We Co-Sleep…You Got a Problem With That?

My baby slept in my bed and still does on occasion. And according to the fine folks in Milwaukee the fact that she slept in our bed is akin to laying my infant next to a knife. Really?

Wow. This just disgusts me. It’s incredibly misleading. Horribly negligent and all together wrong. Yep. I said it. WRONG. 

Now I completely understand that co-sleeping or more specifically bed-sharing isn’t something every family wants to do. It’s not the norm in our society. We are taught from the second our children are born that they should sleep in their own bed, primarily in their own room. Even hours old this is reinforced in most hospital settings where babies are taken to sleep in the nursery instead of next to their mother.

Most parents I know don’t co-sleep. And that’s cool with me. It’s a choice each family has to make for themselves. For Michael and I the choice to co-sleep was almost a no-brainer. My mom and dad each bed-shared with my baby sister, and it seemed like a perfectly reasonable and normal thing to us.

When I was pregnant with Cedella I read a bit about parenthood. Ok, a LOT about parenthood. I was working at the library at the time, so Research was practically my middle name. I read a little bit from every different side of the parenting spectrum. Baby Whisperer to Ferberizing to the Family Bed when I landed upon the very sensible and approachable The Baby Book by Dr. Sears and the whole concept of co-sleeping.

We had already watched ‘The Business of Being Born’ and had determined that we were going to have a natural child birth. And knew that since I would be staying home I would try to breastfeed for as long as possible. So when it came to determining what kind of parenting we wanted to practice it seemed a natural choice to pick, well, the ‘natural’ choice.

To us it seemed only natural that in order to breastfeed an infant and still try to sleep somewhat regularly that the baby would sleep with us. After doing more research and scouring review sites and attachment parenting message boards we discovered the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper that’s like a portable crib with one side lowered that attaches to the bed. And even better? It was available at Target so I could even put it on my baby registry. Score!

This worked really really well for us. Primarily because I never actually had to get out of bed to nurse in the middle of the night. But what was also evident from the very first night we shared together as a family in our hospital bed, I knew she needed to be close to me as much at night as in the day.

Think about all the crazy expensive monitors we have available to us now. Why is this such a huge market? There’s video monitors and monitors that transmit video to your smart phone. There’s a monitor that you can place under the mattress that will tell you if your baby hasn’t moved in 20 seconds. Whuck? Why? Because we want all want the same thing. Our babies safe and sound. For me it was just much easier to have her next to me where I could hear her and feel her all night long.

And though the Co-Sleeper was right there, attached to our bed, we often had her sleeping right in the middle of the two of us. Often it was just what she needed, the closeness of both of us, to put her back to sleep. There was never a moment, even sleeping where I didn’t have an innate sense of precisely where she was and that she was ok. Even Michael, a heavy sleeper to say the least, never once rolled onto her, cause even sawing logs in his own melodic way he was still able to sense where she was in the bed. Maybe there’s no science to prove it, but I can damn well attest to the fact that our child slept really well in her co-sleeper and in bed with us. It wasn’t until we moved her to her crib she started having sleep issues.

And that according to the Milwaukee Health Department the bed-sharing aspect of co-sleeping is causing a rapid increase in the infant mortality rate in their city. Really? Yep, that’s what their website says. It also says that this is a condition in the ‘Western world’. Obviously skirting around the issue that in Singapore, the country with the lowest infant mortality rate in the world, nearly 73% of families bed-share/co-sleep with their children. Yet wouldn’t we consider Sweden, a European nation, Western? Sweden is the 3rd lowest in infant mortality and at 63% bed-sharing. (Sorry my librarian’s research instinct kicked in but I refuse to offer footnotes click on the links if you care to see the studies I’m referring to.)

And really this all leads me back to why I’m so incredibly offended and pissed off about this entire ad campaign. We are one of the billions of families around the world that chose to share our room and our bed with our infant, and we intend to do so with Little Nugget when she arrives. Does this mean because we’ve made this choice that we would also place a large knife in bed with our daughters? One cannot equate the gentle nature of co-sleeping/bed-sharing with the brutality and inhumanity of what that butcher knife is capable of. It is not a fair, decent or justified metaphor.

I think of a young mother, or someone who isn’t nearly as nerdy and research-oriented as myself. I imagine that mother, with a nice round belly, sitting on a bus, going to work or to school or on her way to a doctor’s appointment, and seeing that ad (because I dare assume that these ‘ads’ are on bus stops and maybe even a billboard or two cause where else are they going to go?). What would she think of it? Will she see it as a joke? Will it make her feel hurt or angry since her parents co-slept with her? Or more importantly would she automatically rule out any maternal instinct to sleep next to her child?

Fear is an awesome power when you want to control people. And I believe that the whole thinking behind this ad is to ‘scare ’em straight’ in a way. To make primarily young and uneducated mothers scared. And in that fear to make them do the ‘right thing’ to ‘protect’ their child. Admittedly the Health Department draws the connection with the increased amount of breastfeeding to the increased amount of bed-sharing. Isn’t breastfeeding once of the most important ways we can do the right thing and protect and nurture our children? And if bed-sharing increases those benefits, why are they scaring people away from the very notion of it?

It just really upsets me that instead of offering the somewhat helpful, though incredibly narrow-minded and one-sided, information on their website the Milwaukee Health Department is terrifying folks into thinking that co-sleeping is akin to placing a knife next to your child and hoping for the best. Bed sharing may be A factor in the terrible cases of SIDS across the city of Milwaukee but it certainly is not THE factor in SIDS. In fact, SIDS is so widely misunderstood and incomprehensible that how can any group (like the American Pediatrics Association) make such a definitive determination that bed-sharing = certain death?

What do you think? Did you or do you co-sleep or bed-share with your children? Would you consider it? What does this ad make you feel?

Thanks for listening to my rant. I’m now going to eat some ice cream and chill out as I’m obviously a bit worked up on the subject. Happy Tuesday y’all!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Katie E says:

    That ad is completely insane – and yes, I’m offended, too! All our kids slept with us the first few months. And if I’m being honest, Brinkley still ends up in our bed a lot of nights. My girls probably would if we’d let them. I always felt more comfortable with my little babies sleeping with me so I could be totally aware of every breath. But maybe that’s just me.

    • Alexia says:

      Isn’t it just a horrible ad? And I’m totally with you on wanting to be aware of every breath. Just makes more sense to me.

  2. Laura says:

    We have the arm’s reach mini. Adah slept in it until she was almost 6 months old, she was so little she still fit in there. We are using it again with Sullivan. I would love to bedshare, but honestly, I don’t feel like it is a good choice for us. I have night terrors. Tony is a very sound sleeper. I don’t feel good about it. I have found already that when I’m nursing him in bed and fall asleep, I wake up and my hand will be on his on his face or he’s slumped up on me weird and it scares the SHIT out of me.

    Now, when it works for families, and they are smart and safe about it, I think that it is FINE, preferable even. I am just so thankful for the co-sleeper because that works for us. Maybe they should be focusing on educating people about safe bed sharing, since so many people are going to do it, but are too afraid of the stigma to ask how to do it right!

    • Alexia says:

      Isn’t that Arm’s Reach just the coolest damn thing? What I think is so incredibly important about what you guys are doing is that you are aware of the safety issues and have made the best choice for your family. That’s what it’s all about. It is so great that the co-sleeper is a good option for you guys. Especially while you’re nursing! I wish this ad campaign was about educating people on how to co-sleep safely. I would champion for it. But this just makes me feel that more people will think its taboo and like you said, not feel they can ask how to co-sleep safely. THAT is scary to me! Hope you guys are doing good and you’re feeling well! Sullivan is just as cute as his big sister!

  3. Leslie says:

    Ugh. This is so, so offensive. Co-sleeping is how we survived Anna’s first year, and I treasure the memories I have of us as a family snuggling in bed together. I tell Mike all the time that I sometimes wish she still slept in bed with us! I cannot believe that this is an actual ad being shown to people. Add the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper to the list of things I want when #2 comes along…Great post!

    • Alexia says:

      It’s the grossest. I can’t imagine what a zombie I would have been without co-sleeping.

      Funny that we were talking about Baby #2 gear today? I would totally recommend the Arm’s Reach!!

      And a video monitor for when those little hellions start sleeping on their own! lol

  4. we co-slept for the entire 18 months I breastfed. It was easier and just felt right. Now big girl sleeps in her own bed in her own room because mama is carrying her sibling and needs her sleep! I know we will co-sleep with #2. The ads are just outrageous. I hate when govt organizations resort to scare tactics. It’s no better than Nazi propaganda. yeah I said it.

    • Alexia says:

      That’s it really, it’s all about what is best for each individual family. And believe me I’m with you, I NEED Cedella in her own bed or there is no enough rest for this pregnant lady!!

      Yep…I agree. Nazi propaganda was just as outrageous and damaging.

  5. Andrea says:

    I feel I can only give the best opinion I know. I am not a mother nor do I plan on being one, so yes I can’t really have a STRONG opinion but does letting your pets sleep in your bed count? lol. I let my cats and dog sleep with me but only for a permitted amount of time. Seriuously, I feel that it is ok at the beginning to help mom and dad out (and baby) esp with newborns to ease the baby into the new life but I also believe to ease the baby into crib thats next to the bed or somewhat in the room…then to their own room. But I also believe it is normal to have your baby sleep in their own personal bed/crib to not break the bonding- but to give the seperate space a child needs. Plus,hell me personally I’d feel like I’d roll over my baby! I know it prob. doesn’t help that I know more about animals than I do about babies but I am gonna compare and don’t hate me for it! Ok so babies and dogs/cats are similar- they vomit,they poop, they eat, they sleep, and you gotta clean up after them. you have to teach them rules and manners also. But you also have to let them know who is the boss. A dog can overstep when an owner lets them sleep in bed with them,walk before them,etc. I feel that if you don’t give a little space it may cause some attachment issues or something that will happen in the long run, do you really want a 5yr sleeping in bed with you? Well maybe, but I wouldn’t. I totally believe in your opinion and respect it and the article you posted is WATY OVER THE LINE but me personally I wouldn’t want my child sleeping wiht me unless at a newborn young age.

    • Alexia says:

      You’re cracking me up Andrea! But really in a lot of ways babies are like puppies or kitties. I’ll give you that. To me the whole sleep issue isn’t about who’s the boss or not, it’s about making sure everyone in the family is well rested at a time when sleep is at an all time low. And I don’t think that by sleeping next to or with my child I am teaching them a negative behavior, I feel like I’m giving them love, support and a feeling of positive attachment and bonding. There has been no attachment issues with Cedella other than typical age-appropriate phases. It worked brilliantly for us, I know it doesn’t work or couldn’t work for everyone, but that’s the thing. The option should be there for every family if they want to choose it. Thanks for sharing you opinions!!

      • Andrea says:

        hahah ya sorry, i am gonna be the 80 lady with 50 cats….I can totally see where you are coming from though!I am glad it has worked for you. But yes like I said I don’t know much about kids but I am learning with my new niece and nephew! I really am not around kids nor have ever so it’s different for me. Kids are like giant pink elephants to me, like um…what do I do…haha. Keep doing what you are doing because you seem be a happy family and all doing well! xoxo

  6. Jessica says:

    Before we had our son, I was fairly certain that we would not bedshare. I had been admonished by many people that it wasn’t safe. However, after our son arrived, I had to reconcile my preconceived notions with reality. My son was very fussy, and I breastfed. He wanted no part in sleeping in his bassinet; when we put him down in the bassinet he would scream and scream. Even if we rocked him to sleep and set him down while he was sleeping, he would instantly wake up and start crying like a banshee. So I started letting him lay down with us in bed out of sheer desperation. He was much more happy and content, and I started getting the rest I needed so very badly. The arrangement worked quite well for our family, and some of my happiest memories of his early days will always take place in our family bed. I was able to breastfeed him for almost three years, and he now has a very strong immune system. I don’t think I could have managed to nurse for so long if I didn’t have the convenience of having him in bed with me. I certainly don’t judge anyone who chooses not to bedshare, but I always advise new moms-to-be to keep an open mind, and to do what works for them.

    • Alexia says:

      It is really amazing to me how many people feel so negatively against bed-sharing. And it’s also really amazing how many people resort to bed-sharing when their babies arrive and then hide it or don’t speak of it (not talking about you just the idea that it would be shameful).

      I’m glad you went with your instinct and so impressed that you were able to nurse for 3 years! Go girl!! Cedella is like Avery, very rarely sick, she’s got an awesome immune system. Yay for Magic Breast Milk!!

  7. Casey says:

    I slept with Isaac when he was an infant. I actually still sleep with him. He goes to his bed at night and in the middle of the night when he wakes up and gets scared because it’s so dark, he comes and snuggles with me. It makes him feel closer to me and his dad. It gives him a sense of security and safeness that he wouldnt get if he slept in the bed by himself. SIDS is when a baby stops breathing in the middle of the night. How would having him sleep in my bed instead of his bed increase his chances of SIDS when he was an infant? Is it the mattress? If I were to sleep too heavy and roll over on him and suffocate him it wouldnt be SIDS it would be suffocation. But when you have a child your whole body changes. You dont sleep as heavy or as sound as you did before you had a baby. Even as the child gets older and isnt an infant anymore you do not sleep as heavy. Its like your body is always on alert to where you child/children are and what they are doing. I agree with you in that I find it completely offensive that they would compare an infant sleeping with a knife and an infant bed-sharing and say its basically the same thing. I do not find anything wrong with sharing a bed with your child. If thats what the child wants to do and thats what the child is most comfortable doing go ahead and do it. It isnt going to change the way the child grows up. Its just going to make them feel closer, safer and more loved.

    • Alexia says:

      Casey you’re such an awesome Mama!! And Isaac is such an amazing little boy! You do what’s best for him in every way, even comforting him in the middle of the night instead of forcing him to just deal with his fears all alone.

      I still don’t understand why this is a SIDS issue either. My cousin pointed out that the baby is sleeping on it’s stomach, and around loose blankets and pillows, which are part of the ‘dangers’ they say lead to SIDS. But you’re right, rolling on your kid is a WHOLE different thing. And nearly impossible unless you’re incredibly drunk or high or something and then, well, you’re already a danger to your child!

      I think it’s really cool that you have such fond memories of sleeping next to your parents. So do I. We would all climb in bed with my mom and dad on Sunday mornings and watch cartoons. It was such a great way to bond and love each other as a family. Glad we weren’t the only ones that had that!! And glad we can give that to our babies too!!

  8. Casey says:

    I remember being a child and crawling into bed with my parents. Nothing could beat the feeling of one of my parents putting their arms around me in the middle of the night and holding me close. It was the most incredible feeling. It was like nothing wrong could happen. Nothing was scary anymore everything was just perfect. I always wanted my children to feel the same way.

  9. I wanted to scream when I clicked over here and saw that ad. What jerk came up with that campaign? Their research seems majorly flawed considering your statistics AND the fact that most statistics point to co-sleeping as REDUCING the likelihood of SIDS because it helps the infant regulate their body temp and breathing. Not to mention the very relevant convenience when breastfeeding you talked about. Ugh, this country makes me so angry sometimes (often)!

    • Alexia says:

      I totally agree with your thoughts about co-sleeping and bed-sharing. That is the way that all the research I have done on the topic describe this practice when used safely.

      The imagery just really concerns me. Why not offer more instructive and helpful images as to proper co-sleeping habits? The narrow thinking really pushes all my anger buttons!!

  10. My husband showed me that ad yday (we live in Milwaukee), and I was pretty shocked. We didn’t co-sleep, nor did I ever consider it; it just wasn’t for us. But I do agree that the ads are ridiculous. I mean really, co-sleeping = handing a baby a butcher knife? Um, no, not really. Not at all, in fact. Yes, there has been an increase in infant mortality in Milwaukee lately, but I didn’t think it was from parents (correctly) co-sleeping or even necessarily an increase in cases of SIDS. From what I gathered, it’s been more from a general lack of good health habits/practices (which yes, can include co-sleeping when done incorrectly and with no awareness of the baby, but that’s obviously not what you guys are doing), education, and community support for the mothers and babies in the areas in which infant mortality is highest in our city. This article actually does a great job of breaking it down, if anyone’s interested: http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/114430774.html

    I think co-sleeping can forge an awesome bond between babies and parents. Is it for everyone? Of course not. But what is, really? Every parent will have her/his own opinion on EVERYTHING. I don’t think anyone should feel they have the right to use scare tactics to turn parents off from parenting how they choose. As long as the babies are safe, healthy, and happy, that is what matters. And unfortunately, that is often not the case in the areas of Milwaukee that have such high infant mortality rates. That is the real issue, not co-sleeping.

    • Alexia says:

      Thanks so much for sharing the viewpoint from Milwaukee proper!! The article does much to explain why the Health Department feels they are in dire circumstances and needed something shocking to get their message across. But it really saddens me that the women that are the most uneducated and most underrepresented are being shown these ads to frighten them.

      Obviously abuse, drugs, drinking, poor nutrition, little to no prenatal care and other reasons are having a much greater impact than co-sleeping in raising the infant mortality rate in your city. Why did they focus so heavily and negatively on this particular aspect? The story about the young woman who lost her premature baby to a SIDS related death is devastating, but are a couple of extreme examples worth all of this controversy when there are thousands of real woman who really need education and assistance?

      Really appreciate your input Jocelyn and glad that we know that despite our different parenting techniques we are both excellent mothers and friends!!

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