Nothing brings up more controversial feelings and debate in parenting than the topic of how we sleep with our baby. As a friend of mine puts it, “it is the lightening rod topic.” What I find so incredible about this subject and many things about parenting in general is how invasive people can be when discussing it. Maybe it stems from some deep-seeded tribal wisdom or consciousness that we are not attached to anymore. A way of protecting the young. The amount of advice offered so freely is amazing and can make even the most outspoken person’s head spin!
There have been many great and well informed articles written on the whole topic of co-sleeping and I encourage you to read the experts’ perspective on each side. Listen and notice how you feel while you are reading their words and make a sensible choice for yourself. This is important before you disclose your decision to relatives or even close friends so you know how you feel about it. It is always helpful to have some expert advice backing you up when dealing with others’ opinions on what you should be doing with your child.
Once you give yourself permission to do what you feel is best, be strong in your convictions. Try to be flexible when you need to be, of course, because there are no absolutes. Each family, parent and child are so different. Remember we are individuals in a collective experience.
Many people like and swear by the Ferber method and other “Cry it out” methods. I have a friend whose son cried once or twice while she was trying the Ferber Method and since then she simply puts him in his bed and he falls asleep on his own. Each system must have its own merit otherwise why would they be around and used by so many different people? A pediatrician I know uses what she calls a “modified” Ferber method in which she uses some of his techniques, but not all. It seems reasonable to custom tailor a method to fit your and your child’s needs. It’s a personal choice and should remain so.
In most of the world, however, co-sleeping is the norm. There are statistics that show how there is very little colic in babies outside the western culture. Co-sleeping also helps to support prolonged breastfeeding. The World Health Organization recommends breast-feeding for the first two years of life. I notice that my baby opens her eyes to see if I am there then falls back asleep. Babies know instinctively that they are vulnerable and they must feel safer when we are present. Feeling safe helps them sleep better, and as a result we sleep better. When we are pregnant, especially the last month we wake up constantly to go to the bathroom. Perhaps this is nature’s way of training us to be aware when we are asleep! This trains us to wake up constantly to tend to our newborn.
Personally, I get better sleep because I know the temperature in the room and I know she is not face down (a position that is not safe) because I can see her face. I always leave enough light to be able to see her. We use those lovely salt glow lamps that give off a warming pink glow. We place it under the bed so it wasn’t too much light.
Some studies, on the other hand, suggest bed sharing puts children at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome. An article from the New York Times, lists co-sleeping as the second factor increasing the risk of SIDS after sleeping on the stomach. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns parents not to place their infants to sleep in adult beds, stating that the practice puts babies at risk of suffocation and strangulation. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports this statement. Despite all the claims, however, the data are not conclusive and some researchers say the risk is higher only if parents smoke, drink too much alcohol and fail to take proper precautions to make sure the bed is safe.
This is a highly politicized issue and and each side claims that they are safer. There is even legislation waiting to be passed banning people from sleeping with their babies. The purpose of this article is to remind parents to really make the decision for themselves and really listen to and hear what they feel is right. It is how you, as a parent, feel most comfortable and safest for your baby. Read what you need but follow and trust your instincts because you and only you know yourself and your babies needs best. So, once you’ve heard all the viewpoints, think it through and tune into yourself and remember “your sense-your choice.”