by Alexandria Durrell
We were recently interviewed by CNN regarding our family’s practice of cosleeping. What’s cosleeping? Exactly what it sounds like: we share our sleeping space with the kids. Sometimes it’s all four of us in one bed, sometimes we split off and it’s one parent per kid. Apparently CNN had a difficult time finding families willing to discuss their sleeping arrangements on camera. Why? Because it’s a controversial topic, apparently. Health Canada advises against cosleeping with infants (instead of supporting safe cosleeping), people encourage parents to (as quickly as possible) get kids into their cribs, in their own rooms and “professional” nannies tell us we’re spoiling our children and setting ourselves up for parental failure by sharing a bed with the kids. But here’s how I see things:
Cosleeping isn’t new. Around the world, people have been cosleeping for thousands of years and in many other cultures, it’s just common practice. Though my family prescribes to many of the activities that can be lumped in with “attachment parenting”, choosing to let the kids share our bed wasn’t a conscious decision. We needed sleep, they slept better nestled in our bed… it seemed like the most obvious choice. We were never those stereotypical sleep-deprived, zombie parents of newborns. I found it very easy to breastfeed the kids without disrupting my sleep, and the babies slept soundly near us. There are, of course, safety precautions that must be in place to make this a safe option, and we obviously implemented those. And as my daughter got older, she enjoyed her snuggle time, but then at about age three, chose to have a big girl room of her own.
In the segment CNN aired, three families were shown who cosleep, and one “expert”, Dr. Shapiro. In his moment on air, he said that cosleeping with children over the age of 2 can be “psychologically damaging” because they are not being given “what they need, from the child’s perspective”. Pardon? I’d love to know Dr. Shapiro’s sources for such an outrageous claim. Is he insinuating that children in other cultures are psychologically damaged? Less confident? Less independent? My four-year-old is happy to sleep on her own, but also absolutely loves being snuggled at night. She is independent, confident, intellectually advanced…what more could I really want? It’s my experience that both our kids show great independence, confidence and we’ve had no separation anxiety issues – and I thank cosleeping for that. My personal experience directly contradicts Dr. Shapiro’s “expert” opinion.
Now, I realize that for many people the big deal-breaker with co-sleeping is that it seems like having a child in your bed limits sex. I know that’s what you’re thinking. But I have a second child, so how did that happen? I’ll address is more directly here than I did on air: we have sex in other parts of the house. There. I said it. At other times, in other places. Not everyone goes to bed, has sex, and then goes to sleep. (*gasp*, I know, scandalous, right?)
So now that you know my children are happy, independent and continue to choose to sleep snuggled up to a parent, and my husband and I still get it on, what’s the big deal? Why is this so controversial? We don’t judge parents whose kids sleep in their own cribs/beds/rooms. We don’t actually care what you do in your house. We chose what worked for our family, and we’re proud of our choices.
Our kids are little for such a short amount of time, I just can’t fathom not taking every possible chance to snuggle up to them.
There’s nothing ‘extreme’ about it.
Alexandria Durrell is a supermom to two delightful wee peeps by day (and night, who are we kidding?). She started the popular kids’ accessories company Clippo. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter.
This is Part One of a series… stay tuned for Maria Lianos’s take on co-sleeping and the benefits of co-sleeping.