I’ve been a minimalist for years, so when I became pregnant I was already predisposed to wanting only the essentials for our coming little baby. This naturally ruled out strollers, cribs, playpens, bouncers, changing tables, and a bunch of other things that I filed under “extras.”
But once R popped out, and as the months unfolded one into the other and our relationship grew, I realized that these “extras” do more than take up physical space. More importantly, they add space between babies and their caregivers-or more specifically (and tragically), they add distance.
I don’t think that any of these things are bad, or that using them once in a while is wrong. The problem is when we rely on them constantly because when that happens we’re literally outsourcing ourselves to inanimate objects.
Here’s what I mean: Strollers and bouncers replace the natural practice of baby-wearing and baby-carrying. Cribs and playpens replace co-sleeping and snuggling and bed-sharing. Pacifiers and bottles replace breastfeeding and nursing for comfort, and baby monitors replace our very presence.
This breaks my heart because there’s nothing that can ever replace the love and warmth that comes from babies being near the people that love them. I get it-there’s an undeniable convenience in having all this stuff. That’s why they’re the norm. But they don’t have to be. We can choose differently.
There’s a theory that says the more we seek comfort, the more uncomfortable we become in the long run (physically and mentally), and this definitely applies to how we raise our kids. Do we try and make the experience as convenient as possible for ourselves? This would only seem natural, except that the very nature of having a baby is that it is new and strange and uncomfortable (in the best way possible).
Many experts say that babies should fit the lifestyle of the parents and society, but in the parent-child dynamic, the parents are the ones most able to adapt. We know what’s going on and understand that our present situation won’t last forever.
And more importantly, we have created these little people and birthed them into a world that we’re already familiar and comfortable with, but that is completely foreign to them. So who are really the ones that need to adapt?
The interesting thing about humans is that we’re able to adapt to change long before we actually evolve into it. It’s a superpower of ours, but it’s also our Achilles heel.
You can see this in how poorly we have adapted to our modern sedentary culture. Yeah, we’re alive, but the majority of people have chronic or debilitating problems that stem directly from our lack of movement. This is because we haven’t evolved into our current setting yet.
Take this same idea and apply it to parenting babies. Baby-wearing and co-sleeping are just modern terms for the natural practice that has been the norm throughout ancient history.
Babies subconsciously expect to be nurtured in this way when they arrive on this planet-why wouldn’t they? Being with or near their parents is the safest place to be, so when we stick them in a room down the hall, they will adapt but they haven’t evolved to understand and accept it.
I know there are outliers- there always are. I’m not referring to them. I’m referring to the average baby born in the world right now. That baby wants and needs to be near its parents, and that’s all that baby needs. Everything else is just extra, and by extra I mean unnecessary.
I’ve often thought about how people view a baby’s crying. It’s a common view to think that if all of their obvious needs are met (meaning they’re fed and wearing a clean diaper and they aren’t hot or cold), then they’re fine. But there are unseen needs that are no less important that can cause a baby’s distress, and they need to be met with equal, if not more, care.
To be honest, I didn’t start out thinking I would hold R to sleep through every night of her first five months. Someone had gifted us this small bedside bassinet and I thought that seemed progressive and safe and intuitive enough. But R didn’t know about the gift, or my ideas, or societal expectations. She had different plans. As much as I tried in that first week, she would/could not sleep in that bassinet.
I was confused and a little scared. I didn’t know what to do. Would she smother to death beside my huge, milk-filled breasts? It took me a little while to realize that no, she wouldn’t, and that yes, co-sleeping-or whatever name you want to call it-is the most natural thing in the world.
With her in bed with me, I have slept full and long nights, and so has she. With her in bed with me, I have been able to rest knowing she is just fine because I can hear her breathing. With her in bed with me, she has been able to fall back asleep immediately when she’s woken from a bad dream.
But there is more: with her in bed with us (Chris and I), we see her beautiful, chubby-cheeked smile the moment we all wake up, and we adore it. Co-sleeping gives us so much more time with R-especially those precious early-morning and middle-of-the-night moments that we wouldn’t be able to experience if she was tucked away in a nursery.
The same is true for carrying her close to my body rather than pushing her around in a stroller. It’s another opportunity to connect with her, to look into her eyes, to watch her expressions as she takes in the world. She’s now eight months old, and I’ve yet to question my decision to avoid strollers. It’s just not going to happen. There are too many carriers on the market that serves a variety of purposes that make strollers obsolete.
We have to get to the place where we aren’t searching for convenience because it’s not going to serve us in the long-run. Ironically, the more stuff we buy and the more things we use to make motherhood a comfortable experience, the farther we get from what we actually want: to be close to those we love, to develop strong bonds with our babies, and to be present for as many of the special moments as possible.
Almost universally, minimalism is the answer to our basic human needs. Get rid of extra stuff, get rid of too much space, and we magically get closer to what we really wanted to begin with. It's actually pretty simple. We just have to be willing to do it.
So tell me what you think. Do you co-sleep already, or are you thinking about it? What about baby-wearing? And how about strollers? Let me know in the comments below :)