Thursday, February 4, 2016

Putting "The Mommy Wars" to Bed: Chapter 3

Co-Sleeping vs. Independent Sleep

Some topics I can not figure out why we still talk about...this is one of them.  
For many people, it is the most natural thing in the world to sleep with/near your baby. It is pure unadulterated instinct.  It is healthy and it is convenient. If you don't want to do it, it has an affect on everyone else of exactly 0.00%, but please don't try to make people who choose to, feel like they're reckless for doing something that human beings have done up until the crib was invented in the 19th century, and since then, because not all peoples adopted the practice of cribbing.  When making "safety choices" as a parent, I have always employed the "lighting strike rule", meaning if whatever I'm worried about happens less than being struck by lightening, I'll put it on the list of things I'm not going to worry about.  Co-sleeping is definitely on that list.  60 fatalities/year are "attributed to co-sleeping/sids", but most or at least many can be attributed to factors other than intentional, safe, co-sleeping.  Do not sleep on a squishy couch with your newborn after having a few drinks, for example.  That's not co-sleeping.  Lightening strike fatalities are roughly 51/year. Fun fact: The lifetime chances of dying in a car accident are about 1 in 470 compared with 1 in 164,968 for fatal injuries caused by lightning. Most of us still get in our cars and drive around every day, despite the decided risk to ourselves and our children. Additionally, we have to consider the abundant potential benefits of sleeping with or near your children, and there are many. They include: a reduced risk of SIDS, more sleep due to close proximity and ability to meet the needs of your baby/child without having to get up and out of bed several times per night, closeness, comfort, warmth, waking up to big googly eyes gazing at you, etc.
In contrast, some families choose not to co-sleep...some babies/kids do not sleep well in bed with others, sideways sleepers and very active sleepers are difficult to sleep with. Some babies/children may get too warm, wake from contact, they may excessively interrupt the sleep of or Moms or Dads who really need a healthy night of rest, they may wake more than necessary to nurse because they have easy access and can smell the milk.  Sometimes parents have fears about hurting the baby, and even if they know if is very unlikely, they sleep better knowing baby is in a secure space.  Some people use sleep aids, prescription medications, recreational (even if legal) drugs or they may drink some alcohol, these circumstances make co-sleeping unsafe. Some have super soft beds, or water beds that are not safe.  Some families have one parent who really wants to co-sleep, but another who DOES NOT.  Some believe that the bedroom should be kept private/intimate. We all have dynamics in our relationships and situations that require respect and compromise. Co-sleeping isn't for every family. 
There are so many ways a family can work together to make sure everyone's needs are being met at night time.  It changes as the family grows, it changes as individual family members' needs change over time.  Some may co-sleep or sleep with the baby nearby for the first few months, until baby is sleeping for longer stretches of time.  Some may even put a bed in baby's room and Mom may sleep in there until baby is down, or until after the first night time feeding, or even all night for awhile.  Some have a co-sleeper or crib in the parents bedroom for quite some time, but as baby grows and sleeps longer the whole bed can be moved into another bedroom, maintaining the familiarity of the same bed...just changing the geography.  It's practically limitless, and there is really no wrong way. As long as everyone's needs and desires are being considered, I would recommend that you do what works for your family. So before we jump on the "I love my kids more because we co-sleep" OR the "I love my kids more because I don't want to suffocate them" bandwagons, can we just agree that MOST parents out there are making their decisions based on 1. The DESPERATE need for sleep, I think we can all get on board with that.  2. Their own comfort/convenience 3. What they've learned from others 4. Things they've read or seen 
5. A constantly evolving set of circumstances and needs of a family
Unless you see neglect (on either side of this issue) that makes a baby/child unsafe, other peoples sleeping arrangements can go into the category of:
"Not my circus, not my monkeys".

An now, for a laugh: Jim Gaffigan - "Kids" from "Mr. Universe"

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