by Michele Zipp
I co-sleep with my children. There. I said it. They are just about 4 years old now. We've been co-sleeping since they were infants. I've even purchased a king-size bed so we could co-sleep more comfortably.
Despite what some may say, co-sleeping is not a reckless activity. Co-sleeping is not a bad word. I am not putting my child's life at risk when we co-sleep because just like with anything, there is a right way to do it and a wrong way. And the right way can be lifesaving.
Let's compare co-sleeping to driving in a car with your children. A car seat can be properly installed and your child correctly secured into the seat so in the event of an accident, there would be no injury. Your child could also be improperly restrained in a car seat not safely installed, and the result after an accident could be tragic. Right way. Wrong way. Same applies to bed-sharing. We need to stop vilifying all parents who co-sleep because so many of us are doing it, and doing it right.
A recent study titled "Listening to Mothers III" revealed that 41 percent of new moms co-sleep so they are closer to their baby. Back in 2007, a study of Los Angeles parents showed that 70 to 80 percent shared a bed with their child. Seems about right. Lots of families are doing it. And that's because there are so many benefits of co-sleeping. I have co-slept with my children so they are soothed and sleep well. When my kids sleep better, so do I, so does the whole family. Sleep? It's so important. I co-slept because it made breastfeeding at 3 a.m. so much easier and less disruptive. I co-sleep because it creates such a bond and these moments early in their life are fleeting.
Co-sleeping can also protect your baby against SIDS, not cause it. Sleeping close to your baby helps regulate baby's body temperature and breathing -- baby loves to sync that with mom. It also can help mothers breastfeed with greater success, and breastfeeding significantly reduces the risk of SIDS. Of course, I'm talking about the safe way to co-sleep. Which means keeping blankets and pillows away from baby, and being sober and without sleep issues.
Many of the tragic cases involving co-sleeping were due to the fact that the parent was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. THAT is the problem, not the act of co-sleeping. If a person is drunk or on drugs, that person should not be around a baby anyway. When you become a parent, you take on this huge responsibility and that responsibility is keeping your baby safe and alive. There are sacrifices made and even some rules to follow, including not getting wasted in front of your child while you are taking care of her and then putting her in danger by sleeping next to her.
We always have to try to make the safest parenting decisions, and co-sleeping is included in that. It can be safe. Yet the "Safe Sleep" campaign in Milwaukee sure didn't show that, remember? Instead the ads showed an infant sleeping in a bed next to a butcher knife -- making it seem like it's the worst thing a parent can do. Parents shouldn't feel shame for properly co-sleeping. This isn't the right message to send.
I love how writer Sarah Kerrigan put it. Teaching abstinence isn't going to stop kids from having sex -- it's been proven ineffective. So just telling parents not to co-sleep isn't helpful either. We need everyone to get on board with the dialogue of safe co-sleeping -- that's what will educate, perhaps save lives, and have everyone sleeping a whole lot better.
Do you co-sleep? Do you get upset when others make general statements saying how co-sleeping is unsafe?