Friday, September 09, 2005

The Co-Sleeping Debate

Throughout the world, babies sleep in the beds with their parents. Though most people tend to think in terms of the modern world only, it is true that in the early days of the United States, even until the early part of the nineteenth century, most babies slept in the beds with their parents. At the very least, they slept in the same room. This decision was largely one not up to the families. Instead small homes and close quarters made it a necessity for mom, dad, and kids to sleep in the same area. Today, though, many American parents are faced with the debate over co-sleeping and deciding what situation works best for their family. Here are the major points in the debate.

People who do not support co-sleeping, the practice of allowing children to sleep in the bed with parents, argue that it negatively affects intimacy between partners. If baby is everywhere, including in the bed, the Mom and Dad don't get any alone time. Opponents also point to the possibility of co-dependence, especially in single-parent homes. Mom gets used to have baby in the bed, and baby is unable to go to sleep on her own.

Other arguments against co-sleeping are the possibility of impropriety. Moms and Dads who co-sleep are appalled at the presumption of molestation, but social services workers are not as clear on the issue. There are different standards in different areas about when children should stop sleeping in the bed with the parents. The final argument against co-sleeping is the possibility of danger. Some children do, in fact, die from being smothered from parents or other siblings rolling over on baby.

Supporters of co-sleeping attack these arguments. First, they believe that the opposition to co-sleeping is purely a cultural decision. There are few places in the world where the assumption of molestation would come up; instead, these people argue that it is the impersonality and emotional detachment of American families that leads to this conclusion.

Most of the deaths from co-sleeping occur when the parent has been drinking. That doesn't mean that Dad went to bed drunk. It may mean that he had a couple of glasses of wine and slept too hard. There are ways to protect baby from this type of tragedy, however. One option is to purchase or make a co-sleeping bed, which will protect baby from others who may fall on him or from falling off the bed.

Co-sleeping actually supports intimacy, according to supporters of the practice. They argue that instead of putting the baby into an impersonal crib to face the dangers of the night alone, the co-sleeping baby will spend valuable cuddle time with Mom and Dad. Everyone will be happy with this decision. Mom and Dad can send Baby to her room if they need private time, these supporters say. The benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks.

Wherever you stand on co-sleeping, know that it is a decision you should make ahead of time. There are plenty of shades of grey in the co-sleeping debate, and you and your partner should come to a conclusion that will make both of you happy.
By Julia Mercer

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