Friday, March 27, 2009

Cosleeping

We are regularly asked how Edmund sleeps. We respond that he sleeps GREAT, usually waking up once to eat and going right back to sleep. Lately he's been lasting till 6-6:30, which is REALLY nice! It could be that we are lucky, but I confess I think it is because we've chosen to let Edmund sleep with us. When we mention this, a common response is a slow wag of the head from side to side or an, "Uh-oh...you'd better nip that in the bud before you regret it later..." There is also the safety factor. Let's get that one out of the way.

The following things make for safe cosleeping: both parents aware that the child is in the bed, a nice firm mattress, nothing covering the baby's head (duh!), no spaces between the frame and mattress that would be possible for baby to slip in and suffocate, neither parent under the influence of any alcohol or drugs, non-smoking parents.

Cosleeping is common across many cultures (and interestingly enough, related deaths are much more rare every where else). In the US, however, it is more controversial. Why are Americans in general so adamant about independence from such a young age? Common advice from the "experts" say that we shouldn't cosleep or rock our babies to sleep or run every time they fuss, that they need to learn to self soothe. There seems to be a fear that our children will be too dependent on us or others. Everything we've read says that the opposite is true: that the closer we keep our babies to us and the quicker their needs (not selfish manipulative desires) are met, the more independent they will become. Based on several studies, this seems to be true of babies who cosleep or are "worn" in wraps or slings. They cry less, are more content, and as they grow actually become more independent than other children.

It makes sense to me. We want our infant to be dependent on us. We want him to learn trust and security in these early months and years, to know that we'll always be just a step away so that when he's ready to venture out, he can do so with the confidence that he'll be okay. There will be so very many years ahead when Edmund and our subsequent children will grow to become independent from us. We treasure these times when they do need us and desire to keep them close during these years, until the time is right for them to begin venturing out.

We realize there are varying opinions on the topic and are not advocating that everyone should cosleep or specifying how long we think it's appropriate. It just seems to be one of those topics that's worth asking why we as Americans might intially be so opposed to it. Are those reasons valid or are we missing something?"

Dennis, Heidi, and Edmund

4 comments:

Steph said...

You all always provide thought-provoking conversations and information. May God continue to bless your family!

BK said...

Hi there. I've been a lurker of your blog for a few weeks, but I wanted to come out of the wood work to tell you GOOD FOR YOU for making the decision to co-sleep. My husband and I also are cosleeping with our 11 month old son and feel it has been such a blessing. I agree it may not be for everyone, but those of us who decide to cosleep should not be made to feel condemned for our decision. Despite the Western cultural belief that it is unsafe, cosleeping has proven SAFER than crib sleeping (check out any research published by Dr. James McKenna from the Notre Dame University mother-baby sleep study), and it is the way babies were designed to spend their night-time hours. Our son now begins the night in his crib and then joins us for a quick nurse around 1am and sleeps the rest of the night with us. It works out great for us and I plan to cosleep with our future children (one at a time) in the same way. I recommend the book How to Cosleep with Your Baby by Dr. McKenna to everyone. COSLEEPERS UNITE!!!

cachet said...

another co-sleeping family here. good for you for asking the question of simply 'why not?' your last paragraph is a great summary--and applies also to all those things which are 'against the grain'--homebirthing, not vaxing, not circ'ing, cloth diapering, extended breastfeeding, and on and on. i do think the tide is changing though and it will be interesting to see what the next gen is like!

Anonymous said...

Oh I've heard all that before [though 22 years ago]. Sleeping with the baby preserves all your sanities [the three of you!!] Enjoy this time. It will end soon enough and they grow up wonderfully!!! Do what your heart tells you!! It's just us Americans who get so fussy about this. Enjoy your time while he's little and needs your closeness!!![Greentown Connie!!!]