Peace in the Here and Now

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Baby’s favourite words right now are the names of the people she loves. Especially during quiet moments – lying in bed, nursing – she’ll start listing off the members of her family: “Ai’ya. Mama. Dada.” Repeat, repeat, repeat. She’ll often point to where we sleep in the bed, mama on one side, dada on the other, baby right in the middle. Sometimes I’ll ask her who loves her. She can name “Nana. Wawa.” (always in that order, always together) “Dada.” And, with prompting, “mama.”

I’m learning a lot from her focus on her family. I realize what peace and security our baby gets from being in a stable family and being surrounded by a core of people she spends time with who love her. She knows who we are. She knows who belongs with whom. Mama and Dada are always discussed together. A mention of Nana is incomplete without Wawa. Babies get families, they get relationships, and they derive great comfort from them. Her constant repetition of these names and connections tells me that they matter to her, and that she is reinforcing them in her heart, mind and soul.

Families come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe your family doesn’t have a dada, or you’re physically far from Wawa, or close friends are part of the core. All these variations are part of the unique tapestry that each child inherits. I am learning through the first-hand witnessing of my daughter simply how vital it is that children be surrounded by steady, loving relationships. And a reminder that they will create a sense of the fabric of the world through what they absorb in their early years.

Peace starts in each of us, and is cemented in our families. I wish for my family that we can become more loving and united, and for all people that they can create and build peaceful, loving, stable families to nurture the next generation.

Tonight was a repetition of yesterday’s experience of anticipating baby’s sleep too eagerly. I had plans for a full blog post, about an hour of work (we’re all still sick with this cold so I’ll be staying home tomorrow – but still need to get some work done ’cause it’s a busy time), some prep work for the course, and some reading for fun. Hah. Baby seemed sleepy but in the end it took 2 hours for bedtime to happen. Pre-bed activities included many books, water, bottle, potty-time, changing clothes, up down and all around playing, and lots of time with her art project: star stickers on a sheet of paper. She wanted the stickers moved around and put on things in ways I clearly didn’t understand. “Ai’ya … mama … unh … knee knee knee.” This, it turns out, didn’t mean “please put a sticker on my knee, mama.” After about 15 repetitions of this mantra, with me repeating every word, asking questions, and trying to figure out what she wanted, I had a moment of clarity where I realized that I was truly embedded smack dab in the middle of parenting and learning patience. On and on it went, and I kept myself there and focused and questioning and trying to understand what she so desperately needed from those sticky stars. Very glad I stayed there and am being more and more focused and listening and responsive to my daughter on a moment-to-moment basis.

On to my crusade: I submitted some comment sheets to the local library a few months ago about two books I found very concerning: On becoming babywise, and Healthy sleep habits, happy baby. I found out by email yesterday that after considering my comments and the warnings from the American Pediatric Association, among others, they will be withdrawing at least the first and possibly the second of these from the library holdings. I am thrilled.

The first book – Babywise – is essentially fiction masquerading as science. The recommendations for breastfeeding and sleep training for babies have no basis in research and go against ALL the current science and recommendations for healthy care of newborns. They are also disturbing because they pit parents against babies, treating babies as little manipulators who need to be controlled by their parents rather than humans with legitimate needs which should be respected and listened to.

Healthy sleep habits by Weissbluth does have a basis in some selected research. At the same time, it is, from my perspective, lacking in any moral or common-sense foundation regarding respectful care for newborns. The author is obsessed with the need for young children to sleep through the night, treating any cases of not doing so as abnormal and portending life-long sleep problems. If he actually looked at other scientific and cross-cultural research he would know that 1) there are many emotional and physical reasons why babies continue to wake at night, including well past 1 year old, and 2) a majority of babies start sleeping through the night once they get to a few years old. Not to mention, 3) research has shown that the use of sleep training with young babies actually increases sleep problems as babies get older, partially in the way they make sleep a scary and stressful process for babies. My main concern, however, is the harsh training methods he suggests (they are so disturbing I can’t write about them), which could severely traumatize babies and cause physical and emotional damage. This review of research on infant sleep addresses these and other issues.

I have an inkling that at some stage in my future life I will start working on a “rights of babies” movement. There are the rights of the child, and these form a vital foundation. The needs of babies are particular, and there is no commonly accepted standard for how we treat babies. Of course parents need to make best choices for their families. At the same time, I would like to see this from within a context of better understanding of who babies are, what their needs are, and how best to meet those. If anyone would like to connect me with a movement working on this, please do.

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