR HOURS of endless crying by their infants with no successful training as a result!
I have successfully sleep-trained two children at 6 months – both of whom cried for 45 minutes the first night and then 15 minutes or less the next. Anecdotally, every friend I have who has sleep-trained at a similar age also reports approximately 45 minutes the first night. at 6 months – both of whom cried for 45 minutes the first night and then 15 minutes or less the next. Anecdotally, every friend I have who has sleep-trained at a similar age also reports approximately 45 minutes the first night.
I would argue this is because most babies are incapable of self-soothing before that age. (To those of you who have babies who sleep happily through the night at birth – keep that stuff to yourself!) In fact, Dr. Ferber – Mr. Cry It Out himself – doesn't recommend sleep training before four months because a child is not developmentally capable of self-soothing.
So, for the first three months at least, this momma will be holding her baby and breastfeeding on demand and generally loving him up whenever I can.
After all, Baby Felix is getting bigger every day and before long his needs won't be simple … nor will they be met with a nice, long nap on my chest.