It’s bed­time, but where?

The Compass - - TRINITY SOUTH - Read­ily A Par­ent

One of the biggest un­der­tak­ings a preg­nant cou­ple en­gages in is “ the baby’s room.” Pick­ing the per­fect crib, dé­cor and ac­ces­sories is im­por­tant to par­ents, and not just moms.

The baby’s room of­ten causes a lot of stress in the last month of preg­nancy. Mom de­clares, “I can’t have the baby yet, his room isn’t ready!”

I re­mem­ber think­ing the same with my first child. With my sec­ond child, how­ever, we didn’t even as­sem­ble the crib un­til she was five months old. My third child even­tu­ally had his as­sem­bled in our large bed­room sev­eral months af­ter his birth.

As a breast­feed­ing mother, it didn’t take long for me to re­al­ize that my chil­dren didn’t need their own rooms or gi­gan­tic cribs to lay alone in.

At night, I would of­ten lay down with them to nurse and we would al­most al­ways fall asleep to­gether. Co-bedding is never some­thing we in­tended out­right, though we did plan to keep the baby in the room with us for the first sev­eral months.

But co-bedding is what we did, and what we still of­ten do.

It’s the rea­son we bought a king size bed. It’s the rea­son I was able to func­tion while night­nurs­ing my sec­ond and preg­nant with my third. It could also be the rea­son why our chil­dren are still alive.

Re­searchers have found that co-sleep­ing (shar­ing a bed­room, if not nec­es­sar­ily a bed) and co-bedding (shar­ing a bed, whether par­ents’ or child’s) re­duce a child’s chance of dy­ing from SIDS.

Chil­dren who co-sleep are more eas­ily roused. Also, par­ents are more acutely aware of their child’s breath­ing and move­ment pat­terns. These are both pro­tec­tive against SIDS.

Co-sleep­ing helps es­tab­lish breast­feed­ing, pro­vides skin-to-skin bond­ing time, is some­thing dad­dies can do to es­tab­lish phys­i­cal close­ness with their child, and saves money that may have been spent on cribs, bassinettes, and heat­ing a sec­ond bed­room.

So why is it frowned upon by med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als and oth­ers? Most nurs­ing moth­ers I know have done it and most are not will­ing to ad­mit to it. They are told not to co-sleep right from the moment their baby is born and they fall asleep with them in the hos­pi­tal bed.

There are some risks of co-bedding. De­spite be­ing pro­tected from SIDS, chil­dren who sleep in their par­ents’ bed are at a higher risk of suf­fo­ca­tion than chil­dren who sleep in a crib. How­ever, there are many ways par­ents can limit this risk. Never co-bed while un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol or drugs. Don’t co-bed on a soft mat­tress or waterbed. Keep blan­kets and pil­lows away from the baby. Never, ever sleep on a sofa or un­safe bed with a child.

The idea that a par­ent might “roll over” on their baby is com­mon. How­ever, it’s not a com­mon oc­cur­rence. If you sleep so deeply that you fall out of bed or can lie on your spouse’s arm and not re­al­ize it, than co-bedding is not for you.

Even for par­ents who can’t share a bed with their child, they can still share a room. Our daugh­ter slept in our room first with us, oc­ca­sion­ally in a bassinette and fi­nally in a crib un­til she was al­most two. Our son stayed with us un­til he was sleep­ing through the night.

Our youngest is now two and hardly ever comes into bed with us. Our el­dest still ends up in our bed about once a week — usu­ally when he has wet his own. Our four-year-old is in there al­most ev­ery night.

They all start in their own beds, but if they wake in the night it is of­ten eas­ier to just bring them into bed with us, or lie down with them than it would be to con­vince them to go back to sleep on their own.

Some be­lieve that shar­ing a bed or sleep­ing with your child lim­its their in­de­pen­dence or makes it im­pos­si­ble for them to sleep on their own. Our fam­ily is proof that such state­ments are not based in re­al­ity. We have three very dif­fer­ent chil­dren with three very dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties and sleep habits. On the sub­ject of cosleep­ing they were all treated the same.

Our daugh­ter re­quires the most night­time cod­dling, but she also re­quires the most day­time cod­dling. She has been like that since the day she was born. Our youngest, who sleeps through the night in his own bed now, has al­ways been the more in­de­pen­dent of our chil­dren. And our el­dest, who once slept with us reg­u­larly, is now reach­ing the age where he both wants us and wants in­de­pen­dence — thus his oc­ca­sional re­quests to sleep with us, but his more of­ten calls of “good night” as he cud­dles into his own blan­kets on his own bed.

Some stud­ies show that co-sleep­ing chil­dren suf­fer from sleep-dis­or­ders, but these stud­ies have ne­glected to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween cus­tom­ary co-sleep­ing and the co-sleep­ing that arises from par­ents try­ing to cope with child sleep dis­or­ders. They don’t prove that the co-sleep­ing caused the sleep dis­or­ders, just that there is a cor­re­la­tion be­tween the two. It could very well be the op­po­site, that sleep dis­or­ders cause par­ents to con­sider co-sleep­ing as a cop­ing tech­nique.

To say that this one as­pect of par­ent­ing could “ruin” your child is as ridicu­lous as say­ing that sub­sti­tut­ing le­mon for vanilla will ruin a cake. It’s not a sin­gle in­gre­di­ent or prac­tice, but the sum to­tal that makes the child, or the cake.

We’ve all heard the sto­ries of the 11-year-old that still sleeps with her par­ents, but I’ve never met any­one like that. Trudy, a mom of two in St. John’s, ap­proached sleep­ing and beds much the same as us. Her chil­dren went to sleep in their own beds and had strict bed­times from in­fancy on. As ba­bies, she would bring them into her bed to nurse and fall asleep with them. As they got older, they would some­times come into bed with their par­ents to sleep. As she re­ports, “ both even­tu­ally out­grew it quite nat­u­rally at about age nine.”

Co-sleep­ing with in­fants can help pre­vent SIDS, aid in es­tab­lish­ing breast­feed­ing and main­tain­ing milk sup­ply, pro­vide phys­i­cal bond­ing time, and help tired par­ents cope with night-wak­ings. Co-sleep­ing with older chil­dren has been shown to im­prove in­de­pen­dence and so­cial skills as well as im­prove qual­ity of sleep. Bet­ter sleep in older chil­dren has been shown to im­prove school per­for­mance, health and im­mu­nity and to de­crease the risk of obe­sity.

Yes, like any­thing, there are cir­cum­stances un­der which co-sleep­ing can be dan­ger­ous, but for the ma­jor­ity of par­ents it of­fers a real al­ter­na­tive to fer­ber­iz­ing — or sleep train­ing — your child. So, to preg­nant par­ents out there concerned about whether the crib will be put to­gether in time, re­lax, en­joy your fi­nal mo­ments of preg­nancy. You might not need that crib for some time yet.

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