Recently, the city of Milwaukee launched a campaign to reduce infant mortality, targeting cosleeping by displaying photos of babies sleeping next to tucked in butcher’s knives. The article I read on the matter read like an anti-cosleeping PSA.
Note the complete lack of facts on crib mortality and co-sleeping safety statistics.
Also note the lack of acknowledgement that cosleeping is a common practice throughout the world, and is prevalent in the many of the countries which rank higher than the United States in infant mortality rates. In fact, Japan is at the top of the list and there, cosleeping is commonplace. Additionally, there is a strong correlation between the countries with the fewest occurrences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and prevalence of cosleeping.
Furthermore, it wasn’t uncommon in the world until recently. It’s not a new-age, hippy-dippy practice, as it’s being so unfavorably painted, but a former norm in hundreds of cultures the world over.
So why all the controversy?
Because when it’s done wrong, it can be dangerous. Just like crib sleeping. And by the way, before it was called SIDS, it was called “crib death.” But there are very important precautions to take when sharing a bed with a baby, including sleeping on a firm bed without high quilting, no stuffed animals or excessive pillows, use a guard rail if your bed is off the ground, DON’T COSLEEP IF YOU’VE BEEN DRINKING OR DOING DRUGS *cough OBVIOUS cough* etc. (see more at Dr. Gordon’s page on cosleeping).
However, when it’s done right, there are a lot of benefits. The ones that I’ve experienced have been:
1. My kid actually sleeps.
And if/when he wakes up, he goes back down quickly and easily. There are few “up all night” type nights.
2. I actually sleep.
If/when he wakes up, I’m right there to get him back down quickly and easily. I can rub his little belly, nurse him if need be, and back off to dreamland he goes.
3. It’s helped us maintain a strong breastfeeding relationship.
He can nurse readily throughout the night, without having to truly wake up, cry to get my attention and struggle to get back to sleep because he’s already awake.
4. It’s helped us bond.
I’ve been able to get to know my little guy and show him that I’m there and available when he needs me.
What fascinates me, too, are the added benefits to babies, such as:
- Breathing Regulation: Hearing or sharing space (like being in the same room) with a parent helps babies maintain a stronger, more regular breathing pattern, a skill they didn’t lock down in utero.
- Object Permanence: They develop a stronger sense of object permanence and do not face separation anxiety of waking up alone in a crib.
- Extra Touching: Babies need touch, and cosleeping is a wonderful way to get that contact.
Now I don’t mean to demean the practice of crib sleeping in any way. If that works for you and your baby, that’s fantastic! You’re a very lucky parent, because my kid refused the crib from day one. I’m also not trying to say that cosleeping is better than crib sleeping. To each their own, live and let sleep, and all those wonderful things.
However, I do want to express my firm belief that the practice of cosleeping should not be tabooed. It’s a practice that parents shouldn’t feel uncomfortable admitting to but should instead feel comfortable discussing openly, without judgment (though it is quite a personal matter, so while they may not feel comfortable discussing it in mixed company, they should at least feel comfortable discussing it with their child’s pediatrician).
So, parents, what are your thoughts on cosleeping? Was cosleeping or crib sleeping a conscious decision for you and what influenced your decision?