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Co-Sleeping: There’s Nothing Wrong with the “Family Bed”

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I know it’s a controversial subject and I may get some hate for it, but I’m just going to go ahead and let you all know that I’ve been co-sleeping with Charlie since his birth. It just feels right. Now I know there are the naysayers out there, but I also feel that there are many nighttime parenting styles and parents need to be sensible and use whatever arrangement gets all family members the best night’s sleep.

I shouldn’t have to feel like I can’t tell people this. But I do. And yet, most parents all over the world sleep with their babies. The National Infant Sleep Position Study (NISP) published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics surveyed nearly 19,000 families and found that the percentage of co-sleeping families rose from 6.5 percent in 1993 to 13.5 percent in 2010, while the increase was highest among African American infants, from 21 percent in 1993 to 39 percent in 2010. Co-sleeping has nearly doubled in the last twenty years. So as an article on Ask Dr. Sears questions: “Why is this beautiful custom taboo in our society? How could a culture be so educated in other things, yet be so misguided in parenting styles?”

Why is it taboo? I Googled “Why are Americans so taboo about co-sleeping” and wasn’t surprised to see that exact question has been asked before. There are a couple interesting answers on Ask Yahoo: someone suggests it goes back to America’s puritanical roots, but my favorite is the last answer that says, “Because Americans are generally very weird.”

And not just weird. Really uptight. I discovered this after announcing I planned to have Charlie at home. I got emails from strangers convincing me that I was killing my baby and the same holds true when admitting you co-sleep. “You’re going to roll over on the baby and kill him, you know that, right?”

WHAT?

This was from the same person who admitted to taking naps with his baby on his chest. What’s the difference? Why is napping on the couch with your baby any different from co-sleeping? Only the benefits of sleeping with your baby have often been touted. Still, experts insist it’s an extremely dangerous thing to do. “It just takes a second for you to lay an arm across a brand-new infant, whose lungs are so underdeveloped,” Katherine Ratcliffe, Director of Prevention Services and the Center for Infant and Child Loss at Any Baby Can in San Antonio, tells the Chicago Tribune. “We all like to think we sleep with one eye open, but if you’re sleep-deprived, you can roll over and not even realize it.”

I disagree. And so does sleep guru Dr. Richard Ferber (the doctor who advocated parents let babies “cry it out” in their cribs) who famously reversed his position on the topic of co-sleeping. After being completely against the practice, he now says co-sleeping might be suitable for some children and parents. Let’s face it. A lot of parents co-sleep. So as Common Health noted last year: “… perhaps the time has come for the public health message to focus less on advising against it and more on advising how to do it more safely. Because despite all the finger-waggling, co-sleeping is, and will continue to be, extremely common.”

What about you? Where do you stand on co-sleeping?

 

Image source: Monica Bielanko

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