Friday, May 10, 2013

Get Out of My Bed!

If I said to you, "your baby is going to grow up emotionally unattached, because you let him sleep in his own crib", you would yell "Poppycock!" (or use some other form of strong language).

You would be right to do so. Making such a broad prediction about a child based on a family's sleeping style is not only taking a rather limited view of child-rearing, it's insulting.

So why is it considered ok by some to say that co-sleeping families are sure to raise indulgent, dependent children? I've been hearing this opinion about our own family's decision to co-sleep, since before Claire was born.



I read it again recently in the comment section of an article entitled "Have American Parents Got It All Wrong" in The Huffington Post. The gist of the article is that parents in other countries do a better job bringing up independent and self-reliant children. The reader commenting shared her opinion that co-sleeping is adding to the problem of needy kids in America.

The ironic part is that some of the countries touted in the article as raising more independent children have high rates of co-sleeping. The National Institute of Health compiled data that showed that 88.2% of Korean families co-slept with their children aged 12-82 months. Data from another study showed that 65% of Swedish families co-slept at three months.

Honestly, I'm not even trying to make a case for co-sleeping here. Other countries that were mentioned in the article have much lower rates of co-sleeping. The same study found that 23% of German families co-sleep at age three months.

I do have a challenge for the woman who wrote the comment critical of co-sleeping, though. I dare her to stand in a room with 10 kids and tell me which children slept in a crib as a baby and which did not. I bet she couldn't.

Parenting is not so simple. It's not an all or nothing game. The idea that a baby's level of independence while sleeping results in greater autonomy later in life is as narrow-minded as the idea that a baby's dependence equals more connectedness. Individual personalities and characteristics of children that have nothing to do with parenting styles surely come into play. Then, there are the millions of interactions between parent and child that take place during daylight hours. I'm sure there are plenty of bed sleeping children who are cautious, just as there are co-sleeping children who are risk-takers.

And, lady, just plain stop the judging. My gut feeling about parenting styles in general is that children intuitively know when you believe in the way you are raising them. If you are confident in your decisions, they will be too, which will go a long way in growing secure and capable beings.

Paradoxically, too, our children are going to struggle in life, because of and despite of some of our parenting choices. We must be humble enough to admit that there is much about parenting that is out of our control. Wouldn't it be great if we could just all be there for one another when our children falter, instead of finding fault or blame?

And, speaking of judging. I don't know why anyone cares when, how, where and how often my husband and I have sex, which is yet another preoccupation of the HuffPo commenter and many others who are critical of co-sleeping.

Worry about your own marital bed, lady, not my family bed.


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Photo Source: Shiny Things, Flickr.com

23 comments:

  1. We unintentionally co-slept with my first. Did not co-sleep with my second. Now my older daughter sleeps entirely in her own bed and the youngest opts to crawl in to my bed (much to my chagrin) in the middle of the night. Both have their obnoxious, entitled, spoiled moments. Both have their moments of fabulousness. You know what - here's my parenting philosophy: Whatever Works and Keeps You Semi-Sane. And, if you don't like that theory - well, keep that to yourself because I'm tired.....

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  2. I agree I co-slept with my older 2 and I'm co-sleeping with my little guy and my boys are just fine:) I think you should do what works for your family. I don't see why others are so worried about what other familys do and feel the need to make sure they let you know it.

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  3. You are so correct. Not only do parenting styles differ between homes the differ between children. I am a completely different parent to Boo than I am to Allie. Great post. Have a great mom's day!

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  4. It's a serious topic, but you still made me laugh... thanks.
    I agree whole-heartedly that we should stop with the judgment.
    And I've come to believe that the key isn't so much doing anything one way or another... it's paying attention and tuning in to who the little person is and what they need. We ended up cosleeping, attachment parenting... whole bit. And I don't doubt it is the perfect thing for my daughter. My sister just had a baby and she sleeps in her crib and (to my surprise) she seems to be thriving. What I think is important is, is the parent there when the child needs them to be?
    and letting go of judgement.... not always easy. I just had one of my favorite mom friends over with her daughter and our girls played... both in Waldorf school, like-minded parents, etc... and then she told her daughter that if she didn't listen she would have to give her a spanking. Holy Cow. That was a surprise.
    So, non judgment is something I strive for.

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  5. I totally think it's each families choice and what works with each child. I don't think any one way is better and it's really no one's business how someone else is raising their child as long as they are loved and safe.

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  6. I sometimes think that people come up with these theories because it's easier to blame something like that for a kid's anxiety than it is to acknowledge that all kids are different and that means some are going to be independent and some are going to be a wee bit neurotic. To assume you can mould a child's personality by either having them sleep in a cot or in a bed seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

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  7. Let me tell you about my daughter...She will be four years old this summer, but if you ask her she's grown. She is the definition of an independent child. She has plenty of confidince in herself, and has no problem doing things for herself, speaking her mind, or making decisions. We have no bed time problems with her either. She lays down in her own bed at bedtime and after a story puts herself to sleep. She slept in our bed until just after her first birthday. I totally feel your frustration. People would ask me, "does she sleep through the night in her own bed?" I would respond with the fact the she was in our bed and always they would say, "oh you'd better get her in her own bed now or you never will!" Once we felt it was time it only took us ONE night for her to be comfortable by herself.

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    1. Substitute "daughter" for "son" and I would have written this! Our 4 yr old co-slept until 13mths - 11 of which we were in a one bed flat - it just worked for us. He took three nights to learn to settle himself. We co-slept with our daughter for 9mths - she was more of a fidgeter by that point. But neither child has struggled for independence and both sound much like your little girl. My nephews were both in cots in their own rooms before 3mths - one suffered big separation anxiety and low social confidence, one doesn't. All of which goes to show there is no one fit parenting solution and the only way is what works for the parent and the child at that time. Enough with the prescriptive articles already! Love that so many people agreed with this post...

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  8. A-freaking-men!! People do things differently. Neither is right or wrong. I find it so hard to make new mom friends because so many are so judgemental. I don't care whether your kid sleeps in your bed or whether you breast or bottle fed because at the end of the day in doesn't affect me at all. Unless your kid comes over and destroys my house, then it affects me :)

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  9. All parents do things differently and that's ok. What one does may not be good for someone else. It's life.

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  10. Rock on with your bad self! Love it. Why do we spend so much time getting all up in each others' business?? Lord, if we spent half as much time trying to do something worthwhile - like genuinely helping others - then maybe we wouldn't have so many "needy" children because the ones that are starving or have no place to sleep would be taken care of. (down off my soap box now)

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  11. I read a brilliant article the other day about cultures where co-sleeping and extended feeding are the norm, and their children were shown to be the MOST independent come age 6/7! But mostly I get fed up with people beating each other with the 'bad parent' stick. Parenting is wonderful, but it is hard work, made harder still by all having to defend our personal choices. I respect everyone's right to do it their own way!

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  12. Brush it off, that's what I say. I don't allow other people's judgments to pollute my way of parenting. I'm open to being a better mother, of course, but I try not to judge others and I hardly notice when others cast their own judgments. Whether it's about my parenting or my run-on sentences.
    That said, I may have cast a dirty look at a mom smoking next to her baby. And I feel a certain amount of sadness for overweight children of overweight parents because it's clear they aren't making the best choices for their children.
    When it comes down to things like co-sleeping - that's a choice every parent has to make for themselves. The emotional part of parenting is so hard, we have to be a sisterhood of mothers! Spreading love and support. If we did that, we wouldn't have to worry so much about the impact of co-sleeping or baby-wearing or whatever, because we'd all be living in a space of love and acceptance. I'm quite certain that would benefit every child on the planet.
    Damn, Rachel, you're always getting a post out of me in the form of a comment! ;)

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  13. We've got four children and have had critics w/every one of them because they co-slept (the most adamant one being grandma). I don't care. I never did. And guess what, two of those children are grown now, and both are responsible, loving, wonderful young men. Must have been the co-sleeping. ;) KIDDING, but I couldn't resist saying it.

    I think co-sleeping is one of many, many, many decisions that parents make when raising their children, and it's silly to single it out w/so much importance. MYOB is my mantra when it comes to such things.

    Great post, as usual.

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  14. Very good post!I wonder how they will judge me that sometimes, I and hubby sleep on the floor while our baby gets all the space on the bed and sometimes she'll come down to join with us.Oh man! That's my family floor, too. I won't allow them to step on it. We all do raise our kids differently.

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  15. Love it!! We are proud co-sleepers. The biggest response is "You're going to have a hard time when you put him in his own bed." To which I respond that the family bed IS HIS BED!!

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  16. The funny thing is, I came away from that article with the idea that co-sleeping was in the "good idea" category for raising independent children. And we didn't co-sleep (not exactly - we had a co-sleeper attached to the bed for the first 5 months). Many people just hear what they want to hear. Or read, as it were.

    I totally agree with you -- why does she even CARE??

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  17. I love this post because as you know we co sleep and my son is 7. And you may also have gleaned that he is a huge risk taker. I used to hide the fact that we co sleep, but my son could be the poster child for co sleeping, so now I am proud! I don't really care what anyone chooses to do, but if asked I will certainly share my opinion!

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  18. Have never advocated co-sleeping - because of the danger that parents could inadvertently roll over babe and smother it. Besides, I liked my space too much to share it with a third person! Alas, I'm now on my own, but would still not support this form of upbringing a babe. Still I wouldn't question the right of others to do it!

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  19. The interactions and choices we make with our children on a daily basis and our child's personality are huge, just as you said. It also depends on the child. My son needed co-sleeping. My daughter loves sleeping alone, in her crib.

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  20. So much of what I was going to say has been said by the other commenters (sorry I'm so late to the party). Here's what I think of as the bottom line...nobody NOBODY nobody has the right to say what's right when it comes to loving parents doing the best for their kids. (obviously abusive jerks or drug addicts who think they are doing the best do not fall into what I'm saying)
    Bottom line is that every single one of us has ideas about parenting BEFORE we are parents to our own kids that fall out of the window because being a good parent means recognizing the situation and that it calls for what it calls for. Unless you live with a family for a year and are a witness to the moments they choose not to share with you, you don't get to have a viewpoint on the best way. For me, I co-slept with my son during naps for almost 13 months until he weaned himself. That's what I believed in and I'd stick by it. Maybe if I had another child, things wouldn't be the same. We didn't co-sleep with my son at night after he was about 3 months old - mostly because my husband was worried. But there have been nights he's been in our bed and it's been fine. Well, him sleeping on my head sometimes. But I would not change anything about what we've done. And I would certainly be honest enough to understand that I don't know any of the rest of the world well enough to say what you are doing wrong.

    We are all doing the best right for our right. And that's it. And stupid article. I'm not reading it because I don't want to give it more traffic. Humph.

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  21. I'd say do whatever it is that works for you :) Society really need to stop making such a fuss about our parenting choices isn't? You are doing what is best for you and your children and that's that.

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