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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cosleeping: Why Could Cosby get Away with it?

I feel like there are a lot of ideas and things packed into this blog post. Sorry if it's a bit fragmented but I think there's a common thread . . .

My sister and her roommates and my Mother-in-law were all over here the other day and someone brought up the case of a 7 or 8 (they weren't quite sure) year old boy who was still breastfeeding and how shocking this was. Now, I am a huge advocate of extended breastfeeding, and so, some part of me wanted to (and did) defend this family. But I am forced to admit that 8 is quite old--would be too old for me. Still, I have heard of cases (in more supportive cultures than the US) of children breastfeeding until age 9. That seems to be pretty much the oldest that I've ever heard of.

The story about the family continued, though, that the father of the child had been complaining because he'd been kicked out of the bed and the Mom and child were cosleeping in their bed. "So clearly," I expressed to the group, "there are issues there beyond breastfeeding." Which there are, because the father was unhappy . . .

However, when did cosleeping (especially with an older child) get such a bad rap? I'm totally all about cosleeping in general and yet THIS was the thing about the story that I had the most judgement in my heart about, and why?

This morning I was thinking about this, and about the Cosby show, which I've watched recently with much enjoyment. Cliff Huxtable was an Obstetrician and known far and wide as THE parent. The one raising his kids right and sending them to college and keeping them out of trouble and honest. And what happened almost every night of the show? 5, 6, 7, 8 year old Rudy would be there at the door saying: "I had a bad dream, can I sleep with you?" and climbing in bed with her parents and snuggling up. More than that, 10, 11, and 12 year old Vanessa was sometimes accompanying her. Or her father would come home from delivering a baby and find one or two of his young daughters in his place in bed next to his wife, and he would retire to the couch or carry them into their beds or snuggle up in the bed with them.

But he was never ASHAMED about it. At a time not that long after the first TV COUPLE shared a bed, very scandalously, we have a whole family bed-sharing together, and not on "Married with Children", on the freaking Cosby Show.

So why the judgement? I'm asking myself as much as the next guy.

I think for some reason now-a-days, co-sleeping and bed-sharing and especially "the Family Bed" is so looked down upon. Of all the parenting decisions I have made, the fact that I don't yet own a crib and pretty much plan to bedshare with my baby (he currently sleeps in an on-the-bed cosleeper) is the one I have gotten the MOST flack over.

Yet? I'm pretty sure that like the 75% of the world cosleeps for the first 2-5 years of the baby's life. I know in China they do, and let's be honest, that's like half the population right there. But seriously, cribs are not a worldwide thing--or if they are it's only the richest 25% of people worldwide.

Honestly, I, myself, am nervous about cosleeping because of the aggressive campaigns against it in the United States, claiming that it is unsafe.

Of course as with any other infant sleeping arrangement, it has to conform to certain rules--a firm, flat mattress, no excess pillows or blankets around the baby (and none around the baby while it is tiny). Neither parent (sharing the bed) should smoke or be under the influence, and the Mom should be breastfeeding. All these things make cosleeping 100% safe.

Honestly since seeing the video I posted a while back about how 100% of bedsharing deaths were in the case of f0rmula fed babies (in whatever studies they examined, I don't know if that is UNIVERSALLY true), I have been able to put in check the fear caused by those smear campaigns. Personally I'm waiting for James to start rolling over more consistently (before I let him stay directly in the bed with us, unswaddled, instead of in the cosleeper, swaddled) because I want to make sure that he'd be able to right himself if he somehow rolled over, but even this is being excessively cautious. I have sleep shared with him a bit here and there, getting ready to do it full time, and from what I have observed it is 100% safe. My body is 100% aware of James even when I am asleep. Furthermore, I LOVE IT!

I can't tell you how ridiculously sweet it is to snuggle up to my baby in the morning or the middle of the night, and be able to kiss him little face and breathe in his little smell and have his little hands touch my face or his little eyes look into mine and his little body all calm or wiggly . . . It's just like being bathed in love.

So I'm not going to judge this (other) family for what they are choosing to do. Hopefully things work out for them. And just wanted to give a last shout out to extended breastfeeding, which has many health and emotional benefits (for the Mom and child) for as long as it lasts, has never been shown to have ANY negative effect on the child or mother. (Emotional/family problems, like babying your son and ignoring your husband, are going to be problems whether extended breastfeeding is present or not, but breastfeeding is always blamed in situations like that.)

I think as always it comes down to personal preference--parents should (and probably do) do what makes them most comfortable, and who are any of us to judge . . . every kid is different and every parent is different, so every parent-kid relationship is unique and has it's own dynamics.

(And if anyone who was present at this conversation reads this, I'm speaking as much to what I thought/felt/said as to what you said, I didn't think anyone was being mean or overly judgmental, it just gave me something to think about!)


Katelynne said...

We have co slept with both of our children with a combination of a side car and just straight bed sharing.

I also believe with the conditions that you mentioned it is very very safe. Whenever someone mentions that cosleeping isn't safe, I always think...then how is the human race still alive? Cosleeping was biologically the infants only shot at survival. In cave man times, a child would have died very quickly if he was forced to sleep "down the hall".

I also think that people who have never done it, don't understand how completely your body adapts. As a breastfeeding mother, I am 100% confident that my body KNOWS where the baby is at all times. I wake up at the mere turn of her head. Even my husband, who is a very sound sleeper, subconcsiously does not move in his sleep whenever there is a baby with us even though I sleep between him and the baby.

Devin said...

We have coslept with both children as well and loved it. I was terrified of it at first with our daughter, but she got incridibly sick (like nose-so-stuffy-she-couldn't-breathe-when-lying-down sick) that I pulled her into bed with me and propped her on my arm so I could tell she was still breathing. It was the only thing that allowed me to get any sleep at all, and it lasted until she was 8 months old. She napped in her crib, but slept with us every night. It was wonderful.

With our son I pulled him into bed with us from the time we got home from the hospital because he was in that stupid biliblanket and I felt like I didn't get any bonding time with him, so co-sleeping (even with the biliblanket) made me feel like we were sort of bonding anyways. We've already transitioned him to the pack 'n play though and my neck and back thank me for it, but I did love co-sleeping.

The only other thing I have to add is that I don't think the US is particularly unsupportive about breastfeeding (I mean it can be, but not exclusively), I think it's just not necessary to breastfeed here as long as it is in some other countries, which is why the average in other countries is so much older before weaning. Here we have less hunger than most other places in the world, so nursing isn't the only means to feed our young children. If nursing was the only way to ensure my child was getting the nutrients he needed I would of course nurse him until he decided he was done with it ... and then I'd push a little longer to try to convince him otherwise. But it isn't as necessary here.

A said...

I used to crawl into my parents bed after a bad dream ALL the time. I always felt safer with them. My parents weren't exactly thrilled about it because I was such a restless and wiggly sleeper and I always ended up kicking them in my sleep. But they were never ashamed by it or anything. It was just part of life!

justadrienne said...

Devin, I agree that there are other nutritional options for toddlers in the US. However, extended breastfeeding provides other benefits that cannot be found anywhere else. If we can afford to give our kids the best, that would be extended breastfeeding. With this said, it's not for all Moms OR babies so whatever but I definitely think that having enough food is not a argument why you SHOULDN'T do it, KWIM?

Devin said...

I also don't think it's an argument for why you SHOULDN'T do it, but it is why it's not *as necessary* in the US as it is elsewhere, which is why the average age for weaning is so much higher in other countries.

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