Baby Makes Three – Or More

A new mom told me that not having been married very long she was still adjusting to being part of a couple. She was still getting used to the “we”. Now, with a newborn, the “we” had turned into three and she was feeling somewhat overwhelmed.

At the same time, the mother of a three-year-old with a newborn was describing feeling unprepared for the sleepless nights and baby schedule despite having lived through it all before.

The first few months of a newborn’s life can be stressful for old or new parents. The infant is becoming adjusted to life outside the womb and all the life systems – breathing, eating, sleeping – are gradually becoming regulated. It takes a while for the baby’s own patterns to start to emerge, and even longer to begin to shape them into some sort of workable schedule. In the meantime, new parents watch their baby and try to figure out what everything means.

The key is to try to get to know your own baby. But sometimes parental anxieties – and sleepless nights – makes that difficult to do. It is easy immediately to feel that something must be wrong if you don’t seem able to comfort your baby, or his crying seems to go on forever – or baby screams whenever you put him down in his crib. Babies eventually do find ways to soothe themselves, but sometimes our own anxiety and fatigue make it too hard to wait for that to happen.

There are also babies who are not self-soothers, and often it takes some creative experimentation to find out how we can help without creating some other potential difficulty for the future. Taking the baby into your bed is a case in point. One of the things about child-rearing is that what may seem like an easy solution to one immediate situation turns out to create its own challenges at some future time.

“Baby-in- the-bed” is sometimes one of those solutions. People often get emotional about this subject, at times even judgmental. Just as in other cultures it is simply the way it is done, attitudes in our culture differ. Americans believe in individualism, standing on your own two feet, and being independent. Value is placed on children’s ability to play on their own, sleep on their own, and, if possible, have a room of their own. But children don’t necessarily start out that way. Many parents have reported their children saying in protest, “You each have someone to sleep with, why do I have to sleep by myself?”

It is not at all strange that a child would rather sleep with his parents, or have a parent with him in the room when he goes to sleep. As a child gets beyond babyhood there also may be added the wish to get between mom and dad – maybe having one or the other all to himself. Besides, who wants to go to sleep when mom and dad are still up and about.

But whatever the reason, getting a child into his own bed after sleeping in yours is a process that will take time, since of course he will protest this ejection from such a warm, cozy spot. Who wouldn’t protest? Once again, it will take patience and perseverance, which means letting him know his parents’ expectations, and following consistently whatever plan they decide on.

A song most parents know, “There were three in the bed, and the little one said, ‘roll over, roll over’. So, they all rolled over and one fell out – “
But which one will fall out?