Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Co-Sleeping Nonsense

Today I had a whole post ready about potty-training and about how after a couple of hours Lucy was done.  Easy peasy.  And that post will still come.  Hopefully.
But instead this story about the dangers of co-sleeping got me all hot and bothered and I had to comment.
I would be the first to admit that I'm not the best advocate for co-sleeping with your baby.  I don't love co-sleeping.  But then again, I also don't love co-sleeping with Brian every night.  I love Brian and we always sleep in the same bed.  I especially love his electric blanket-like qualities in the cold months. But I would be lying if I didn't say that every once in a while I enjoy the nights when I go to bed before him or he's out of town.  I like to spread out and use all the pillows.  It all comes from a selfish place.  This I know.

Within a few hours after her birth, Katherine was snuggled up next to me in my hospital bed.  In fact, she barely took residence in her hospital crib for our entire stay.  The first night we were home, I bypassed the crib without much thought and brought her into bed with us.  For the whole night.

People are surprised when I say that Katherine pretty much sleeps through the night.  Co-sleeping is the only answer to this.  She does nurse here and there throughout the night but she never fully wakes up.  And if she never fully wakes up that means I never have to fully wake up either.  This is why co-sleeping is beneficial for us.  I am always acutely aware of her presence and as soon as I hear those first few grunts I instantly begin nursing her.  She eats for a few minutes before she quickly falls back into her deep sleep.  All without any crying.

Once she's out of the newborn stage I will probably try to introduce crib-sleeping during the night (she already naps beautifully in her crib during the day) to see if she's ready to sleep at great lengths without eating.  But this is my personal approach.  I do know the benefits of co-sleeping past the newborn stage but, as I said, I don't love co-sleeping and it's usually by month four when I'm ready to have my space back.  However, I completely support women who can go longer.

So when I saw another campaign using fear mongering and scare tactics to sway parents out of doing something that comes natural to them, something that they know is best for their family, I get angry.

I'm tried of feeling bad for sleeping with my newborn.

I'm tired of feeling dirty for putting my baby to sleep on anything but her back.

I'm tired of feeling embarrassed to say that all my children have tasted milk, peanut butter and honey before the age of one.

I'm tired of feeling naive for not using gates in front of our stairs, locks on our cabinets or anchors on our walls.

I'm tired of feeling negligent for using a drop-side crib.

I'm just so tired of public service campaigns that aim to tell me they are better parents than me.

A well-known medical correspondent on The Today Show was quoted as saying that "co-sleeping leads to infant death."

Are you serious?

That's like saying driving a car leads to car accidents.

Of course bad stuff happens.  Stuff that can be parent's worst nightmare.  But I have news for you.  Bad stuff happens all the time no matter how many warnings we put out there.

My dad died 17 years ago while enjoying a sunny Fourth of July jet ski ride with his seven-year-old son on a beautiful Minnesota lake.

Do you know how many times I've ridden on a jet ski since his accident?

Too many times to count!

Because I know it was an isolated incident.  Something that happens to only a rare minority.  An exceeding majority enjoy a fun and safe ride on a jet ski.  Just like co-sleeping.

But more than that I ride on jet skis because I choose to live my life without fear and in a way that celebrates life.  In a way that is good for me.  Good for my baby and good for my family.

Only mothers that have ever co-slept next to their babies can describe the type of heightened sense of awareness that comes with their baby's presence.  I would categorize it as one of those super-natural maternal powers.  It's like I'm asleep but I'm still constantly aware that my tiny newborn daughter is right there next to me.

But besides that I'm also aware of REAL research that shows all the benefits of co-sleeping with your newborn.  Benefits that include regulated breathing, heart rate and body temperature.  Lower stress levels and a stronger mother-child bond.  REAL research shows statistics that are far more in favor of co-sleeping than against it.  REAL research does not include a few gut-wrenching anecdotal stories.

Co-sleeping might not be for everyone.  But for God's sake you shouldn't not co-sleep with your baby out of fear!

The real problem with parents today isn't that they've gone soft on discipline.  Or that they're too digitally connected.  Or that there isn't enough time.  Or money.  Or that there's no respect.  Or manners.  The real problem is that every one else is trying to be the parent except the actual parent.  We've let doctors and authors and teachers and "experts" and now ad campaigns tell us what's best for our children.  We've forgotten to listen to the best expert of all.  Our own parental instincts.

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