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The single most important thing standing between people and creating work that is fulfilling and makes you plenty of money is the all-around self-confidence or “life-confidence” to follow your own unique path, which even lots of ‘successful-in-business’ people can lack. 

This kind of life-confidence starts being built or reduced from the day someone’s born… 

So you’re a parent or parent-to-be, and you’re in the middle of deciding where and how your baby will sleep.

Official pediatric societies say “it’s dangerous to have your baby sleep in bed with you, you could hurt them.”

Other people, books and blogs tell you about “co-sleeping this”, “bed-sharing that” and many more options…leaving you confused and overwhelmed at all the options and advice on what the heck to do!  “Do I start them in a crib, in my bed, for how long, and when do I move them?…” and on and on…

Did you realize that how they sleep with you or not affects them as an adult? Here I’ll tell you why my wife and I had our newborn daughter Pari (Welcome, Pari Charlotte Ross) sleep on us most nights for her first several weeks, and then why we moved her to sleeping with us in bed right between us.

First though – have you or any of your family been divorced?  What about being ‘eternally single’, unable or willing to hold down a committed relationship?  Perhaps you or a spouse has struggled with loneliness, intimacy or self-acceptance?  What about addictions, including “socially acceptable” ones like work or over-achievement?

While the causes behind any of these life challenges are complex, there’s a chance they may have begun with a first step: that you weren’t held or touched enough as a baby, including sleeping with your parents at night.  

I’m not just speaking from the experience of a dad doing research, I’m also speaking from the experience of having been a baby raised this way and still feeling the effects 40 years later as a grown man (example to come).

My Example

I slept alone in a crib from day 1 as a baby, when all I wanted – just like any baby – was to be loved, mainly by being held and touched (the main way a baby receives love) – including through the night.  This was the first seed planted in me at a deep level that – to the “baby Aaron” – I wasn’t lovable enough to my parents.

Of course that isn’t logical and my parents loved me and did the very best parenting job they could (as all parents do, and I’m grateful to them for all the great stuff they did do)…but babies are feeling creatures, not rational ones.  A baby doesn’t understand or care why you are or aren’t sleeping with them or touching them – they just feel your presence (love) or absence (abandonment).

As I grew up, I turned into an overachiever in school and work for decades…misguidedly searching to replace that original feeling of “I’m not enough” through accomplishment.  But because more money, titles or prestige doesn’t do anything to heal that original emotional track that was laid down, it would have been an endless search if I hadn’t pulled myself off that track, and then found my wife Jessica and family.

Love Is Literally A Nutrient

What is the first & second most important ‘nutrients’ a baby gets, for physical and mental health?  Food & sleep.

What is the third most important, for physical, mental and emotional health?  it’s love – mainly by being held & touched.

Without it, no one – child or adult – can develop to their full potential.

The Two Most Common Fears Of Sleeping With A Baby

It’s very common for parents to put babies in a crib from the first night.  Because this is what you’re ‘supposed’ to do, it’s what your parents did and what the experts tell you to do…right?

Often there are two main logical reasons:

1) “It’s dangerous” – you don’t want to risk rolling over on them, and

2) “They’ll be too attached and will never want to sleep alone” or “it’ll be torture to try to break them of the habit of sleeping with us”).   Because if they sleep with you now and get used to it, they won’t want to stop in the future…it’ll be impossible to get them to sleep in their own bed.  And they’ll always be too attached, needy, clingy and not independent…won’t they?

True – if you sleep with your baby, there is a slight possibility of hurting them in some way in your sleep (especially if you drink alcohol or take some kind of sleep drugs) that would never exist if they’re in their own sleep space.

And if babies sleep apart from you they won’t get too attached – at least to sleeping with you…

Here’s The Problem: Why Sleeping Alone Traumatizes A Baby

<= Pari’s Popeye impersonation

A baby is totally in the moment. They don’t remember the past or know there is a future.

When a baby’s alone – say in a crib – and they need attention (even while asleep) yet can’t feel or sense you, all they know is they feel alone and abandoned (again not logical, but babies aren’t logical).  They can feel this emotionally from day one, just as they know when their diaper is dirty or they’re hungry.  Being in the moment, they don’t remember you were there a minute ago, or are coming back in five minutes…all they know is they can’t sense you RIGHT NOW.

They are desperate to be held and loved, and when they aren’t when they most need it, this is so painful to them that after a time, to survive, they build defenses against the loneliness…they begin to detach, to put walls up and numb out emotionally.

This is why – to use an ‘easy to see’ example to point out how this works – “cry it out” methods do work...if all you want is your baby to stop crying and sleep through the night right now without regard to their future as an adult.  It works because the babies give up and disconnect so that they seem to need less love and closeness.  They detach from their own feelings…the first step towards growing up as an adult – both men & women – detached from feelings and emotions.  They might start sleeping through the night after 6-8 weeks, but at what cost?  Is it worth giving them 20, 30 or more years of intimacy issues?

So why did we have Pari sleep on us for much of the night through her first six weeks?  To help her make the transition to life outside the womb as easily as possible.  Many parents are too quick to forget that your baby is new to this world that is so different from the womb (and thus often scary), and your baby’s only real source of comfort, connection and trust is you!  You help them make the transition to feeling comfortable here, and that can take them several weeks or a couple of months.  We could tell, just by paying attention to her, when she started feeling more confident sleeping in bed with us for longer and longer streteches.

Extreme Examples

In extreme cases, like orphans in third world countries that aren’t held enough, babies will stop moving, growing and can even die.  I’ve been to an orphanage in Africa, and it’s heart-wrenching to see babies lying there, because they’ve visibly given up hoping to be held. It’s not subtle there.

The difference here in the USA is that we hold babies ‘just enough’ so that they stay physically healthy, and we can’t detect the emotional scars, sometimes for years or decades.  (Because divorce / addiction / emotional-numbness / depression / anxiety / direction-lessness is normal, right, since everyone has ’em?)

These emotional walls will stay a part of the baby for their lives, into adulthood.  These adults – like myself – keep intimacy away, for example.  There’s a deep unseen/unconscious pattern, remembered, of “someone i love and need might go away and abandon me and hurt me again…so I’d better keep them at a distance.”

We also struggle with self-acceptance and confidence.  The fear that was written into the subconscious sounds like “I wasn’t good enough to be loved by my parents…I’m not worthy…no one will want me.”  This can translate into challenges with relationships, whether at work, in love or with family.  Also – just because someone is successful doesn’t mean they’re happy or confident.  It’s just as likely that  they’re so desperate to prove themselves worthy, to deny their insecurities, that they work their asses off to prove it otherwise.

Very Few Things Are Not Optional

There’s no single magic solution to help your child avoid challenging life experiences like detachment, loneliness or anxiety.  Yet holding and touching them as much as you can, day and night at least until they begin crawling, is a critical first step – like a first link of a chain – to give them a solid emotional and self-confidence foundation that will serve them for life.

In my teaching practices (Predictable Revenue, CEOFlow, Unique Genius), 99% of the time I tell people “here’s what works for other people, but everything is optional and it’s always your choice how to practically make this work, since only you know your business or life.”

But, but…

A very few things aren’t optional, like telling the truth.

And one other thing that’s not optional is holding and touching your baby as much as possible.  Sleeping together is just a great way to give them a lot of this at one stretch.

Again, it’s not a magic pill to make everything in life easy for your child  (post: life isn’t supposed to be easy all the time; you aren’t supposed to be happy all the time). It’s more like a business that has a lot of extra cash in the bank – it doesn’t automatically make the business successful, but it gives it a lot more flexibility and peace of mind to get through the ups and downs that are inevitable.

So How’s It Working For Us, Do We Get Sleep?  

After about six weeks, when we started moving her from sleeping literally on us to sleeping in bed between us, Pari was sleeping most of the night through – say 5-7 hours – just turning over sometimes to nurse (sometimes my wife would wake up, sometimes not!)  At eight weeks, Pari was sleeping even 8 hours a night, with some mid-night half-asleep nursing.  Now, a week later at nine weeks, she is now commonly sleeping straight through the night for 8-10 hours a night (9pm-6am or 7am).  She then usually wakes up for an hour or three (for nursing, dipe change, etc), before passing back out asleep for awhile, often through much of the morning.

The first several days sleeping in bed with Pari, Jessica could barely sleep with her “baby radar” on…every little sound Pari made woke her up.  But she got used to it, and now she says she sleeps really well and gets plenty of it, thought it’s not deep.

In the beginning, it wasn’t easy for us to figure out how first to get into a sleeping rhythm at home after the hospital.  We had to try all kinds of stuff, which is how we found that Pari liked best to sleep on us the first several weeks, and it was also easier on us too.  With Pari sleeping on my wife (well, on her lap supported by a nursing pillow), in a big chair, my wife could easily nurse her whenever Pari needed it, then pass back out.

And I just loved having Pari sleep on my chest; I miss doing that every night.

I will say you have to try a bunch of things to see what works for you – just like with anything in life.

Update: 14 Months In

About a year since I first wrote this post, now that Pari’s almost 14 months old, Pari still sleeps between us at night, and I love it.  It’s hard to explain how precious waking up with Pari is, or even what it’s like rolling over in the middle of the night to put my hand on her tummy or just see her sleeping there.  She’s just this little scrumptious nugget next to us.

Pari goes to bed usually from 7:30-9pm (depending on how much she napped that day), and very consistently wakes up at 7am-7:15am.

This is a lot harder on Jess, as about six months ago Pari started nursing at night every few hours.  Pari doesn’t wake up, she just squeaks and Jess rolls over to pops a boob in, barely awake herself 🙂  Jess is in bed for 8-9 hours (usually 10p-7a), but doesn’t get high-quality, deep sleep.  Sometimes it’s worse, sometimes better – but always rough.

Jess says she sticks with it because having Pari sleep with us longer than ever a year is the best thing for the baby, and the best thing for us, long-term.  If food feeds a baby’s physical body, their emotional body’s fed by touch and interaction.  (For some reason, US culture & doctors don’t value “touch” as being vital to development – why?   It’s so obvious what the lack of it does to orphans?!)

A couple of times after especially rough nights Jess was desperate enough to explore ways to help Pari nurse less at night, but she couldn’t find something she felt comfortable with.  We luckily then found Dr. Jay Gordon here in Santa Monica, and REALLY respect his advice and were even able to join his practice.

For example, here’s an article of his on Sleep, Changing Patters In The Family Bed. A couple of his points include: “I don’t recommend any forced sleep changes during the first year of life” and “don’t believe anyone who says that babies who cuddle and nurse all night long ‘never’ learn to self soothe or become independent. This is simply not true but it sells books and the myths stay in our culture.”

I know that for the rest of my life, I’ll treasure the time Pari slept with us, and I’m sad that it’ll end soon.

I don’t put much thought into milestones, since babies are so different, and I can’t say if sleeping with us affects her beyond making her extra happy and healthy.  She’s a happy healthy baby, and so fun to play with!

Pari started walking at 10.5 months and has a bunch of words she says verbally like down, agua, mama, dada, boobah, dog, Aurora (her big sister), and misc baby words.  She also has a few hand signs we taught her eat/hungry, all done, want to nurse/milk, motorcycle (seriously – she makes the throttle motion), and probably a couple others.

Here was one of the first times she said “Aurora”…it was so cute!

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There’s No Single Way

While being held and touched is a universal need by babies, how you manage it in a way that works for your situation is up to you to figure out.  No matter what experts or people like myself tell you, you’re the only one who knows yourself and baby best.  This includes deciding how you sleep with your baby (advice on safe sleeping), how long you do (at least until they start crawling), and how you move them to sleeping alone in their own crib/room (my wife’s done this successfully twice so far so I know at least one way it can be done :)).

If the parents are high-risk of physically endangering their baby and can’t sleep with them (such parents on medication that causes deep sleep), all you can do is do your best, and just hold your baby, or have them held, as much as you can whenever possible.

For example, rather than using a stroller every time you go for a walk, why not try babywearing some of the time?  Or while doing chores around the house?   When we go grocery shopping, I love wearing Pari in the Boba wrap we have!  And she loves it too, once she’s in she snuggles up and passes out.

Let Go Of Guilt

Guilt is an emotional poison, it’s literally toxic.  No parent was, is or can be perfect and do everything ‘right’.  You can only be “perfectly imperfect” and that what you’re doing is enough right now.  I’m sure my kids someday will have a list of things that they think I could have done better!

There is nothing you have done to your kids that you can’t heal with time and love.  All you can do is your best.  If you take on guilt from all the things you’ve ‘done wrong’, you’ll drive yourself and your family crazy.

What If You Already Raised Your Infant In A Crib?

If you put your infants in cribs, perhaps you could let your kids try sleeping with you for awhile now that they’re older for awhile.  Or just hold, hug and kiss them as much as you can (and as much as they let you).  The more physical touch, the better.

The older they are, at first it the more awkward to them and probably you…just keep at it, patiently, persistently, and things will shift.  These things take years, not weeks.

Parenting Can Drive People Crazy

Parenting’s an emotionally charged topic, because kids and how we parent are such an intimate expression of ourselves.  I’m writing the “Your Unique Kid” series to introduce you to ideas you perhaps hadn’t thought about before, and start a conversation.

I’d be happy to keep discussing this in the comments.  No flaming though please, that never helps.

Other Articles I Like

12 Ways To Help Your Child Build Self Confidence

Should I Worry About Spoiling My Baby?

Book: The Continuum Concept

Cute Pari Pictures

Just for fun 🙂