Oh dear, two parenting posts in a row – this will never do. But I felt moved to write something about co-sleeping because of this campaign, which has had huge coverage in attachment parenting circles. In short, the campaign likens sleeping beside your baby to placing them next to a large knife. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me it’s all just a big, stupid joke.
Here’s our bed-sharing background: when I was pregnant with my first child, I was certain I would breastfeed, so I bought bedside cot because I didn’t want to have to cross the room in the dark. When my son was born, he cried when he wasn’t in contact with me, so I slept holding him. Then I slept with him right beside me in our bed. He’s nearly three now, and has his own room and bed available in it, but he also has a single bed next to our kingsized. Sometimes he sleeps in the single bed, and sometimes he sleeps in our bed. He’s yet to sleep in his own bedroom, but he will. It makes me laugh when people say, “you’ll never get rid of him.” …Because of course there are so many cases of fifteen-year-olds demanding to climb in between mum and dad. Now we have another newborn, and he sleeps beside me too – sometimes in the bedside cot, but mostly in my bit of the bed. He didn’t need to be held, so I didn’t hold him.
When I first became a parent I really beat myself up about bed-sharing. I didn’t think I knew anyone else who did it, and the midwives had told me I’d spoil my child by giving him what he wanted (midwives who clearly don’t understand attachment theory and its very sound scientific basis.) Then I read Three In A Bed by Deborah Jackson, which outlined the many reasons why bed-sharing is a natural and healthy thing (and the norm in most parts of the world, and even in the West until recently.) I learned that some of my friends co-slept. I began to see it as something enjoyable, and as something that could actually benefit my child. There are psychological and biological reasons why bed-sharing is A Very Good Thing.
So this time around, I have no qualms about what I’m doing. My newborn doesn’t sleep under the duvet- he has a baby sleeping bag, or his own blankets. He sleeps on his back, or on my arm. He never sleeps next to my toddler, or up against a pillow. And the chances of me rolling onto him – one of the supposed risks – are zero. As has been proven by various studies, mothers (and sometimes fathers) who bed-share are very aware of their baby’s movements, enjoy a much lighter sleep, and breastfeeding mothers often wake a moment or two before their babies, achieving a kind of beautiful synergy.
Now I simply can’t imagine not bed-sharing. I’d love to be able to sit up in bed watching TV, to be able to stretch out, to not wake up with a two-year-old’s foot in my face. But I think what we do is best for all of us at the moment. Our nights are less disrupted. We enjoy waking up to our children’s smiles (um… usually they smile.) I feel safer knowing that I’ll hear immediately if my child is choking (as happened once) or is upset (obviously my children are never upset. Never!) But although this is something I feel passionate about, I know it’s not right for everyone, and that’s fine. So when authorities trot out ill-informed campaigns that aim to inspire fear rather than informed choice, I get mad. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is such an emotive topic, and one there are no definitive answers to. So to lay such heavy blame at the door of co-sleeping is inexplicable to me, especially when most deaths involving bed-sharing also involve alcohol or drugs – something the Milwaukee campaign neglected to mention. I’m sure they’re well-intentioned, but the adverts are at best misguided, and at worst deeply offensive, and it saddens me that they might put parents off something that could benefit them and their children.
Lots more info on co-sleeping, (and why it actually reduces SIDS) here: