Hold That Baby Close - Even If She's in Middle School!
By Rachael Moshman on September 17, 2012
Research shows that babies sleep best on the chest of their mommy. The sounds (heartbeat, breath, etc.), warmth, feel and scent of Mommy helps them feel safe.
We adopted our daughter from the foster care system two and a half years ago. She was nine when she came to live with us. I started pulling her on top of me when she woke me up in the night right away. I'd like to say I was doing this for our bonding or that my instincts took over, but mostly I was lazy. I wanted to sleep more and this was the easiest way to accomplish that. She still loves to lie on top of me, chest to chest. We call it a "Mom Bed".
She'll be 12 in two months. She's in 6th grade, which is middle school in our area. She's 5 foot tall and 125 pounds. She's only been my baby for 28 months. She's still very much a toddler in her emotional attachment.
She craves that closeness. She didn't get enough of it when she was tiny. It's important for healing. Every time I pull her close, I'm smoothing out the parts damaged by trauma bit by bit.
She's been crazy anxious since school started. The transition to middle school is extremely hard for her. She's having a very difficult time falling asleep, despite upping both her anxiety and sleep medication. She's so very tired and wants to go to sleep, but her brain won't shut off.
There have been three nights in the past week that I've let her rest on top of me while my Hubster and I watch TV in our bed. She's fallen asleep within minutes each time. Then we help her stumble out to the couch where she's is able to quickly continue her slumber.
Yes, she needs to learn to fall asleep on her own, despite her anxiety level. I'd also really love for her to shower independently and not be too afraid to sleep in her own bedroom. However, I wouldn't expect a two and a half year old to do these things. So I don't expect it from my emotional toddler either.
I think touch has been one of my biggest tools in our attachment (both me to her and her to me). I started touching her every chance I got from the moment I met her. I started of with a little rub on the arm, pat on the head or playful poke in the tummy whenever I walked by her. We moved on to hugs, lap sitting, snuggling and hand holding over time.
I pull her in my lap in the recliner and rock her like a baby. I sing to her (either real songs or ones I make up) and look into her eyes with love just like I would have done if she was with me as an infant.
My sweet girl craves it and has been open to it (most of the time) since the start. Physical closeness is important in bonding for both parent and child - regardless of if you met the child at birth or years later. So if you run into a tween cuddled up on her mom's lap in the corner of the library, it just might be us!