Our daughter Apara is now one week old. I told you I would share my feelings and experiences with you and it has really been an extraordinary week. The whole Ashram is excited, happy and very active. She has made everyone busy. As parents, Ramona and I don’t even realize how time passes. We started working a little bit but as I already told you, we don’t concentrate on the screen for a long time but spend more time holding our little one or watching her.
We have received a lot of congratulations and good wishes and in many of those mails people wished us peaceful nights or strength for short nights. I have to say, our baby is really very peaceful. You can play with her, feed her or clean her and she will watch and observe what you are doing. She smiles from time to time and very rarely you hear her crying. Of course, her cry is her only way to really express a need but it normally does not last longer than half a minute and she is happy again. So our night’s sleep is interrupted for feeding her or changing her but she does not keep us awake the whole night. She and we sleep very nicely together in our bed.
I have seen in many European countries that people have a baby cot next to the parents’ bed where their baby sleeps in night. Many people recommend giving the baby the habit of sleeping in a separate bed from the very beginning. Others even have a separate room for the baby right from the start or when the baby is just a few weeks or months old.
I have heard different reasons for this separation. One of them, which I find a very funny one, is that parents might roll over the child in sleep and injure him or her. I don’t see how this could happen to a parent who is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When sleeping next to my daughter I am aware of my movements and aware of her lying in between us. So this is no reason for having another bed for her.
We never wanted to have a separate baby cot or room for our daughter. I believe it is a western idea because here in India I have never seen this. My brothers and I did not grow up like this and for me and even for Ramona it was never a question that Apara would sleep in our bed. We bought a cradle for her but simply for the charm of swinging the baby in it. It did not get inaugurated though – we have her sleep in our bed and in the Ashram there are fifty pairs of arms to cradle her during the day.
It doesn’t matter how many arguments the west may give for a child to sleep in a baby cot, I will refuse all of them and strongly recommend giving your baby as much physical contact as possible. With this body contact a baby feels safe, comfortable and secure and the emotional bond in between you and your child gets much stronger.
In the night, when Apara has drunk her milk, I put her on my chest to tap her back and she falls asleep immediately, just right there on top of me. You can see in her face and feel in her breathing how comfortable this is for her and how well she feels. I tell you, you can only imagine how beautiful this feeling is for me! After some time, I then lay her down on her back in between us where she sleeps until she wets her diaper or is hungry again. She also spends some time just playing by kicking her legs in the air. We noticed that even if we both are sleeping, she is sometimes up, looking around and playing with herself. I believe that seeing and smelling her parents on both sides next to her makes her feel safe. There is nothing to worry about, she doesn’t have to cry!
I cannot believe babies can feel good if they sleep in a separate bed. They cannot smell you from there, they cannot feel you from there, you are far away! Have you ever watched a baby sleeping? During their sleep, they sometimes seem to get a shock and the whole body twitches. You don’t know what they are dreaming, seeing or hearing but you see that something bothers them. When you have the baby in your bed, you can just stretch out your hand, touch the little body and he or she will be calm and reassured. And if you have your child sleep separately, you will miss smelling the wonderful aroma that only babies have.
I can imagine that parents have short nights if they have a baby bed separate from their own bed. Each time the baby cries, they have to get up and walk over to their child. Additionally the baby will cry more – it has to, the parents have to hear that something is not fine and have to get up. No, I think it is not right. Whenever our little Apara needs anything – a new diaper, some milk or simply a few words whispered in her ear or a touch on her small body, we are there the next second.
When I expressed my feelings about baby cots, some parents in the west told me that they let their little children sleep in their bed when they are afraid or had bad dreams. In that case the children are allowed to come to their beds. I have to ask again why you actually have a separate bed at all. In your mind, this bed is their place, so you create a boundary already in your mind. You give your child the feeling that he or she needs to ask before coming to your bed. Your little one needs to be crying or afraid in order to be allowed to come to you. Why?
Maybe the west created the concept of having a separate bed and a separate room for the baby to teach the child from the beginning to be on its own. I have said before, too, that I see how family relations in the west are not as close as they are in India and that people have to learn early to be alone and on their own. In India, people don’t have the idea to move out of their parents’ home when they get adult and our old ones don’t live in homes for the elderly. Families are closer together and the bond between people is much stronger.
When I hear the argument that a child has to learn to be on his own and that parents put their very small children in a separate room, how I have seen it myself on my journeys, I feel sorry for those tiny beings. Give your child your body warmth, your love over your touch and closeness. You create a deep trust in this baby that you will be there whatever happens. This is what I feel deeply and strongly after sleeping in one bed with my newborn daughter for the last week.
More pictures of Apara at the Ashram