Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

There are pros and cons to just about everything

Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."

In her essay, Conniff recounts the blissful feeling of being "completely in sync with each baby relaxing in what (her) midwife called "armpit nirvana," head tucked up against (mom) all night long." She remembers the months she and her husband spent sleeping in bed with their three infant daughters as "among the very sweetest of (her) life," and goes on to raise concerns that the campaign may cause undue mental stress on parents who choose the extremely common, and many would argue safe, practice of sleeping with their babies.

If I were going to pen a similar piece on my family's early sleep history, I might call it, "Confessions of a Much More Highly Reluctant Co-Sleeper." I never planned to sleep with my children as infants; I really didn't think of myself as the family bed type.

So each and every evening after my oldest was born, I would nurse and rock him to night time sleep in his freshly decorated nursery using a beautiful antique maple chair my husband and I had purchased expressly for this purpose. Then, when I was confident his little, but ever-alert, eyes would not spring back open the second he unlatched, I would place him carefully on his back (as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics) into his sleigh-style crib replete with a Noah's Ark themed bumper (now a public health no-no -- the excess bedding, not the paired animals).

Each night, we prayed it would be different; that our little guy would make it through 'til morning. But on a good night, my husband and I might get four to five hours of uninterrupted shut-eye before we'd hear the inevitable wail of our newborn boy across the hall. We'd both wake up with a jolt and spend a few minutes arguing about whose turn it was to fetch the baby, no more than 15 feet away. Then, whoever lost our dreary-eyed, horizontal version of rock, paper, scissors, would get up and bring our son to our room for the rest of the night.

But unlike Conniff, and so many other parents I've known who appear to enjoy co-sleeping with their infants, neither my husband nor I were ever able to fully relax with our tiny child in the bed. The baby (or maybe it was me), sweating and snoring in my armpit, never felt much like Nirvana. And between my son's outrageously frequent nursing sessions, and the vague anxiety that I might roll over and smother him, I'm pretty sure I rarely settled into anything resembling a deep stage of sleep.

Yes, I guess you could say I was worried, well before any public health billboards or radio ads, that all the terrible things the "Sleep Safe, Sleep Well" campaign cautions about might actually happen to us. And yet still, more often than not, the fear that my snoozing son would be awake for hours if I tried to transfer him from our bed back to the crib meant my son enjoyed his 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. feedings up close and personal in bed with me.

That's the weird thing about parenting -- it all just feels like one big risk-assessment. And we parents often make decisions and justify actions that feel right, and often easier, to us at the time. Even ones that seem to fly in the face of logic or medical-establishment advice.

I still do this all the time. For example, I can't remember the last time any of my kids ate the full daily-recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. But I get exhausted espousing the benefits of navel oranges and Brussels sprouts and convince myself instead that the syrupy strawberries my middle son piles on top of his frozen yogurt should count as two servings. I have allowed my 12-year-old daughter to sit in the front seat with me on occasion--she's almost as tall as I am, after all. But I'm pretty sure she still just shy of the 80 lb. minimum that's recommended for riding shotgun.

And even though I don't know what the AAP has to say about screen time limits for my age children, I am fairly confident my kids are exceeding it every day this summer before noon.

Nope, the article I am going to someday write will have to go a lot further than sleeping confessions.

Instead, it will need to be called "Confessions of a Mom who is willing to roll the recommended-kid-health-and-safety dice" a lot more often than she should probably admit.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Yummy Sprout is a wonderful resource

After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?

Mama Madison: Tips and tricks for baby air travel

As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.

Mama Madison: Apple-picking time

The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.

Mama Madison: Baby feeding recommendations

I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?

Heartland Farm Sanctuary helps animals that help kids

Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.

Mama Madison: Back-to-school confidences

Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.

Mama Madison: Does back-to-school really mean a whole new wardrobe?

This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"

Mama Madison: Next generation of bloggers

Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.

Mama Madison: Returning to the workforce

This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.

Triathlons raise money to teach kids healthy habits

"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.

Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."

Vital work is being done at the Lussier Community Education Center, from community-building to STEM skills

"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.

Mama Madison: Young love

Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.

Mama Madison: What a mother fears most

All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.

Operation Fresh Start's Youth Conservation Corps helps kids, and kids help parks

Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.

Mama Madison: Summer stress solved by yoga

The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.

Mama Madison: The greatest fans of road repair

Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.

Mama Madison: The alarm sounds

As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.