This is by far the best treatment on this topic I remember reading. Lots of food for thought, very thorough, and grace-filled.
From Monday, July 24, 2006
If you haven’t already read part one, please see it below.
Some thoughts about cosleeping and the scary studies used to demonstrate its dangers…
I STRONGLY recommend reading this article about cosleeping from Dr. Sears. It’s probably the most clear and concise treatment of the issue I’ve read. Another great, balanced resource is the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at Notre Dame.
Even the staunchest cosleeping advocates recognize the possible dangers of unsafe bedsharing. So I get really angry when the mainstream “experts” apparently conclude that, all evidence to the contrary, it’s simpler just to tell us what to think than to equip us with the information to make an educated decision about what’s best for our families. If parents can be educated to put babies to sleep on their backs (after generations of the opposite) – and the experts love to point to the “successes” of that particular campaign – can we not be taught to safely sleep with our children, if we so choose? It amazes me that the human race has survived as long as we have, since cribs are such a recent invention, and much of the world still manages to make it without them.
So what’s the big deal, anyway? Who cares? Why would someone want to? Here’s a quick, and by no means exhaustive, list of benefits.
Here’s some more info from Dr. Sears, specifically about cosleeping and SIDS.
From a natural-mothering, and even religious perspective, I would have to add that I see evidence that we are meant to sleep in close proximity to our babies. Probably the most compelling bit of info for me was finding out that a nursing mother makes the most milk between midnight and 5 AM. That’s when prolactin levels (a hormone involved in lactation) are highest. The first time I read that, I thought, Geez, what a cruel joke to play on a mother! But the more I think about it, what other time of day am I assured uninterrupted time with my nursling? The wee-hours cuddles are some of the sweetest, once you get past the cultural assumption that there’s something horribly wrong with enjoying them. Also, studies are now showing that cosleeping, even for years does not result in clingy, abnormally dependent, maladjusted children. The best way I’ve seen the answer to that concern articulated is that a need, once met, goes away. A need deferred or ignored will come back in another, often less desirable, form. Fighting a small child’s real need for contact with Mother with the purpose of forcing independence before it’s developmentally appropriate is misguided and has no positive basis in behavioral, medical, physiological, psychological, or sociological and anthropological study. It’s a cultural construct, and one that we’ve already seen consequences for. It’s a topic for another rant…but I’ll note here that we spend our children’s formative years pushing them to be “independent” and to separate – sometimes as young as a week old! – from their mothers, and then spend our adult lives in therapy because we don’t know how to form healthy, interdependent relationships.
Honestly, there are many other pluses, but I’m about typed out.
I want to add for the record that I do not preach that cosleeping is for everyone! There are risk factors to be considered, (not forgetting that the same can be said of crib sleeping) and comfort levels and routines and so on…but those of us who value it should not be condemned by the medical community based on a bunch of flawed studies and conflicts of interest (see original Sears’ link in first post)!
Thanks for sticking with me this far. I welcome comments, and will dig up sources if requested.
Good night, my baby is waiting for me.
Originally posted Monday, July 24, 2006
From Parents Magazine, August 2006, article “New Ways to Prevent SIDS”
Q My baby sleeps better in my bed. What’s the big danger of cosleeping?
A Actually, there are lots of them. Your infant could be suffocated by a pillow or a loose blanket. His air supply may be cut off if you or your spouse inadvertently rolls over onto him. And he could be strangled if his head gets trapped between the headboard and mattress.
Despite numerous studies that confirm the heightened SIDS risk caused by cosleeping, many moms continue to do it. According to a parents.com poll, 52 percent of readers do it all or some of the time, citing the added convenience for nighttime feedings and the security of having their infants next to them.
If you decide to cosleep, don’t put your baby right in the bed. Instead, get a cosleeping crib that clamps onto the frame of your bed. Or you might simply try moving your baby’s crib into your room. Several studies show this sleeping arrangement reduces the SIDS risk (presumably because you’re more likely to hear your baby if he’s in distress).
And from a sidebar commentary on safety products:
Absolutely. It’s the only safe way to cosleep.
Well, thank you Parents Magazine! It’s always so nice when a publication takes the guess work out of parenting, so you can ignore all the controversy on an issue and not worry about having to make an educated decision of your own! Especially since all that data, and centuries – actually, millenia – of experience and natural behavior might stand in your way.
Okay…reactivating my sarcasm filter. Sorry for the breach in service. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
First, let me address these specific assertions, one at a time. *sigh*
Your infant could be suffocated by a pillow or a loose blanket. Okay…this is one area where one must make the distinction between safe and unsafe cosleeping. Big, fluffy, or too many pillows are a no-no. Thick, or high-riding blankets are a no-no. In our case, we dropped it to a sheet, and tucked it in so that it wouldn’t creep above our chests.
His air supply may be cut off if you or your spouse inadvertently rolls over onto him. Ah, yes. The Big One. “What if I roll over onto my baby?” Here’s some food for thought: When was the last time you fell out of bed? No, seriously. If, while deeply asleep, you instinctively know where the bed ends, won’t the same mechanism be even sharper in the ever-paranoid new mother? Moms are pretty well hard-wired to their babies. See some of the resources I’ll link to at the end of this post for some great info on this. Many dads are also very conscious of Baby whilst sleeping, but it’s also not a bad idea to put Baby between Mom and a safe bed rail instead of between Mom and Dad…yeah, I know more men who have fallen out of bed than women. Now, again, there’s a distinction between sensible and stupid: don’t cosleep if you take drugs (legal or otherwise) which would impair your ability to wake or sense things around you! Don’t do it if you are morbidly obese. (Not the most PC thing to bring up, but it’s one of the real risk factors demonstrated in responsible studies on cosleeping). Don’t do it if you’re dangerously exhausted and therefore likely to be difficult to rouse later. Which, oh by the way, you’re much less likely to be if you haven’t been forcing yourself to get out of bed and schlepp yourself into a separate room a couple times a night to feed the baby.
And he could be strangled if his head gets trapped between the headboard and mattress. All together now: sensible versus stupid. Don’t cosleep if you have a headboard, especially one with bars on it further apart than the recommendations for crib bars. Don’t cosleep if you have a waterbed! Ever! Make sure there are NO gaps between your bed and the rail, or wall. In our case, we put the mattresses on the floor and shoved the suckers against the wall. And checked them every night.
Despite numerous studies that confirm the heightened SIDS risk caused by cosleeping… Um, let’s clarify some language here. Every one of the “dangers” posted above are suffocation risks, not SIDS risks. Almost by definition, SIDS is defined by a lack of other known cause of death. It is worth pointing out that these studies rarely make this distinction, just as they rarely (in fact, I can’t recall seeing a single one) distinguish between suffocation deaths involving parents on drugs and alcohol and other vividly reckless risk factors and those which are truly unexplained. Additionally, they don’t compare data for non-cosleeping deaths. For example, lets say that in a certain time period in a certain city, there were 65 deaths attributed (realistically or otherwise) to cosleeping (safe or otherwise). Looks pretty scary (and it is – of course ONE is too many!), and it seems easy to conclude the crib sleeping is safer all ’round. And yet…they don’t compare this to the number of deaths (unexplained or otherwise) for the same location and time period which took place in cribs! Was is 25? 65? 165? One would think that this would have a significant effect on the conclusions reached about safe sleep practices for infants, wouldn’t one? Well, the researchers apparently don’t agree, because it’s not mentioned.
Several studies show this sleeping arrangement reduces the SIDS risk (presumably because you’re more likely to hear your baby if he’s in distress). Wow, now that’s really interesting, since every study I’ve looked at asserts that there’s no precursor behavior for SIDS such as noticable distress or a history thereof. While I’ve read things which challenge that assertion, that’s for another discussion, and anyway believing that to be true would certainly render the above conclusion odd, to say the least.
I’ll be back shortly with some other info and conclusions. Besides, my sarcasm filter seems to be blinking out on me.
I wrote this almost exactly three years ago.
I really needed to read it now.
May it bless someone else, also.
Wednesday, 26 July, 2006
“And the King will answer them,
‘Truly, I say to you,
as you did it to
one of the least of these my brothers,
you did it to me.’”
Matt 25:40 (ESV)
Take a moment to think about what it looks like in real life. Especially if you have children.
Why, when the Bible makes it so clear how we are to treat each other and so clear that children are a gift from God, do we so often refuse to apply the service verses to parenting? I honestly can’t recall right now where I first came across this concept – and it’s been several times, as I hang out with some pretty special people online – but I was startled, intrigued, and then convicted with it. Our children are our coheirs with Christ. Do you get that? Let it sink in. They are our responsibility, yes, and we are in authority over them, yes, but just as importantly, they are our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Does this change how you should treat your children? How you respond to their developmental needs? It certainly challenged my attitudes.
First, let me say that I am all about balance. I do not preach a doctrine of mommy martyrdom. It is essential that Momma takes sufficient care of herself, or she won’t be able to take care of the family entrusted to her! Having noted that, however, I submit this bit of challenging thought…when a mother makes a decision in how she will meet or defer meeting the needs of a child, should it not be influenced by whether that child is also her sibling in Christ?
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you clothed me,
I was sick and you visited me,
I was in prison and you came to me.
Matthew 25:35-36 (ESV)
Where does it say here, “unless I was related to you by blood?” I’m sure some folks would be scratching their heads here, saying that, “of course we feed, nourish, cuddle, clothe, heal and soothe babies. Doesn’t everyone? What are you saying here?”
What concerns me is when we take one of these things and make it conditional on our convenience. We are to soothe our children…we know this, we instinctively do it when there is “real” pain, bleeding, bruising…but what about when they show frustration that they haven’t yet learned how to handle? What about at night when they cry? There are whole parenting ideologies out there which hinge on the rapid road to “independence” and focus particularly on sleep habits as a litmus test for this. They advocate allowing a young infant or toddler to lie alone in the dark crying, all in the name of it being bedtime, because our God is a god of order and they “need to learn who’s in charge.” Excuse me? Where in the Bible do they find anything showing God being more concerned with us learning to not need people than learning to trust? I know – boy, do I know! – how hard it is, night after night, to tend to the needs of a child who is afraid, frustrated, restless, or simply doesn’t want to go to bed. We are not permissive, believe me. When Momma says it’s time to lay down, it is. But I also recognize that when God asks us to do something difficult, He doesn’t then say, “Oh, and you’re on your own. It’s not convenient for me to hold you while you learn that it’s okay. You’re spiritually mature enough to handle it now, so I’ll just leave you to it and you’ll learn I’m in charge eventually. See you in the morning.” Serving the very real developmental needs of your children in no way means abdicating your authority over them, or letting them “manipulate” you. A parent who is tuned in to the needs of her children soon learns to tell when they’re testing you for the sake of it (and I’m not talking about six week old babies, for pity’s sake) and when they just need a little extra reassurrance.
Okay… got off track there a little. (Hey, it’s my blog. You want consistency? Post your own.) Back to the verse… An online sister challenged her readers to blog on this verse…what does it look like in your home? What does it mean to treat your children as if you were serving Christ?
First of all, it doesn’t mean martyrdom. God designed our bodies and minds with boundaries. I need sleep, folks, and healthy food, and downtime…But I am also the grownup, and as such have spent 30 years learning how to delay gratification. I can’t reasonably say that my child needs to learn that skill RIGHT THIS INSTANT so that I can choose to not exercise it. So I guess you could say that part of what it looks like around here is the delaying (not eliminating) of my own needs. But even more, it’s about attitude. I try very hard not to view my children’s needs as personal affronts to my own. I hear parents – often desperately well-meaning parents – talk about how “She just doesn’t want me to get a moment to myself!” or “He is simply determined to not allow me to get any sleep at all.” As if the child has sat down and thought out, “I’m going to make them rue the day they had unprotected sex.” Um, I doubt it. Seriously. When I stopped (consciously and otherwise) looking at my children as the enemy, I noticed that their motives changed too! Okay, no, not really. But my perception of them did, and it became a lot easier to serve them cheerfully when I wasn’t operating under the assumption that they were out to get me. If you view your children as coheirs with Christ, instead of tiny battlefields which must be won, you find yourself acting as their advocates in life, instead of their prosecutors. Hmmm. Where have we seen this before? Oh, yeah, right – God. Did you know that the guy who has built his parenting paradigm on the whole “God of order” thing excuses his cry-it-out advice by citing how God turned away from Jesus on the cross? So that makes it okay for us. He actually uses Jesus’ “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” to justify leaving infants to cry until their vital stats resemble those of a stroke victim’s. (No, he doesn’t put it that way, but he doesn’t let science get in the way of his recommendations, either). So what about God’s patience? What about how He came along side us, loved us, sent us a Comforter so we’d never be alone? What about how God allows each of us to grow at our own pace? And this doesn’t mean that children will never learn independence, or to put others first. Good grief, why should we artificially create times we can’t be there for them? Those will legitimately come soon enough. And even with God, who can be all things, He’ll allow us to be denied what we “want” so that we get what we “need.” But it’s not arbitrary or simply for his convenience. That’s the difference between a mother who works away from home so that her children have a roof and food and a mother who does so so that she can afford a vacation without them every six months. Or cable. Or expensive clothes. Or whatever. Please don’t buy into this system that says children shouldn’t change your life…they’re meant to. And the tough stuff, like a lack of sleep? It’s just for a season. It’ll pass, and some new challenge will come along. In the meantime, I hope that I can someday reach the point where if I could see Jesus in this very room, the things I say and do to/with my children would not change. The point where if Jesus was my child, those things would not change. That’s a tall order, and a worthy vocation.