Anti co-sleeping and family bed advocates often point to an increased risk of SIDS from sharing a bed with your baby as reason why baby should sleep alone in a crib. The media jumps on tragic stories of death from improper bed sharing as further evidence of the dangers of co-sleeping.
Finally, a doctor (PhD) and researcher is declaring what families from the beginning of time have known: co-sleeping is safe!
Dr. James McKenna of the University of Notre Dame has spent 30 years researching infant sleep. The Daily Telegraph reports:
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome researcher Doctor James McKenna said that as long as co-sleeping is carried out in a responsible manner – not on a waterbed or couch and not by parents affected by drugs or alcohol – then babies up to 12 months old will reap the long-term benefits.
If parents are not able to sleep in the same bed as their baby then they should at least be in the same room, Dr McKenna said. “Co-sleeping is humankind’s oldest and most successful method of mother and baby sleeping,” he said.
“The push in the western world to get babies to sleep through the night on their own as young as possible is doing more harm than good.
“Whether it’s in the same bed or on a separate sleeping surface in the same room, no baby should ever sleep outside the direct supervision of an adult.”
New parents often brag about how their babies can sleep through the night as if it is a sign of good parenting (or how good their babies are). My own mother claims I slept through the night at one-month-old; however, I suspect she just couldn’t hear me behind two closed doors in a time before baby monitors. The Daily Telegraph continues:
Co-sleeping also encourages mothers and babies to breast-feed for as long as possible which in itself provides protection from a range of illnesses, he said.
“The question is not whether babies as young as three or four months can sleep through the night, but whether they should be forced to,” he said.
“They need to feed frequently to supply nutrients to the brain trying to grow and expand at a speed never again to be matched through the infant’s life.”
Dr McKenna said in reality more parents co-sleep with their babies than admit to it. “People say they don’t co-sleep with their babies,” he said.
“But when you speak to them about what actually happens many parents, particularly breastfeeding mothers, share their bed with their babies for some part of each night.”
He said that trying to get your baby to sleep through the night at a young age can actually cause more stress for a family than waking to a baby does.
Even when parents push for their babies to sleep in cribs in their own rooms (and claim that the baby actually sleeps better that way), the family bed is usually not avoided just postponed. I know of children that once they reached the toddler years demanded the family bed when waking in the middle of night, much to the exasperation of their parents. Rather than create sleep trouble during the “terrible” toddler years, I have found toddlers to be more restful and comfortable sleeping alone if they spent their infant years in a family bed.
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