XxFireXboltxX and her son
I awake most mornings around five am. My son is usually nuzzling into my chest, trying to find his breakfast. My husband is completely oblivious to everything going on and is sleeping soundly. To me, this is the best part of my day. The sun is barely rising and peeking through the curtains and it's quiet. After my son finishes nursing, he rolls back over to daddy and sleeps soundly for another 2-3 hours. I lay my head down on my pillow and go back to sleep, thankful for our family bed. Yep, you heard me correctly. My seven month old son still sleeps with us. Yes, still. With the exception to a few occasions, he has always slept with his mommy and daddy.
The practice of putting an infant in his own room, in his own crib, is a relatively new practice. It is estimated to be between 150-200 years old. It is also considered to be a very "Western" practice, most commonly found in America. Anthropologists believe that the practice comes from the Western ideal of "personal independence". Much like with weaning a child early, we expect our children to be independent from birth. We leave them in a crib and hope to "train" them to sleep. (Which, considering this method of sleeping training is pretty new, I suppose no one knew how to sleep prior to the 18th century.)
While the practice has been around since the beginning of time, it was not done due to lack of room or out of ignorance, as other studies have suggested. According to Dr. James McKenna, in his article Breastfeeding & Bedsharing Still Useful (and Important) after All These Years
which appeared in Mothering magazine in 2002, "Anthropological research has indicated that cosleeping is not, as previously thought, practiced worldwide through ignorance or necessity. Rather than sharing beds because of a lack of space or resources, cosleeping mothers have overwhelmingly demonstrated a commitment to cosleeping which is tied in with larger parenting philosophies.
" He goes onto discuss how mothers in other cultures view the idea of solitary sleep for an infant and how normal it is in other cultures.
Other research confirms the normalcy of sharing a bed with a child.
In reviews of literature on cosleeping societies Thevenin (1987) and Lozoff and Brittenham (1979) noted classic studies which included nearly 200 cultures, all of which practiced mother-infant cosleeping even if in some cultures the sleeping location of the father was separate. Examples of cultures included in the studies were the Japanese, the Korean, the Phillipino, the Eskimo Indian, the !Kung San of Africa, and the natives of Okinowa (Lozoff & Brittenham, 1979; Thevenin, 1987). The description of the Okinowan Indian culture included observations both of parent-child cosleeping until the age of six and unrestricted breastfeeding, as well as of characteristics of adult behavior that are very consistent with secure attachment histories (Thevenin, 1987). Cosleeping is the cultural norm for approximately 90% of the world's population.
(Young, 1998) (LINK
90% of the world's population participates in this "dangerous sleep situation" as some naysayers of co-sleeping have called it. In fact, popular parenting books such as Becoming Babywise
adamantly preach against putting your baby in bed with his parents, citing that co-sleeping leads to a clingy and dependent, manipulative child. (Sidenote - in 1998 the American Academy of Pediatrics linked methods suggested in Becoming Babywise
with failure to thrive in infants, poor milk supply and dehydration - LINK
) Other opponents of co-sleeping believe it is linked to SIDS and smothering cases in young infants. Research however shows otherwise.-Worldwide research shows that the SIDS rate is lowest (and even unheard of) in countries where co-sleeping is the norm, rather than the exception. Babies who sleep either in or next to their parents’ bed have a fourfold decrease in the chance of SIDS. Co-sleeping babies actually spend more time sleeping on their back or side 1 which decreases the risk of SIDS. Further research shows that the carbon dioxide exhaled by a parent actually works to stimulate baby’s breathing.-The Consumer Product Safety Commission published data that described infant fatalities in adult beds. These same data, however, showed more than 3 times as many crib related infant fatalities compared to adult bed accidents. Another recent large study concluded that bed sharing did NOT increase the risk of SIDS, unless the mom was a smoker or abused alcohol.-Studies show that infants who sleep near to parents have more stable temperatures, regular heart rhythms, and fewer long pauses in breathing compared to babies who sleep alone. This means baby sleeps physiologically safer.-Co-sleeping babies grow up with a higher self-esteem, less anxiety, become independent sooner, are better behaved in school, and are more comfortable with affection. They also have less psychiatric problems.
(Dr. William Sears HANDOUT-Scientific Benefits of Co-sleeping
) -- Link includes study references.
In a study of early childhood cosleeping by Hayes, Roberts, and Stowe (1996) it was found that infants and children who were solitary sleepers had a much stronger attachment to a security object and were more likely to be disturbed by that object's absence than cosleepers. In a 1992 study of soft object and pacifier attachments in children (Lehman, Denham, Moser, & Reeves) 40% of children with dual soft object and pacifier attachments, and 80% of children with attachments to pacifiers alone were rated as having an insecure attachment relationship with their mothers by 19 months. Attachment benefits of cosleeping are not limited to mother and child; fathers also report enjoying additional time to bond with the baby as a direct result of sharing a sleeping area (Davies, 1995; Seabrook, 1999; Thevenin, 1987). Fathers who share the family bed are likely to experience less disturbed sleep, because babies do not have to awake fully and cry to get their needs met. (LINK
For even more benefits of co-sleeping, all one has to do is Google it. Expect to get a little over 700,000 results. But the most common thing I hear from families who practice co-sleeping, "I love being so close to my child!"
Of course, there are a few rules to keep in mind when sharing a bed with your child, especially and infant. The author of the book The No Cry Sleep solution offers the following suggestions for safe co-sleeping here
I feel it is also important to point out that the term "co-sleeping" does not always mean sharing a bed. Dr. Sears defines co-sleeping as being within arms reach of your baby --- maybe a bassinet next to your bed, maybe a Moses basket near the bed, maybe a pack-n-play in the same room. It is also interesting the different forms co-sleeping takes on. For our family, I put Andrew in his own crib around 8:30-9pm after he falls asleep while nursing. Philip and I stay up till around 10:30-11pm, spending some time together. Andrew comes to bed with us when he first wakes up, usually around 12-1am. Other families all go to sleep at the same time (I feel that is ideal with a newborn), while others may still do something different. The beauty of co-sleeping is that the benefits are still present, even in its many different forms.
For me, the biggest perk of co-sleeping is the ease of night time feedings. We are still nursing several times a night and having my child near me makes this much easier. Breastfeeding advocacy group La Leche League strongly supports a family bed and encourages it for helping with building a strong nursing relationship.
Yes, we have rough nights now and again. But I sleep soundly knowing my child's needs are immediately being tended too and he is not alone. For more information on Co-Sleeping/Family Bed check out the Dr. Sears website, as well as the La Leche League Fact Page.
Have you tried cosleeping with your child? What are your thoughts on cosleeping?