A Tiskit, A Tasket, A Baby in a Basket?
July 3, 2010 3:21 PM   Subscribe

People often say that "a baby would be just as happy in a dresser drawer"...but will society actually -let- mothers do this? (a little long)

First off, no, I do not have children, nor do I remotely plan to until I'm about 30 or so (22 now).

Now, my question is, basically, "Why a crib?"

Yes, they make baby cribs that also work as toddler cribs which in turn can morph into beds for young children. They also make bassinets and other little beds which are purely for babies in those first few months.

But...what if I wanted to put my future baby in a drawer (fixed so the thing couldn't close on my kid and therefore snag tiny fingers or toes) and then get a bed for it later? After all, the baby doesn't _care_ frankly.

I've also seen those little baby hammocks....but what if I wanted to get a, more or less, normal sized cloth hammock so the kid could just grow into it.........or one of those papasan chairs turned so it sits like a bowl? Or a child's room with cushions somehow fixed on a large area of the floor somehow, in the corner say, and no real "fence" around the edge, no different than having a mattress on the floor really.

Would that bring child services to the door? How much social angst would that bring down on the mother's head? Are there any problems (baby-wise or otherwise) I'm ignoring? (And why do babies supposedly need little bars around their bed anyway - would they need it if the bed was sitting low and there wasn't any "falling out" situation possible?) Has anyone else had experiences with this or know of someone who's done it?

I want the apparent moral implications, the actual or imagined problems, your misgivings or your support (with as much proof as you can provide, not that I wouldn't enjoy your emotional responses, but that's for chat, sorry). This is halfway a question on social acceptance of what's right for babies and halfway tips on how I should actually do things for my future youngling.

Thank you.
posted by DisreputableDog to Society & Culture (53 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It's not about whether or not the baby itself cares, but about safety and the parents' choices for the safety of their child. That said, I know parents who do not have a crib for their baby and do in fact use a baby hammock, parents whose babies have always slept on a mattress raised off the floor only by 2 or 3 inches, etc. so I've seen a lot of these different choices in action.

To address the safety concerns, you'd want the hammock to be fixed, certain that it wouldn't pull out of its hanger, that the baby's back was supported, and check for any suffocation risks. For a mattress on the floor, you have to remember that the reason we sleep on raised beds is to keep insects and vermin off us while we sleep. Essentially, babies can sleep in all kinds of places, and when you get to the point where you're deciding where your child will sleep, you'll need to assess all the safety variables - posture, breathing, safe from infestation, etc.

I can't say whether or not CPS/DFS would red flag a home for children not sleeping in a crib - you have to assume that if they're in your home assessing your parenting in the first place then just about anything might be a mark against you, whether it's a documented safety risk or not.
posted by annathea at 3:31 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well, as far as social implications, I'm fairly sure that people would freak out. If you do anything unconventional with your baby you can expect people to freak out.

One problem with your idea, though, is that it would only work as long as your baby was very young and immobile. Once my son started rolling he rolled into the bars of his crib on a fairly regular basis. If the bars hadn't been there he would have rolled out. Even a fall out of a low bed would wake the kid, and therefore wake you.

A papasan chair with a cushion or a cushion on the floor might put the kid at risk for SIDS. Crib mattresses are fairly firm because sometimes kids snuggle into soft cushions or blankets, and can't move their face, and then suffocate. So a cushy surface wouldn't be optimal either.
posted by christinetheslp at 3:35 PM on July 3, 2010

Response by poster: Well, I'm noting the idea that a neighbor, or family member, would be overly concerned and call child services, rather than someone noting my kids underfed or something, which they wouldn't be. You know what kind of person I mean. The "but all children should be raised 'this way' " type. I know I won't be a bad mother (I'll be excellent, actually, I just don't care for kids -now-), so much as a bit of a hippie against-the-grain type. Just clearing that up.
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:36 PM on July 3, 2010

I slept in a drawer apparently and I'm here to tell of it. My parents had a very small apartment.

That said, if it were brought to attention of child welfare, it would be seen as trouble-- but middle class people are rarely brought to the attention of these authorities. So much so, that a friend of mine who is taking care of a foster kid was shocked when the child welfare people were freaked out that she (who is upper middle class) didn't have a TV in the kid's bedroom, this was seen as deprivation not as proper child-rearing as it is among the "intellectuals"!!

Basically, they want to see you spending money on the kid and him having what he's "supposed to" have even beyond safety in a very odd way. So no crib would be not good even without the safety thing.

There's a somewhat annoying article about this question-- it's usually posed as sleep in bed with parents v. sleep in crib-- here.
posted by Maias at 3:51 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

People often say that "a baby would be just as happy in a dresser drawer"

Really? I've never heard this expression, much less "often." Besides, even if it is something that was commonly expressed, the idea of a baby sleeping in a dressing drawer is rightly meant to be taken as an example of something extreme or bizarre. It's a bit of hyperbole, not an honest invitation to consider a drawer as an alternative to a crib.
posted by dhammond at 3:52 PM on July 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't give too much thought to the CPS possibilities, unless you regularly have people tramping through your house, criticizing stuff you do.

When parents get...improvisational like that (which many if not most of them do at some point), they tend to do so in their home, where they can expect some privacy, and often late at night, when they're out of ideas but dangit, junior seems to sleep better on the bathroom counter.

I'm not sure what kind of neighbor would ever see that sort of thing, let alone call CPS about it, unless they really already have evidence of mistreatment.

Now, if your concern is, "I'm not like everybody else, I tend to buck the trend and can be very improvisational," I wouldn't worry about CPS. I would worry about your kids becoming just like you and driving you nuts later on. ;-)

(Source: I have a sister who ad libs pretty much everything, even put a urinal in her sons' bathroom, among other crazy things that all seem to work great.)
posted by circular at 3:55 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think there's anything wrong per se with non-traditional sleeping arrangements for babies. But, for example, too-bedding is a risk for SIDS. Something like a papasan seems potentially too soft.

The drawer sounds like a pretty bad idea. There are places fingers could get pinched, arms or legs caught, you'd need some kind of way to fix the drawer from sliding in or falling out, you'd want to fix the dresser so it couldn't tip over from imbalance, and find a way to keep the baby from falling out. Sure, all of those things could be fixed, but if someone calls CPS on you I can't imagine they'd be impressed. "Hey, this drawer is safe! I've fixed it in place, attached guard rails, etc." They'll think you're nuts because at that point you've made a crib to avoid putting the baby in a crib.

That doesn't mean you have to have a crib, though. Babies have slept for thousands of years before cribs were around.
posted by 6550 at 3:56 PM on July 3, 2010

I believe I too slept in a dresser drawer occasionally (we had a large family) and I have apparently taken no harm. I believe it was far more common when families had less acccess to disposable wealth. Fact is though, once your baby is at the point of rolling over, a dresser drawer just isn't going to work anymore, it's a very short term option.

However, if it were a very large drawer, and it were placed on the floor so that the baby would not sustain any (much) harm from a fall, or through the dresser moving, or other drawers being open, I see no issue with it. It's just a very large box, after all.
posted by b33j at 3:57 PM on July 3, 2010

err, that's too-soft bedding
posted by 6550 at 3:57 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you do anything unconventional with your baby you can expect people to freak out.

People freak out if what you do is conventional, too. Oh, the lectures I've had for ensuring my daughter is vaccinated against crippling and fatal diseases! If you have a child, people will be freaking out about your parenting.
posted by rodgerd at 3:57 PM on July 3, 2010 [6 favorites]

Many people don't have cribs, because the babies sleep in the parents bed. So a lack of a crib in your home would not be something that child services should be called about.

You have think through the implications for suffocation risk for the spot you choose, since babies can't roll themselves if they get stuck on their face. And also choking risks if they fall into a crack.

I used a moses basket for both my children. I spent about $40.00 on it and it worked great because I could carry it into different rooms of the house when baby was napping. The best part was the system my husband and I worked out for nightime bottle feedings. If the basket was on his side of the bed, he'd wake up, then put the basket on my side of the bed so I'd get the next shift. Can't do that with a crib. If you wanted to do that with a laundry basket and a carefully constructed mattress pad, I don't see where that would be a problem.
posted by saffry at 3:58 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I kept my baby in a cardboard box, so you won't hear a peep from me.

We can't say if one of your family members would call child protective services, since we don't know them. I would be very surprised if a neighbor called, and even more surprised if CPS cared. CPS has much bigger problems to worry about. You can read the guidelines for mandated reporters in Washington State (since I don't know where you are) to get an idea of what sort of things the CPS is looking for.

But really, this is rather odd -- you're worrying about potential neighbors calling about your potential baby who may or may not be born ten years from now and who might sleep in something that isn't a standard crib?
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:58 PM on July 3, 2010 [8 favorites]

The main reason to go with any commercial product made for babies is the safety regulations that the manufacturer must follow. Other than that, I don't see any particular moral implication to doing your own thing, as long as the kid is safe.

Put your kid in a drawer! I'd recommend removing the drawer from whatever bureau it's in entirely and setting it on the floor. The kid will be squirmy no later than 3 months of age and might be able to wiggle its way out by 6 months, so having whatever it may be low to the ground or otherwise protected (crib bars!) is wise.

I wouldn't recommend hammocks. They HAVE to be hung up some distance in order to function correctly, and kids are incredibly wiggly. In fact kid-sized hammocks have been taken off the market due to safety concerns (falls, strangulation).

When babies are little (I'd say up to a year, maybe longer), they NEED to sleep on a rather flat/non-cushy surface to avoid the risk of suffocation. No loose blankets or pillows before 6 months of age for the same reason.

The three reasons I can think of for using a crib are that it keeps the kid off the floor, where it is generally colder, it keeps them contained, which is great once they're mobile and you have to keep a close eye on them and lastly it puts them at your height so you don't have to bend over (but that's hardly worth mentioning!). Oh, and if the kid is on a mattress on the floor, for example, they may have access to electrical outlets since the kid isn't contained.

One final note, slightly related: attach your bookshelves or other tall, climbable furniture to the wall! My nephew almost died when he tried to climb a bookshelf when he was barely 2 years old.
posted by wwartorff at 4:06 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I slept in a drawer. seriously, for the entirety of the summer while I was small enough to fit in a drawer.
I'm doing pretty fine!
posted by ameliaaah at 4:10 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I, to slept in a drawer when I was small enough to.
posted by The Whelk at 4:11 PM on July 3, 2010

My father (born 1954) slept in a dresser drawer while he was small enough. I believe the drawer was removed from the dresser, though.

Really? I've never heard this expression, much less "often." Besides, even if it is something that was commonly expressed, the idea of a baby sleeping in a dressing drawer is rightly meant to be taken as an example of something extreme or bizarre.

Actually I believe this used to be fairly common among the poor; the expression is a statement about the expensive stuff not mattering to the baby.
posted by dilettante at 4:17 PM on July 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

When I was about 8 or 10 months old, my mom went shopping downtown and entrusted me to my dad... who promptly put me on the bed next to him and fell asleep. I, meanwhile, rolled over a few times, fell off the bed, and rolled under it...

...where I apparently decided it'd be OK to fall asleep too.

My mom had a fit when she came home and I was missing, but she got over it once they actually looked under the bed. I don't recommend it, but some kids really will sleep under any ridiculous condition you can derive.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:39 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: annathea - while I know I am personally terrified of certain 8 legged creatures, I also note that I have had plenty of spiders and random insects in my bed over the years. I've had a couple drop from the ceiling. Now, in a place where, for example, scorpions are prevalent and prone to getting into the house, I think I'd seal the entire house first, but especially the kid's room, and otherwise shrug my shoulders, realizing my kid is just as likely to eat insects outside.

christinetheslp (and everyone else who talked about kids suffocating) - that a kid can suffocate him or herself is a good point, and does rid of the papasan chair or hammock shape idea. I'll stick with the padded box then, for this question.

Also, I would like to note that while I wouldn't want my two year old rolling out of bed 2 to 3 ft. off the ground, note that I, as did my brother I believe, as did many kids, had to learn to stay in my bed by falling out. And I did fall out about 2 1/2 feet off the floor, after graduating to "a big girl bed". Couldn't a toddler, past the SID age (what is that, if anyone knows?), roll off a cushion or pad of some type (on the floor), onto another, slightly less forgiving pad? Wouldn't be the same as a wood floor, but not as sweet as simply being on the mattress/pad.

dhammond - Erm, not to be rude, but I've obviously heard it or read it often enough to have it stick in my mind, and enough people responding to this thread seem to have spent enough time in a drawer for it not to be considered too extreme, or bizarre, or a hyperbole. I'm weird, ask questions, and consider the bizarre to be a possibility.

The corpse in the library - I'm not so much worried as curious on why society caters SO MUCH to babies, striking the fear into the hearts of many parents as to whether they need to buy this or that. I'm of the honest opinion that if I can make my child, in it's early years especially, happy enough with a padded box, some toys I make myself or buy hand made, and plenty of mother-to-baby interaction especially with reading and talking and singing etc, than I can prove to myself and maybe to others that what we think of as conventional is a load of crap. I recently accidentally walked into the baby section of wal*mart, and did a full 360 degree turn, stunned at some of the most.....silly things. I think I can more than take care of a future kid by musing upon the idea _now_, rather than being panicky later. But mostly, I'm just curious.

wwartorff - I'd be "securing" the outlets, if my kid were to sleep on a sort of floor pad.
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:44 PM on July 3, 2010

CPS investigators are, from my experience at least, reasonable adults who know the difference between a perhaps offbeat choice vs. neglect or abuse.

I doubt you'd run in to trouble for anything that a reasonable person would think seemed safe, even if unusual.

And worse case scenario would be a CPS investigator suggesting, "Um, yeah, don't do that anymore."
posted by Saminal at 4:44 PM on July 3, 2010

So a lack of a crib in your home would not be something that child services should be called about.

But it might be an issue if they come to your house for any reason. I have a friend whose neighbor called CPS on her, and in order to come into "compliance" and get the complaint settled, she had to come up with separate beds for all of her children (some had been sharing doubles) and a crib for the baby. The original call wasn't about the kids' sleeping arrangements, but once CPS was in their lives, it became an issue.

I'd be surprised if someone called CPS about non-conventional sleeping arrangements unless they thought they were unsafe for some reason. My oldest slept in a Rubbermaid container the first couple of weeks, because he took us by surprise and we hadn't brought the crib home from the store yet, and everybody just thought that was adorable. People are really judgmental about co-sleeping, and from the other direction about babies in cribs down the hall, but that kind of thing doesn't seem to rise to "call CPS" levels.

But I would be concerned about a baby in a paisan chair or adult hammock, because it seems to me that a baby sleeping in a not-flat configuration could be at risk for airway impairment. If a friend of mine were putting his baby down in that kind of thing, I'd be saying something to him.
posted by not that girl at 4:52 PM on July 3, 2010

I'm not so much worried as curious on why society caters SO MUCH to babies, striking the fear into the hearts of many parents as to whether they need to buy this or that.

The products exist because there is lots and lots and lots and lots of money to be made. They're purchased because it's difficult to justify anything that would go against the principle of "better safe than sorry" when it comes to protecting a young child.
posted by desuetude at 5:06 PM on July 3, 2010

Drawers would only work for tiny babies. Not a permanent solution.

You need bars around cribs because the little scamps are worse than McGyver for figuring out how to escape from containment. And soon enough they'll be climbing over THAT.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:13 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm on vacation with my baby right now, and he's sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Thing is, while at 14 months he has been taught how to properly get off a mattress, he doesn't remember that when he's sound asleep and rolling around. Here, where the mattress is in the corner of the room, he keeps rolling into the wall, smacking his head, and waking up during what's supposed to be my grown-up time. I can't line the wall with pillows because that's a SIDS hazard. In a nutshell, cribs allow the parents to relax. The bars keep the baby from falling out, yet even if baby wedges his face between the bars and the mattress, he can still breathe.

Babies can be hard hard work. For every happy dresser-drawer sleeper there's a baby who will only sleep in motion (baby swing), or has reflux (needs to sleep on an incline), flails like crazy (would wake up constantly hitting the sides of the drawer), etc. Parents generally do what works best for them, whether that's a box or a 12-speed musical swing.

If you're interested, Google "Amby baby hammock" to read about how two four-month-old babies died last year just by rolling to their sides/front while in a (previously well-regarded) hammock designed especially for sleeping babies. It'd be hard to invent a more failsafe product than the plain, non-drop-side baby crib.
posted by xo at 5:14 PM on July 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

heh, one reason why I'm glad my children are all adults... healthy adults mind you.

The first sleep in a portable bassinet (basically a cloth-lined cardboard box with cushions - they sell them you know) for the first two months of her life, until she outgrew it, then she slept in her stroller, which flattened out into a bed. She then got a crib because my mother insisted she "needed" a crib.

The second slept in an old fashioned baby carriage which we inherited from my hubby's parents for the first six months of his life, until his sister outgrew her crib and graduated to a bed. They're about a year apart.

Their sisters used the crib because it was there, but seriously, the babies don't care what they're sleeping in, as long as it's cozy and warm. And yeah, when you're poor, you kinda have to use what you have.

No one called CPS on us for the unusual sleeping arrangements, but I guess it wasn't as prevalent in the 80's as it is now.
posted by patheral at 5:25 PM on July 3, 2010

I was so happy to not use a crib that I sent a letter to my local paper about it and I promise that nobody came knocking at my door to bother me about it. Never had one -- I put the mattress on the floor (a very low one at the start) and babyproofed.

Cribs are a parental convenience thing, though not one I really understand. It is pleasant and easy to nurse and go back to sleep, pleasant and easy to nurse and neatly unlatch and get yourself up off the bed; why anyone wants to lift up the sleeping tot, get up, place the tot in any sort of contraption, I have never understood.

If you want to read more about the dogma surrounding these sorts of things, there is some amusing writing out there about it. I enjoyed Education for Motherhood: Advice for Mothers in Twentieth-Century Canada, Mothers and Medicine, and Perfect Motherhood: Science and Childrearing in America.

"Anecdata": the child here has never come close to rolling out of bed. Perhaps they do roll onto floors if untended, but in my experience, if you sleep with 'em you wake the second anything is the slightest bit off.
posted by kmennie at 5:28 PM on July 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

I currently have my 17 month old in a crib, but it's a crib built in the 50's, with the slats set wider than current safety standards. No one's called CPS on me, and I've never, ever felt that he would be unsafe in there (or I wouldn't put him in it). But, honestly, we co-slept for the first 10 months - not really my first choice, he just wouldn't sleep at all unless I was right there. Also, we got breathable bumpers for the crib as a hand-me-down which seemed to fix any issues that the slat spacing would cause.

No one's really said anything, and I've certainly made blog posts about it. I'm sure people got busy judging me without saying anything, but how would I know? I did feel really really weird bucking the OMG BABBY SAFTY trend - oh, also, he slept in a boppy pillow for a few months with me in the fetal position around him, which I guess isn't kosher either. But god, we all just needed to sleep...
posted by kpht at 5:28 PM on July 3, 2010

Oh the crib isn't for the baby's benefit, but for the parents! Sure, you could even live in a mud hut on a desert plain, with absolutely no conventional furniture for your baby, but seriously, as a parent, a crib or a cot with bars, like St. Alia of the Bunnies said. Sometimes you're making food, it's hot, it's dangerous, you don't want the kid under foot. Or sometimes your baby wakes up before you and decides to make breakfast (my 20 month old son decide to make cornflakes for breakfast, neglecting but one thing - the bowl, his baby sister had taken over his cot, and he'd graduated into a little big bed).

Most of the shit you can buy for babies is really not for their convenience or use, but for parents' convenience, or so they can "awww, isn't it cute", oh and lastly, so people have something to buy for baby showers. Take the three wheeler pram, awesome for running with bub, or just taking on rough ground. A pram, even not of that style, is much easier than carrying a squirmy, sweaty or sleeping baby when you're trying to get somewhere.
posted by b33j at 5:28 PM on July 3, 2010

My parents have five kids, none of whom ever got near a crib. We chilled in their bed, and - as much as I remember - it was awesome. When we got bigger, there was a mattress beside their bed. The mattress had a Sesame Street sheet on it, and we were allowed to sleep there for a long while. As in, I remember sleeping there in my pre-teens when I had nightmares/insomnia.

Yeah, my parents were saints. I'm not sure how they conceived so many children, given our ever-presence.

Anyway. A young baby in a dresser drawer, detached from the dresser and on the floor, no one would have a problem with that. A little older and there'd be problems. A hammock seems problematic from the suffocation point of view. Ditto with the 'pillows around the perimeter' thing - babies aren't capable realizing that they're suffocating, and they lack the ability to move like adults would, in that situation. The same goes for the papasan chair.

I come from a pretty hippy background, as far as babies go, but I'd keep them on a flat, firm surface without soft things around for at least the first year. It's a baby - why fuck around?
posted by punchtothehead at 5:51 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd mostly be concerned about the safety aspects. Cribs get recalled all the frickin' time, and these are legit cribs designed to be as safe as possible. If professional crib designers can't get it right, is it likely that a random drawer or similar would be safe? Doubtful.

The bigger issue is what you're going to do when the baby outgrows the drawer? Get a bigger dresser?
posted by zachlipton at 6:04 PM on July 3, 2010

Cribs can be great because they take babies through many stages of life - the early months when you just need a place to stick them, the later months when they're rolling and too young to keep themselves from rolling on the floor, and the toddler years when junior hasn't yet figured out how to scale the thing and climb out. Really, cribs are pretty cost-efficient in that regard. Also, parents of young children almost always crave more sleep and the crib can, in many cases, ensure a better sleep for all (no rolling-off babies, no prowling the house toddlers).

When my little one got too big for the crib, we set her up on a mattress on the floor. It was excellent! She had all her animals and dolls (double size mattress). Only when a bunkbed became available did we change her to that. CPS doesn't give a darn where your kid is sleeping as long as it's safe.
posted by kirst27 at 6:13 PM on July 3, 2010

A friend of mine had her baby six weeks early -- before the crib or basinnet had shipped! So baby spend her first few weeks at home in a drawer on the floor with a blanket as a pad. It was fine. Here are some flip sides: babies spit up and have poopsplosions; I'd rather not subject my nice wooden drawer that I will one day want back for clothes to baby puke and poop and pee. Drawers are not as easy to clean as dedicated baby furniture. The baby will only fit in the drawer for a relatively short period. A folded blanket is not as secure as a tightly-fitted mattress with a tightly-fitted sheet. (And I used king-sized pillowcases over my bassinet mattress rather than the dedicated, expensive sheets, but the tight fit is a key for SIDS prevention.) A drawer is not at a convenient height when it's safely on the floor, which may matter if you're having any difficulty with recovery from the birth. (A laundry basket is another popular option -- it's a little bigger, and easier to clean.)

"I'm of the honest opinion that if I can make my child, in it's early years especially, happy enough with a padded box, some toys I make myself or buy hand made, and plenty of mother-to-baby interaction especially with reading and talking and singing etc, than I can prove to myself and maybe to others that what we think of as conventional is a load of crap."

Look, many Western mothers do this already. This statement, combined with not knowing when the risk of SIDS ends, suggests to me that you don't really know a lot about babies or modern parenting. A lot of baby stuff is not there because you NEED it, it's because it's convenient or brings joy to the baby. My son doesn't need a mesh feeder, I know, but OH HOW HE LOVES frozen blueberries in his mesh feeder when he's teething ... both the soothing coldness and the tasty blueberries. I didn't need a co-sleeper, but it was convenient for breastfeeding in the night and keeping an ear on the baby while he was sleeping. But, yes, if you wish to make a point, it is entirely possible to give your child nothing but hand-made toys, have him sleep in a padded box, and spend twelve hours a day talking and singing to him. You may go mad, because all day, every day, 12 hours or so of toddler-specific interaction is EXHAUSTING and mind-numbing at once, but you can certainly do it, and you wouldn't be the first.

I suggest you read up on attachment parenting, natural parenting, granola parenting, and similar topics. You'll probably find what you're looking for without having to reinvent the wheel.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:42 PM on July 3, 2010 [16 favorites]

I'm pretty sure some edition of Dr. Spock or the other recommended putting the baby in a dreser drawer on the floor when traveling and finding yourself in a place without a crib. I did that when my first born was a couple of months old when I took a trip across the continent. My later-borns however got to sleep in a folding playpen, taken with us on car trips because it would fold up. We found out that the motels we were staying at would also supply folding playpens of this sort the same way they would supply cots and restaurants would supply booster chairs. You only had to ask.

A dresser drawer on the floor would be safer than a crib for the baby at some stages because it couldn't take a serious fall climbing out. The crib rails go down to the lowest level the day you come in to the nursery to see your child standing on them using one hand on the wall for balance...!

If the CPS people find your kid sleeping on a crib mattress on the floor and are told that she is climbing and falling out of the crib they will take it in stride.

My main objection to a dresser drawer (on the floor) is that it's going to be hard to clean. Unless it is made out of fake wood it is probably not finished. Sooner or later Junior is going to explode out of the top and both legs of a diaper and you do not want that nice old dresser you inherited from Grandma to have interesting Rorschach stains inside, let alone elderly cheese redolence
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:49 PM on July 3, 2010

Nthing Eyebrows McGee. It sounds good to have an au natural childhood until you realize that noisy plastic thing makes them happy for 8 minutes rather than 2 minutes so you can actually feed the dog.
posted by k8t at 7:53 PM on July 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: "This statement, combined with not knowing when the risk of SIDS ends, suggests to me that you don't really know a lot about babies or modern parenting."

Not especially, no, since, as stated before '___I'm 22___ ' as well as the ' I just don't care for kids -now- '.

There's no need to comment on my apparent lack of knowledge about this subject, thank you so very much. I'm merely asking about various implications or "could be"s and "what ifs". My apparent lack of knowledge is obvious _since I'm asking MetaFilter_.

I think I'm just going to pick the closest and sanest answer here before I get annoyed at some of you people. Thank you, most of you, including Eyebrows McGee, for answering with kind and mostly sane logic.
posted by DisreputableDog at 8:08 PM on July 3, 2010

Cat, yes; baby, no.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:30 PM on July 3, 2010

A girl I know vaguelly (friend of a really good friend) slept in a laundry basket until she was 2 or so. They also lived in a root cellar in rural middle America. I don't think her parents ever got in trouble with the law or that she was injured in anyway, but of course she had a very unusual childhood all around...
posted by whoaali at 11:40 PM on July 3, 2010

My son slept with us for seven years, I can't even begin to tell you how many adults this outraged. Even the ones who thought he'd probably live thought we were scarring him for life.

In conclusion, pretty much anything you do with a kid will aggravate and horrify somebody. I know plenty of people who don't believe in plastic toys and expensive consumer baby goods, a drawer is nothing unusual.
posted by shinybaum at 11:50 PM on July 3, 2010

In terms of social acceptance, yes, people will react badly to what you are planning.

People are (rightfully and naturally) very protective of babies and young children. Anything that people perceive as a safety risk to the baby will make them upset. If your decision is motivated by perceived selfishness, they will not accept it and will possibly become very angry at you.

If someone thinks you are putting your baby at risk to prove a point, they might very well call CPS out of worry that your baby's health is not your top priority.

The answer to your question about why society "caters" to babies is complex, but before you think that it is a flaw in individuals or that people are bonkers or fools, consider that this behavior is natural and ingrained in most humans (I am simplifying somewhat).

--Successful reproduction was necessary for our ancestors to survive and pass along their genes
--Before agriculture became commonplace, it was not as easy to have many children
--Having babies is dangerous to the mother, even with modern medicine
--Caring for an infant requires a lot of calories, time, effort, and support for the breastfeeding mother
--Babies are very helpless and are at a high risk for death in their first year

So, in order for genes to be passed from one generation to another, infants had to be conceived and cared for at great cost. People who didn't have a strong motivation to care for infants despite the difficulty involved would probably not be as likely to successfully reproduce. Therefore, it seems likely that we as a species evolved to have a strong urge to care for and protect infants. Consider that you yourself are putting a significant amount of effort and thought into caring for your (eventual) behavior, and so are the people who buy a million trinkets from wal-mart.

It is great that you want to come up with new ideas and do what is best for you and your baby, despite societal convention. However, it is going to be hard for you to come up with a good baby care plan right now because you haven't done enough background research. If you want to continue researching childcare, it will be easier for you if you learn the more basic information, like developmental stages and health risks.

You also might wait on some decisions until you meet your particular baby--they are little people, unique, and very needy.

(Plenty of 22-year-olds know about babies and modern parenting, by the way--plenty of 22-year-olds have babies!)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:43 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Consider that you yourself are putting a significant amount of effort and thought into caring for your (eventual) behavior

This should read "(eventual) baby"
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:46 AM on July 4, 2010

"Not especially, no, since, as stated before '___I'm 22___ ' as well as the ' I just don't care for kids -now- '."

Truly not an attack, just a suggestion that what it sounds like you're looking for, you can find a LOT of information about with a little googling ... with an offer of a few keywords that would help. I don't agree with everything in the attachment parenting or natural parenting movements (I doubt anyone agrees with everything in ANY parenting "scheme"), but it sounds like the sort of information you're looking for.

Every parent finds their own balance. You make the parenting choices that work best for your family, which are not always the ones you think you'll make before you start. Honestly the one piece of advice I would give about parenting, from my own experience so far and from watching my friends, is have an idea what you want to do, but don't be married to it. Setting mandatory standards for yourself is a road to failure and guilt. Do what seems best, give yourself a break, and give other parents a break.

That may be what jumped out most to me from your posts -- concern about being judged for parenting in a low-tech, natural way ... while judging other parents for parenting in a "plastic" way. Just don't even start into that game, even by being defensive about your choices, and hardly anybody will start in at you. When people have (very rarely) gotten judgy at me about my parenting, I just say, "Well, that's what worked best for us" rather than bickering at them; people mostly want to attack your parenting choices when they feel insecure in their own choices. It's a dumb fight to get into.

And I realize Toys R Us (and similar) is an overwhelming, terrifying place that makes childhood look like a giant ball of plastic. But my son's 13 months old and I've only been there once, because they have the best Duplo Lego section and because we needed a specific sort of air pump for a baby pool that it turned out Toys R Us carried. It's hardly part of the everyday work of parenting!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:53 AM on July 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're 22, you 'don't care for kids,' and you think you might have one around eight years from now, because you want to prove to people that convention is a load of crap.

I understand that you want to plan ahead, but I also think it would be okay to put off some of the specific childrearing decisions for the time being.

(When you say you want to pick the 'closest answer,' what do you mean? Closest to what?)
posted by box at 7:46 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

my friends' babies slept in their car seats until they were big enough to start rolling over. Then instead of a crib, they used the portable playpen that they had for outings to the park, visits to non-babyproofed homes, etc. Eventually some kind of crib was used when the kids got old enough to pull themselves up to a standing position, because the crib rails were sturdier than the playpen's, but this was around 12 months.

Babies in dresser drawers, btw, was not exactly standard procedure, but common when cribs were still luxury items.

Which brings me to a last point. (I am childless, btw, but our friends have kids, so I'm tuned into these conversations). A lot of what you "need" is marketing. That said, a lot of it is helpful and/or handy. Some of it really does make things safer/better for the kid (baby monitors, pool monitors, co-sleeping cots that keep baby safe from roll-overs, car seats, outlet covers). Some of it is just crap designed to generate a sense of nonexistent or minimal danger, and then provide a product that will allay that worry.

All in all, though, if you're concerned that the child-rearing industry is going to rip you off, well, it will. When the day comes that you have children, you will make mistakes (lots!). You will end up buying stuff you never use and not buying stuff you wish you had gotten. That's the nature of the beast.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:19 AM on July 4, 2010

Since friends and family have found out that baby pick_the_flowers is on her way, they have given me all kinds of crap that they either bought or were given that I specifically said I don't want. I posted a question about what kind of portable baby things are essential to get for a baby here a while back and there were tons of suggestions that I can't see myself buying. But, guess what? People buy or give you that stuff anyway. And if you don't take it, they get upset. So now I take anything that people give me and give it to other people who actually want it or people who might never have a chance for their baby NOT to sleep in a drawer.

I bet most of your friends will have had babies by the time that you have yours at age 30, so you'll have lots of people giving you junk you don't want.

The minute you mention drawer-sleeping, several people are sure to come to your house with pack and plays, cribs, bassinets, and all kinds of other fancy places for your baby to sleep.

Thank goodness you are starting to think about this now so you can figure out exactly how to avoid the inevitable. It might take you the next 8 years to do it.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 12:36 PM on July 4, 2010

Nice to see that I'm not the only baby who started off life sleeping in a drawer. My parents were moving from Alaska to Iowa two weeks after I was born, and they weren't able to afford to ship any furniture, so they popped me into a drawer (on the floor, as many others have described) for a couple of weeks, and then got me a crib after the move. Newborns don't move around, so it wasn't a problem.

As far as the proliferation of modern baby things go, absolutely there are a lot of unnecessary things out there. But there are also a lot that solve specific problems, and are things that might be nice to have. Plus, kids are totally dependent on parents for their safety and survival in their early years, and when you have that burden placed on you it makes sense that people try to seek out the things that will help them make their baby as safe as possible. When the "sorry" in "better safe than sorry" includes the possibility, however remote, of losing a child, people will err on the side of caution more times than not.
posted by MsMolly at 12:54 PM on July 4, 2010

An anecdote that I finally get to share:
When I was in elementary school in early 80's in China, our teacher read us an expose about the horribleness of a Catholic foundling hospital established by foreign missionaries in Shanghai (and subsequently abolished after 'Liberation' i.e. 1949). There were many aspects that come right out of Oliver Twist and thus not wholly remarkable, but one detail stuck with me for all these years for its bizarreness - the (heartless) nuns kept the infants in dresser drawers!

posted by of strange foe at 2:14 PM on July 4, 2010

Honestly the one piece of advice I would give about parenting, from my own experience so far and from watching my friends, is have an idea what you want to do, but don't be married to it.

This ought to be printed inside the front cover of every child-rearing manual and on every piece of baby paraphernalia sold.

Here's the thing: as a parent, you will have ideas about how you want to do things. Guess what- babies have their own ideas, and they may be nothing at all like what you had in mind. I had visions of giving baby ambrosia a childhood free of "cheap plastic crap from China, " only to discover myself 10 months later surrounded by it, because it delighted him and stimulated him and engaged him in a way that the hand-painted wooden toys did not. I planned to have him in a bassinet in our room for the first six months and then move him to his crib. But when we brought him home he made it very clear in his newborn way that the only place he was even going to consider sleeping was in between us in bed. So we rolled with it. Eight weeks later, though, he was making it clear that felt cramped to him and he wanted his own space, so into the bassinet he went. Eight weeks after that, it became clear that mr. ambrosia's snoring was waking him up, so we tried the crib out, two months ahead of schedule. The verdict: he started sleeping for eight or nine hours straight, something I was reluctant even to share at my mothers' groups because I didn't want to seem to brag. But seriously, sleeping through the night at four months? Kids are full of surprises, and they have their own plans, and for the first six months or so, you wind up pretty much catering to their needs, and that is as it should be.

Good on your for thinking about how you want to raise your kids. A lot of conventional wisdom is cultural and subject to sudden shifts, so it's even kind of hard to predict what will be considered "correct" or socially acceptable 8 or 10 years from now as opposed to today.
posted by ambrosia at 2:17 PM on July 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Like ambrosia our crib quickly became a place to hold spare blankets as EM decided co-sleeping was what he wanted.

The difference here in Japan is that co-sleeping is the norm not the exception so there are no raised eyebrows about lacks of cribs.
posted by gomichild at 4:39 PM on July 4, 2010

Best answer: When my daughter was born we were poor as hell. We had bought a crib for five bucks at a garage sale, only to find out later that it didn't meet then-current safety standards. We couldn't afford a better one, so we scrapped it.

The plan was to keep her in a bassinet by our bed (which would be convenient since I was breastfeeding) but co-sleeping turned out to be even more convenient. When she was about three months old I discovered by accident that if she slept in a different room than me, she would sleep through the night. So from that point she slept on a mattress on the floor of her nursery covered with a fitted sheet and baby-sized blankets.

She slept well, her room was baby-proofed so we didn't worry if she got up, and we kept a baby gate up so she couldn't get out her bedroom door.

It's not like we had a ton of visitors other than family and a few close friends, and I didn't go around bragging about it, but nobody who knew about it ever expressed any issue with it.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:34 PM on July 4, 2010

This thread caught my eye. I was recently at the hospital while my DIL was in labor. While walking the halls I was looking a the vintage pictures lining one wall. One showed a new mother reaching for her newborn in a drawer that went from her room to a nurses station on the opposite side of the wall. The drawer would slide from one to the other. I don't know if the baby slept in that drawer, but it seemed safe enough for a newborn who's not at risk of trying to escape!
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 8:53 AM on July 5, 2010

Best answer: Child protective services supervisor here. We would have absolutely no interest in your kid sleeping in a drawer, assuming said drawer was on the ground (not teetering at the top of a 5' tall bureau) and not full of nails and lead paint.
posted by purenitrous at 10:01 AM on July 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Cribs are a parental convenience thing, though not one I really understand. It is pleasant and easy to nurse and go back to sleep, pleasant and easy to nurse and neatly unlatch and get yourself up off the bed; why anyone wants to lift up the sleeping tot, get up, place the tot in any sort of contraption, I have never understood.

Two of my three babies preferred sleeping alone, and slept better alone, than they slept with me. One of those two moved back and forth between our bed and his crib or his own bed until he was 4 or 5; the other started insisting on sleeping alone at 3 months. She's almost 3 and it's a rare treat for me to get to rock her to sleep or snuggle with her during a nap. Cribs are a very safe option for babies who prefer to sleep alone.
posted by not that girl at 5:42 PM on July 11, 2010

afaik, you're supposed to pull the drawer out of the furniture and place it on the floor.

One of the reasons people don't do this is that a lot of babies need moving beds. We're talking wheels or rocking chair style feet. My daughter slept best in her roll-royce like pram, or on my belly, so having the pram in the bedroom was normal around my house.

Then there's baby-hammock ideas. knoppa is popular here, and you could quite easily make one yourself if you are handy.

Don't forget the baby's preference. I bought a super expensive crib that grew with my daughter, first it's a small crib with her high up (so I don't have to bend down too far when I lay the newborn -> 9 month old down). Then it grows to a bigger crib with some additional pieces for the first year. Then you move pieces about and it's an open crib she can get in and out of herself around year 3. Then you can turn it into two kids chairs for 5 year olds. I thought I was so smart investing in that bed. Daughter had other plans, she wanted to sleep on my belly. Always.
posted by dabitch at 1:32 PM on July 23, 2010

(she's actually falling asleep on my shoulder right now. Bless.)
posted by dabitch at 1:33 PM on July 23, 2010

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