The whole issue of sleep and babywearing is a thorny one, in conventional circles at least. We are told that, from as early as possible, we should be teaching our babies to sleep alone: that if we don’t they will become dependent on us, and that everyone will suffer as a result.
When I first became a mum, I was bombarded with this conventional wisdom, whilst all the time knowing deep down that there had to be another way. My baby was a very snuggly one, day and night, and didn’t ever want to be left alone. And as far as I was concerned that was just fine – I loved the cuddles, and why shouldn’t he be dependent on me when he was so very, very tiny? Why could I not tread a gentler path, where my actions were guided by his (and my) needs rather than some composite approximation of what other people thought our needs should be?
When I first discovered Attachment Parenting, a couple of weeks into my motherhood journey, I was overwhelmed with relief. It turned out that my instincts were just fine, and that for generations people had already been treading that gentler path, finding comfort and happiness for themselves and their babies.
Admittedly, though, there did come a point when I felt like there should maybe be more to life than simply snuggles on the sofa: it was then, for me, that babywearing really transformed my life as a mum.
During the day, I would wear my son for naps and adventures, and in the evening when he got grizzly I would slip him into the sling again until we all went up to bed together. We didn’t really tackle the concept of bedtime at all until he was much older, and even then he would still take his naps in the sling.
We had a loose routine, but there was no stressing about the hands on the clock, no battling against his ever-changing natural rhythms. For the first two years he tended to sleep (and wake) late, and clung on to two good naps a day until well past his second birthday. During that time, whilst he cosied up against me, I would write, secure in the knowledge that whilst I was losing myself in my dreams he was safe and happy in his own.
Since he turned three there has been a shift. He still has an afternoon nap, but it is in his own bed (unless we’re out and about). He has slept well though the night for over a year, in that bed in his own room. And he loves his room: it has never been a battleground, only a place to be quiet and content and, increasingly, alone.
I admit that sometimes I miss the togetherness – the head close enough to kiss on my chest whilst I sat at the computer, the sleepy baby always within arms reach during the night. But what I am struck by most of all is how, despite the warnings, this has all come round so quickly.
Wearing my child to sleep has not created a bad sleeper: if anything, quite the opposite.
I am not writing this as a roadmap, a route to follow if you are chasing that holy grail of a good night’s sleep. Rather I believe it is important that there are voices out there that say that whichever path feels right for you to follow the chances are it will work, for you.
And if that path involves having a little sleeping person strapped to you as you go about your days, then so be it. It will not last forever, so you might as well cherish it whilst it does.