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There are certain topics amongst new and expectant parents that are guaranteed to incite controversy and heated debate from both sides. Breastfeeding vs. formula, cloth diapering vs. disposables, the proper age to start a baby on solids and — of course — co-sleeping.
In case you don’t know, co-sleeping is the term generally used to describe a parent’s decision to bring their child into an adult bed to sleep through the night together. Proponents argue the benefits of co-sleeping are plentiful. Newborns crave close, skin-on-skin contact and what better way to soothe a child than to keep that contact all through the night? They contend children who co-sleep feel more confident and secure because of it.
However, there is another side of the coin. Critics say co-sleeping creates a needy and overly dependent child at best, and a dead baby in the worst case scenario. An article, which can be read by clicking here, highlights the danger of co-sleeping. If you don’t feel like reading it, all you really need to know is that at least 11 Massachusetts infants were killed this year when their parents accidentally suffocated them while sharing a bed.
In the article, one woman refers to co-sleeping as child abuse. I don’t think I’m willing to go that far because all of these tragic deaths were accidental, and I can’t even imagine the crushing guilt and sense of loss these parents must be enduring. And in that respect my heart truly goes out to them.
However, I can’t deny that a part of me feels that guilt is deserved. After all, these 11 deaths were totally and completely preventable. That is a fact. In these 11 cases, the deaths were the result of co-sleeping. Therefore, if the children weren’t in bed with their parents, they would not have died. That’s the reality, no matter how harsh.
And the ironic part is I’m guessing many of these parents are probably good, well-intentioned souls. They probably have covers on all of their electrical outlets. Their floors may be mopped, swept and cleared of any and all choking hazards. Their cars may be equipped with state-of-the-art carseats with 5-star safety ratings in case of an accident.
Some parents take all of these precautions, yet they don’t see the mathematical folly of a 150-lb parent — who is often sleep deprived and totally exhausted — sharing a bed with a 9-lb baby. It just makes no sense that a completely preventable tragedy is defended by so many with such vigor.
After all, why not use a bassinet? We set up the bassinet right next to our bed. All my wife had to do in the middle of the night was reach over and grab the baby. She barely had to sit up in bed. So for the first three months, Will slept in very close proximity to us but never in our bed.
And yes, I understand the arguments for it. It’s easier to breastfeed the baby. The baby sleeps better at first. Perhaps there’s no other place for the baby to sleep. And I’m not saying parents who choose to co-sleep are wrong, but I do personally believe it’s a misguided, new age concept and even the most ardent co-sleeping advocate hasn’t provided me with a surefire explanation for why it’s beneficial.
Even exempting the safety risk, I still see no benefits to co-sleeping.
In my opinion, you run the risk of co-sleeping for too long and creating an overly dependent child who is afraid or unwilling to sleep in his/her own room. I’m on a lot of Internet parenting boards and I see parents who are desperately trying to make the transition from shared bed to the crib. I am always amazed at their bewilderment because it seems to me, the reason they won’t take to it is because they’ve been so coddled for so long.
And besides, that bed is for me and my wife. Sure there will be times in the future when Will has a bad dream and crawls into bed with us. And that’s fine, but it’s not fine if it’s on a regular basis. We bought him his own bed, he should sleep in it. At four months Will went to the crib in his nursery and that was that. Sure we had to let him cry it out a few times, but he’s been sleeping very well through the night since before he was even 6 months old. That would never have happened if he became accustomed to our feathertop mattress.
I understand the desire to snuggle up with a baby. I love my son and it was tempting to drift off, the two of us snuggled up tight. But then I think about how I’d feel if I woke up on top of my dead child who I inadvertently rolled on top of and suffocated in my sleep.
For me, that right there is enough to eliminate co-sleeping as an option forever.