Cosleeping has been one of the best decisions we've made as parents. However, as wonderful as it has been, we parents have gotten more flack for that than anything we've chosen to do with our kids. It gets tiring. I read a blog recently where a former classmate wrote about the myths of babywise. (If interested click here. Please note that the blog is anti-babywise and is rather scathing. Don't read it if you are pro-babywise because it will likely offend you. I don't want you to be offended. I like you.). In kind, I thought I would write a mini-manifesto/myth-busting post about cosleeping.
myth #1: cosleeping is dangerous.
Cosleeping is dangerous if you don't follow certain guidelines. Parents who take medications that make them drowsy obviously shouldn't cosleep with an infant because they could roll over on the baby or not even hear the baby if it should whimper or cry. Parents who are drunk should also not be in the bed with an infant. Parents who are high on any drugs should not cosleep. I could argue that these parents also should not have children but...I digress. Just like with the guidelines for the crib mattress and bedding, the same goes for the parent's bed. The bed should be firm so that the baby doesn't sink into the softness, thereby suffocating the baby. Covers should be scarce. Also, the side of the beds should have something to prevent the baby from falling. When all of these are taken care of, then what you have is a SAFER sleeping arrangement than separate bedrooms. I have often woken up in the middle of the night to see that my baby has a high fever and needs to be cooled immediately to bring it down. I have been with my baby when he started choking on something that he had in his mouth from earlier in the evening that we didn't realize was there until the wee hours of the morning. I shudder to think what would have happened if I was not near my little babe. Then there is the issue of SIDS (for those who don't know, SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The exact causes are unclear but the risks are DECREASED when a mama breastfeeds and cosleeps. THAT'S RIGHT!!! DECREASED WHEN BREASTFEEDING AND COSLEEPING! Why is this? Well, a couple of reasons. One is the baby and mama usually face each other. Mama's exhalations of carbon dioxide help to stimulate the breathing of the infant. Also, the heartbeat of the mama will encourage an infant's heart to also beat. What is fascinating is that often a baby's heartbeat will be in sync with the mama's. Their sleep/wake cycles also are in tune.
myth #2: cosleeping makes you lose sleep
Ok, you are a parent of an infant. You are going to lose sleep no matter which way you turn it. Unless you are a baby-wise person and that's a different ballgame. I am not a babywise person. There happens to be an unnatural obsession with parents trying to sleep through the night. I'm saying that as a person who really does require 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night AND who is uncommonly grouchy when I don't get it. It feels like torture to be sleepy. My accepting that part of this stage of life means that I will be awakened in the middle of the night. However, I would be losing a whole lot more sleep if I were getting up in the middle of the night to feed my infant. As a cosleeper, I am stirred by the slightest hint of my baby's hunger. I am so in tune with my baby that I might even wake up before he does. I feed him before he goes into a full cry. He settles back to sleep easily and I am back to sleep in no time at all. That very much beats getting out of my cozy covers to a child who is waking up more and more and crying more and more. Thereby, leaving me more work to bed the child again.
My personal experience is that I felt very unnatural not touching my baby in some way in the first few months of his life. If I wasn't touching him, I was not able to sleep. Therefore, sleeping and cuddling with my sweet infant was crucial to a goodnight's sleep. I was aware of him constantly through the night. So, I would argue that in my case, I definitely sleep better with him in the bed. What about my husband's sleep? Well, if our baby was in the other room in a crib, I'm pretty sure that David would have to get out of bed too. Believe me, he is sleeping better, too.
myth #3: cosleeping hurts your marriage
If you don't like to read or discuss sex, then read no further. Cosleeping can hurt your marriage if one of the partners is not on board with the arrangement. I have known many friends who have issues with their spouses over this very issue (among other parenting issues). David and I are in agreement. I resent when others assume that this is my decision and that David had no choice in it whatsoever. That idea doesn't say much about David's ability to stand up for his opinions and for my ability to submit to him. We are both in on this together.
I also happen to resent anyone who would want to take away this joy of cosleeping with my little ones. They will not be little forever. It is a beautiful time of cuddles and bonding that can't be found in any other stage of their life. I cherish it. David cherishes it. We both will miss it when it is over.
As for the s-word. (That's right--sex!) I am not sure why people suppose that just because children are in your bed that somehow sex is impossible. It is NOT impossible. It does require a little creativity and flexibility with location. And some marriages could use a little spice in the creativity and location department of their sex lives. So, if you want to assume that cosleepers don't get to do the wild thing, than you assume that the bed and at night are the only times to have sex. If that is true, than I feel sorry for you. I suppose there are marriages that use children sleeping in the bed as a wedge between the spouses. However, children in the bed are not the reason they aren't having sex. It is just the excuse they use to avoid sex with their spouse. See the difference?
myth #4: cosleeping is a new thing
Wow, if anything is new it is the idea that your baby should be in a different bed and even more so have an entire room devoted it. That baby doesn't want its own room! That baby wants nothing but mama in that first year. The rest of the world has been sleeping with their young for centuries. Leave it to modern (read: out of touch with what is natural) society to promote the idea that our babies should be completely severed from their parents in order to be a healthy family.
Cosleeping has been a privilege and a pleasure. Not all of it is easy. I'm used to it with Judah but I remember nights with lil' David when I just wanted to put my arm down. Small irritant to an overall beneficial situation. More than a privilege and a pleasure--it was necessary for sleeping and surviving infanthood. If you approach me with questions about this particular part of our lives, I am open to discussing it. If you are hoping to change my mind about it than you will be hitting your head against the proverbial wall. Do us both a favor and don't bring it up, if that is the case.