09 June 2008

Co-Sleeping aka The Family Bed

Golden slumbers fill your eyes. Smiles awake you when you rise. Sleep pretty darling do not cry, and I will sing a lullabye.
~ Paul McCartney~
I've read some things in the news lately regarding co-sleeping with infants. Seems there is a campaign that has been started called "Babies Sleep Safest Alone". A mothering group (of all people) has decided they need to let the world know how dangerous it is to sleep with our children.

People are being misled because they are not looking at the proper statistics. When done properly, co-sleeping is pretty darn safe. It is a shame that some group of people has decided once again what is and what is not ok for the rest of us. They want to police our food, our language, our political views, our religion and once again how we raise our children.

When my first daughter was born, I hadn't really thought about co-sleeping. I had a bassinet ready for her. Her first night home, I couldn't sleep. Even thought the bassinet was at the end of my bed, I had to keep checking on her. It was ridiculous. So I finally decided my need for sleep was more important than her being in the bassinet. After that my cat got a lot of use out of it : )

I loved sleeping with my daughter. It was easy to nurse, I never had to get up in the middle of the night. Other than occasionally getting peed on, there really were no negatives. I remember once going to the doctor for her two month well-check (another thing I didn't know I didn't need at the time). Anyway, there were two other mom's in the waiting room with little babies. They were commiserating on their lack of sleep and their baby keeping them up all night. I listened for a few minutes and then said "Have you tried taking the baby to bed?" By the look I got from the both of them, you would have thought I suggested putting a pillow over the babies head! One of them said "Um, that isn't really safe". And the other said "My husband would never allow it". I took it upon myself to suggest that these women read Dr. Sears Baby Book. I also told them how I was never up at night, that my baby was fine, and there are many safe ways to co-sleep. Not sure it made any difference to these women, but I tried to plant the seed when I could.

When my daughter was 4 months old, I had to have major back surgery. I needed to stop nursing and I was in the hospital for a week, and then I had a 9-12 month recovery. The first thing I did was have my dear husband promise to continue sleeping with our daughter. I slept in a t-shirt for about 2 weeks straight without washing it. (Eww, I know, but I wanted it to REALLY smell like me). My husband slept with our daughter and my t-shirt while I was gone. I think it really helped her that her routine was the same. After I came home, I wasn't able to lift her. I also had to wear a heavy plastic brace when I was up, so I couldn't really even hold her in a chair. And I could no longer nurse, so my time with her really was when we were in bed. I would take her to bed during the day and nap with her. I continued to lay her against me while I gave her a bottle, just like she was nursing. If I had kept her in a crib, I would've missed out on a ton of bonding time with her.

When DD 1 was about 1 1/2 years old, I found out I was pregnant with DD 2. Co-sleeping was going very well for us, so DH and I decided we needed a bigger bed if we would soon have 2 in the bed. ("Ten in the bed and the little one said "roll over, roll over", LOL I digress!) So we moved from a Queen sleeping 3 to a King sleeping 4. It worked pretty well. Eldest DD slept by daddy and I had newest DD by me. When oldest DD was about 3 she started really being active in her sleep. So we put a toddler bed right next to ours and that's where she moved to. She was happy with that. When she was about 5 she decided she wanted her own room. I had planned to let the girls decide when they wanted to leave our room. Self-weaning off of co-sleeping. And imagine that, at a healthy age of 5 she decided she was ready. You can not imagine the grief I received from people over the co-sleeping thing. How my girls would be so clingy, how I wasn't helping them learn how to sleep alone. Hello? Why does one need to learn how to sleep? Don't you just sleep when you are tired? For goodness sakes, people can be so ridiculous on the "what kids need to learn to survive" thing. Why is it so bad to want to be a parent for 24 hours? When parents lock their babies in a bedroom, letting them cry in their cribs, they aren't parenting. Sorry if I am offending anyone, but I just don't believe babies should ever be left alone to cry. People say "but if you just leave them alone, they stop crying eventually". Well, I think babies are smarter than they are given credit for. They stopped because you didn't come. Doesn't mean they still didn't need you, they just learned that even if they need you, you may not always be there. Pretty early to learn that lesson, don't ya think?

This is one of those subjects I am REALLY passionate about. I just think children who have been allowed to attach to their parents (attachment parenting) grow up to be much more secure individuals. They feel safe and loved from the very beginning. A columnist who writes about parenting issues in my local paper wrote an article a while back about letting children cry it out. I emailed her saying how I felt she was giving new parents poor information as she never mentioned co-sleeping. So she decided to write an article on The Family Bed, and she interviewed me. I will talk about co-sleeping to anyone who will listen.

Regardless of your position, again this is one of those issues where both sides need to be heard. Unfortunately the news media, run by the nanny state, tends to focus only on the other side. You know the whole "It takes a village to raise a child, and that village is the government side". I don't think I have ever seen a positive news program on co-sleeping. And now that parenting groups are getting involved, saying how terrible it is, those of us who believe in it, and believe it to be the best way, need to stand up and make our voices heard. Millions of babies around the world continue to sleep with their parents. They have been doing it since life began. Most people in this world are not as well off as we are. Each child doesn't get his own bedroom, children sleep with their parents. And then often enough, they sleep with their siblings ( a natural progression from co-sleeping). They may not even realize what a wonderful thing they are doing, they are doing what they know, what has always been done in their culture. Sometimes, it would be good for us to take a step back from "studies" and doctors and "experts" and look to the rituals and customs of the past. Women need to start trusting their instincts instead of doing what friends and doctors and news articles tell them to. How did women manage to raise their children before there were books and magazines and news programs on the subject? What did those women on the prairie do when they had no family around and they were having babies? They did what they knew in their heart was best for their baby. Breast feeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing. It all goes hand in hand.


Stephanie said...


I slept with all of my babies and the last one is almost 6 and still in our bed.
I could not put them in another room, actually my babies didn't want to be put down so they slept on the "mommy bed"

I could not let them cry it out that is the worst advice and I believe it's abusive.

Deanna said...

My brother is a pediatrician so of course he was taught all about the *dangers* of co-sleeping in med school. But guess what he did when his baby was keeping them up all the time at night? Yep, put him in bed with them. He did say he was leery of advising his patients do the same, though, because it isn't always easy to tell which people have good common sense and which ones might take a baby to bed with them after they've had too much to drink or might not be careful enough about extra pillows and bedding that could be a problem with very young infants.

And I think that is part of the issue. In this litigious society, no one wants to risk advising something that could be dangerous if done in a stupid way. And heaven only knows there is way too much stupid around.

GregJrsMom said...

Much nodding in agreement. Why should a baby learn to sleep alone? Don't most adults sleep with someone else in the bed??

I'm thrilled that our newest niece is cosleeping, and that my 2 little great-nephews are as well. For S., it was a conscious decision to co-sleep. For the M. and J., it was a case of baby letting his needs be known and mom & dad *giving in*. Oh well, no matter what their parents think about it, they ARE co-sleeping :)

And so are we, still co-sleeping for nearly 10 years. He'll sleep in his room 4 or 5 nights out of a month or whenever he has friends sleep over. Co-sleeping was a conscious choice for us as well. For the few days he was in that bassinet I kept thinking, "wild animals sleep with their babies, why can't I?"

He's self-weaned from the breast and now he's self-weaning from our bed. He'll be ready before I am.