To sleep with or without you

30 Aug 2012

Co-sleeping has been given a bad reputation from the media, and as a result there is a widespread belief that it is extremely dangerous, and reaps no benefits for your child. But is this really the case?
Solitary sleeping for infants is somewhat implicit within Western culture, however this wasn’t always true. Pre- 1700’s co-sleeping was a relative norm, whereby the child and mother would form a relationship by co-exiting within the same sleeping space. It seems to be almost a ‘modern-western’ idea that co-sleeping is a danger and health risk; yet, studies have shown than it is anything but and instead infants are able to sleep a lot more easily and peacefully and rarely cry during the night. This cannot be said for ‘solo sleepers’ who awake more frequently during the night , which itself is a health risk for your child as it could cause long-term anxiety. In addition to this, the rate of SIDs is extremely rare in the case of infants who sleep beside their parents. Alongside the scientific and statistical benefits, there are also the obvious ones. Children evidently find a source of comfort in sleeping beside their parents, there is a constant sense of stability for the child and both infant and parents are able to form a close relationship.
Some may argue that co-sleeping is somewhat “coddling” the infant, and many may fear that the child will grow too attached and may lack independence. However, studies have shown that there is a long-term emotional growth within the infant who experiences co-sleeping. The benefits, despite popular belief, are higher self-esteem, they become independent sooner, they are less anxious and behave better in school . There may be those of you who are also sceptical about co-sleeping because of the horror stories about parents smothering their child, but there is evidence for higher fatalities in cot sleeping than co-sleeping. CPSC data found that numerically the rate of deaths in th adult bed were 515, where 121 of these were the result of ‘overlying’ and an even greater 394 died due to entrapment within the bed. Whilst these numbers are shocking, and lead to a widespread discouragement of co-sleeping, data wasn’t released about solitary sleeping whereby 2,700 infants died as a result of “cot death”, also known as SIDs.
Evidently, there are many more positives to co-sleeping than solitary sleeping, so perhaps it’s time for a remodelling of the Western Ideal. Perhaps it is time for us to focus on the well-being of our children and adopt co-sleeping as a universal idea.

McKenna, J., et al, "Experimental studies of infant-parent co-sleeping: Mutual physiological and behavioral influences and their relevance to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)." Early Human Development 38 (1994)187-201
P. S. Blair, P. J. Fleming, D. Bensley, et al., “Where Should Babies Sleep – Along or With Parents? Factors Influencing the
Of SIDS in the CESDI Study,” British Medical Journal 319 (1999): 1457-1462.
P. Heron, “Non-Reactive Cosleeping and Child Behavior: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep All Night, Every Night,” Master’s thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Bristol, 1994

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