Sleep, or lack thereof, is one of the hardest parenting issues to navigate. Everyone has an opinion, and you're likely to get conflicting advice on everything from how to swaddle to when baby should nap to whether sleep training is a form of child abuse or an absolute necessity.
And if you decide to consider co-sleeping (sometimes also referred to as bedsharing), you'll hear even more advice, most of which will be intertwined with myths that can't actually be proven.
The Myth: Co-sleeping is always dangerous.
The Truth: Co-sleeping can be dangerous when safety isn't taken into consideration. (For the record, so can crib sleeping.) The AAP even specifically recommends against bedsharing. But many parents still do it, and there are experts who believe that — when safety guidelines are followed — co-sleeping can be safe and beneficial for both parent and child.
If you're planning to give bedsharing a try, check out the work of of Dr. James McKenna. The Director of the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory at Notre Dame and author of the book Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent's Guide to Cosleeping, is an expert on the subject, and all bedsharing parents should be familiar with his Safe Cosleeping Guidelines.
The Myth: If you bring kids into your bed, they'll never leave.
The Truth: Just because you let your children share your bed when they're babies doesn't mean they'll still be there when they're starting junior high. New parents receive lots of advice about
"creating bad habits," but the truth is that we as parents can make changes and create new routines any time we wish.
Some parents choose to co-sleep only in the early months to make breastfeeding easier, while others insist that the family bed allows for better sleep and choose to continue through the toddler and pre-school years. The good news? None of these kids ever had to come home from college so they could climb into bed with their parents.
The Myth: Co-sleeping ruins your sex life.
The Truth: Reality check — more than likely it's having that baby in the first place that killed the romance. And honestly, if having a baby in your bed really has put a damper on your sex life, then maybe you and partner didn't have such a great one to begin with.
Keep in mind that there are many other rooms — and surfaces — in your home. A baby or child in your bed just means you need to get creative. If anything, co-sleeping will shake up your hum-drum routine and force you and your partner to communicate and work together to find the quality "alone time" you both crave.
The Myth: Co-sleeping is rare.
The Truth: Because co-sleeping is sometimes considered taboo, many parents won't admit to the practice. But according to a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development survey in the year 2000, 13% of U.S. infants are routinely co-sleeping with an adult. Nearly 50% share their parent's bed for at least part of the night.
It's also important to note that mothers and babies have been sharing sleep for centuries, and still do in many parts of the world. Baby monitors are a fairly modern — and distinctly Western — phenomenon.
The Myth: Co-sleeping prevents independence.
The Truth: The opposite is, in fact, true. We hear a lot about teaching infants to "self-soothe," and how we need to send older children back to their own beds when they show up in ours seeking comfort in the middle of the night. But research has shown that kids who are securely attached and get their needs met are actually MORE independent than their insecurely attached counterparts.
Sometimes, your baby — or your two year-old — just needs you. You, on the other hand, probably just need sleep. If you're co-sleeping, both needs can be met simultaneously. And therein lies the beauty of it.
Note: Co-sleeping is a controversial issue. If you're interested in sharing a bed with your baby, please do your research and be sure that you are following all the necessary safety guidelines.