Families have been sleeping together since the beginning of time. Only in the last hundred years or so, and primarily in the western world, have people decided its not safe or healthy for children to sleep in the same bed as their parents. Most of the rest of the world continues to this day to enjoy the comforts and benefits to having a family bed. And our backwards American society continues to fight those things which have always been natural.
Now I’m not saying all families should have a family bed. I’m not saying that it works for everyone. But what I AM saying is that for many of us, and for most of the world, it works very well…so why do the “experts” have to knock it?
Oh sure, there’s research…but the research is flawed! They talk about how many children die in an adult bed, but neglect to point out that ASTRONOMICALLY MORE children die alone in their cribs than do in an unsafe family bed. I say unsafe, because I would bet you that most of the cases of children dying in a family bed have happened because there was something that the parents did or did not do that caused the family bed to be unsafe. In order to safely cosleep, you do have to make the bed safe for the children. That’s just common sense. You should not put a baby on or near a pillow, use lots of blankets, or use a mattress that is too soft or creates a space between bed and wall that is a safety hazard. You do have to babyproof the bed, just like every other thing in the house. And you do have to use common sense and not do something stupid like come to bed drunk or drugged up on prescription or illegal drugs (even cough medicine!) You need to be safe.
But to say that the family bed in and of itself is unsafe is just unfair, and wrong. Like said, its worked just fine since the beginning of time, and still does for countless other cultures and even all the families here in the US that cosleep! (And there’s a lot of us! We just don’t always advertise it.)
And breastfeeding is SOOOOOOOOOOO much easier at night when you sleep together! Mom wakes up just as the little one is stirring (by the way, when you sleep near your children, your sleep cycles get in sync, so you are not in a deep sleep when baby wakes, so its easier for you to be awoken…I can vouch for this…I can honestly say I’ve never been sleep deprived. Weird, huh? Not every cosleeper can say that, but many of us can.) and Mom “plugs” the baby in before either of them fully awake and drift easily back into sleep. Compare this to being woken rudely in the middle of the night out of a deep sleep to a screaming baby who quickly gets more frantic because they are alone and scared and its dark and they’re hungry and where is my mama???? (That can’t be good for the baby either, being that distressed on a regular basis.) Then having to walk down the hall to pick them up and by that point both of you are awake and unhappy and then after nursing, you have a hard time falling back asleep. Not a fun scenario, though I know people still do it all the time. WHY???? Its so unnecessary!
So don’t believe the hype that cosleeping is dangerous. Not only is it not dangerous, its actually healthy. Children who sleep in bed with their parents, or who are allowed in bed with their parents when they feel the need are less likely to have a fear of the dark and monsters lurking in the closet. That’s not to say that they are not afraid of anything. That’s not what I said…I said they are LESS LIKELY. And like I said before…not every family should cosleep. Everyone sleeps differently. Some kids move around A LOT at night and some parents are such light sleepers that to have the acrobatic sleeper child in bed with them would equate to a sleepless zombie parent that is NOT someone you want to be around! And some kids just sleep better alone.
But, for those of us who happily sleep together, how ’bout just leaving us alone to sleep well? Oh and don’t worry, cosleepers DO grow to be healthy sleepers…they are not in bed with Mom & Dad at 18. Sleep is not something you have to teach, despite what the “experts” would tell us (so they can sell us their books on how to train our children to sleep…) Sleep is a basic human need. You don’t have to teach a child to sleep anymore than you have to teach them to eat. They’ll eat when they’re hungry and they’ll sleep when they’re tired. Eventually. May not be in a timetable we as grownups are happy with, but hey, parenthood isn’t supposed to be easy. Anyway, if it were true that we had to be taught to sleep well, then every child everywhere that was never sleep trained would still be awake, right? (*snicker*)
Anyway I highly recommend the book “The Family Bed” by Tine Thevenin, on this subject…excellent read!. And here’s some great links about cosleeping, if you want to read more:
- Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at University of Notre Dame
- Go Ahead–Sleep with your Kids
- CBS News: Sleeping with Baby
- Wall Street Journal: New Campaign on Kids, Cribs Bases Claims on False Data
- Annals of Parenthood Sleeping with the Baby, Which Side of the Bed Are You On? The Author and His Wife Defied the Experts.
- Family Bed Articles on Mothering.com