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.

Extreme Parents and co-sleeping

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.

Author

Maria Lianos-Carbone is Publisher/Editor of amotherworld. Follow her on Twitter @amotherworld and @lifeandtravelca.

26 Comments

  1. Wow, they had a hard time finding familites to talk about co-sleeping? I’ve been sleeping with my kids since the day they were born! My 5 year old and my 3 year old fall asleep in my bed. Then I move my 5 year old to his (queen sized) bed, and my husband sleeps with him, and I share my bed with my 3 year old, even though he has his own double bed in his room. They love sleeping with us, and I’m not going to change this until I’m ready to change this! I love co-sleeping. Our kids grow up so fast as it is, you know? I do wish the process to get them to sleep didn’t take hours, though – some nights I don’t make it out of my room until 10 p.m. so I can get my work done!

    • Thanks Loukia. I figure they’ll sleep in their own beds all throught the night eventually. I enjoy it too much to fight it.

  2. You & hubby sound like you know what your talking about when it cones to your kids. These “specialists” are special alright. Everyone is different you have to do what makes you & your family happy & comfortable & if co-sleeping is it, then it is. I don’t see what the big deal is. I didn’t co-sleep but it has never been ruled out. It’s a way your kids know they can be independent but mom & dad are just a bed away! 🙂

  3. Whatever works so that everyone is sleeping – as long as it’s safe – is what each family should do. Different strokes for different folks. I have a different view on co-sleeping. I do it, but I don’t like it. That point of view might make an interesting third part to this hey? hahaha 🙂

    • Yes Sandy! It does – I have to address this is my post because my husband is complaining about it now…

  4. I wish I could go back and have a do-over. I would not have been so worried about my son sleeping in his own crib. We spent many an hour on his floor beside his crib because he wanted us. Why the hell didn’t we just move him into our bed? Crazy. He now regularly crawls into our bed and at night and I love the snuggles. He feels so safe and secure with me/us. My daughter has always been an independent sleeper and only wants a short cuddle, but my son? Snuggle bug (at night). They’re opposite during the day. Weirdos.

    And ya, the “expert” they had? Obviously had an agenda with the story.

    • Haha kids can be so independent and yet still want those snuggles 🙂

  5. Alexandria Reply

    There were PLENTY of times I complained about having Story in our bed when she was younger and I felt like it would never end. My parents told us we had “spoiled” her, other people thought we were nuts, and I was tired of getting headbutted nightly. But when she got older, I gained perspective – time flew. So now with Mason, we cherish the time they want to snuggle us. It’s great bonding for the kids, too.

    And really, assuming babies and children are safe, is any parenting decision really anyone else’s business?

    Sandy, I’d love to hear the perspective of a disgruntled cosleeper. 😀

    Thanks for posting my article, Maria!

  6. Every family is different, every child is different. I don’t know how one “expert” can jumble children up into a single group and say something your doing is wrong. My oldest co-slept, my youngest didn’t. I supplied them with what they needed, as individuals. My oldest still wants to snuggle at bed time, and falls asleep within minutes of those snuggles. If he wakes up, he crawls into our bed and I usually go on the couch, our bed isn’t that big 🙂 My youngest you can drop him in his crib and he falls asleep in minutes. He likes his own space…not much of a snuggle bug.

  7. My daughter regularly crawled into bed with me until the time she was around 8 years old. I miss those days!!!
    There wasn’t anything ‘needy’ about it and she had/has absolutely no ‘separation anxiety’ to speak of. Sometimes she had a bad dream but most times she just wanted to snuggle with Mom. Personally, I take all the snuggling I get 🙂
    People sure do have their hang ups.

  8. Karina Tano Reply

    I had the same experience as you within our extended family. I was berated by relatives saying I was spoiling him and if I was “going to be one of those granola moms”.

    I tried co-sleeping out of sheer laziness. The thought of having to get up every time Max wanted to eat was too much for me so we co-slept until he thrashed around so much and was getting annoyed by us that we put him in his own bed regularly. To this day, if he is fussy and seems to need us we put him in our bed for a good family sleep.

    Good for you for going on TV and showing other moms & families that co-sleeping can work for a family and that sex and co-sleeping can co-exist… 😛

  9. I think these parents are satisfying a need for themselves more than for their children. I think this is a classic co-dependency scenario. You can sugar coat it however you want; “kids are sleeping fine”, “more snuggles”, etc. but sleeping in your bed doesnt mean you love them more and I think the long term effects havent yet been felt by these parents. I think I want my child to grow up confident and independent at these tender ages they don’t know the difference between good habits and bad, the routines you teach them will stick with them for life and this sets a habit in motion for dependency and reliance. I will side with the “expert” any day over the parents with there unresolved and limited (2 children under 5??) sample set.

  10. Alexandria Reply

    jovo, I’ve read and reread all the comments on this piece and for the life of me, I’m failing to see where anyone said they love their children “more” because they cosleep. What you’ve misunderstood is that the families here are not defending nor inflating the reasons for cosleeping. It’s something they (we) have chosen or fallen into and it’s not because of a feeling that it’s going to help develop kids into superior beings. Much like a decision to discipline in different ways, this is another parenting option, that’s all.

    I can tell you this: what I would absolutely not want for my child to grow into is someone with an opinion they have sadly mistaken as fact, or an attitude of superiority not supported by factual evidence. How embarrassing!

    Wouldn’t that be terrible?

  11. Alexandria Reply

    I’d like to reiterate another point, too: cosleeping is prevalent in many (MANY) other societies and has been “practiced” through the world for generations. It’s only been in recent years that the idea of having children have separate beds and rooms has been common.

    Are those who are opposed to cosleeping suggesting that the children in other cultures are raised to be co-depentdent adults with “bad” habits of reliance?

    And another point to raise: as an adult, do you sleep next to a spouse? Why?

  12. First of all, the title of the piece was called “Extreme Parenting” – as if sleeping with your kids is something completely abnormal, secondly they had NO other professionals – no child psychologists, no pediatricians, no childcare workers, no one – to balance out the opinion of their “expert”. No matter how light and airy the interviews with the parents seemed – the final product makes me think they went into this not to tell a story, or to represent both sides fairly, but to give their opinion on the subject, and I’m disappointed in them.
    I’m glad your rebuttal is getting attention – I hope someone who was involved in producing that segment sees it.

    jovo – you must be trolling. your comment is completely illogical. i don’t co-sleep either, in fact neither my kid nor i, nor my husband can stand it. but i co-slept with my mother until i was quite old, nearly 10. that was just what our sleeping arrangements were like. I was fine sleeping on my own as well, and i grew up to be a pretty well rounded individual. there is a world outside of what you do with your kids, and like alex said – there’s a whole world where families still share beds and THEIR kids grow up fully functional too. don’t talk to me about sample sets when you have obviously not even considered that.

  13. We are a more often than not co-sleeping family of 3 and soon to be 4. We didn’t intend to co-sleep… I actually said no babies in the bed when I was pregnant with my 1st. But he wouldn’t sleep unless he was in my arms, so the only way to get ANY sleep was together. So we just did what worked for us. He’s almost 2.5 now and starts off in his own bed and joins us when/if he wants to, and sometimes he’ll stay in his own bed all night. We didn’t push him to do this, or implement any routine or training. Sleeping through the night happened on his own time, because it wasn’t a battle I felt like having. How can you argue with a 2yo who rolls over and touches your face while your putting him to bed and says, “I like to sleep with you Mama”?

    Do I think co-sleeping is better or more beneficial than not co-sleeping or vice-versa? No. You just do what works for you and your kiddo(s). Do I love co-sleeping? Certainly not every night. Do I want to fight about sleep in the middle of the night? No. Do I plan to co-sleep with my 2nd? Well, we’ll just see what works for us. Every child is different.

    I think for those of you out there who do co-sleep either by choice or by circumstance you’ll enjoy this read. Finally someone has something positive to say about it…

  14. To me the word “extreme” is exactly that extreme. Parents try to do what is best and works best in their family situation. To make “blanket” statements about co-sleeping makes little sense as each family is different.
    I think that many people are concerned about safety for the baby and privacy for the parents…if you are dealing with these issues then do what is working for you and your family. Enjoy your children they are only small for a very short time.

  15. I don’t co-sleep, nor did I ever want to but I don’t consider it extreme parenting. It’s just different than the choices I’ve made. I think this whole idea of extreme parenting needs to stop. I’d rather parents support each other than labeling. Your choices may not be the same as mine, but is either of us wrong? No! Parenting decisions are not and never will be one size fits all. Many parents know that. Now I wish the rest would figure it out and maybe then we can all ignore the criticism in the media and from the “experts”.

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  17. Pingback: Co-sleeping – we chose it or it chose us…anyway, it’s what we do « andmybaby

  18. We share a family bed with my 17 month old and have been cosleeping since she we came back from the hospital. I coslept with my parents till I was 5 and then my sister and I slept in the same bed. I am from a different culture and I am psycologically very intact and a very independent person.
    Call it attachment/extreme parenting or anything fancy, but in my culture, its normal parenting and there is nothing wrong with it. I am sure 10 years from now, the “expert” doctors will eat their own words.
    A parent who cosleeps is more aware of their child’s needs.

  19. Interesting point, Ltlstar, about doctors eating their words. When I was an infant, the rule was to put babies to sleep ONLY on their tummies. My mom recalls the fear of finding me on my back! And now, we’re told it’s “back to sleep” only, to reduce SIDS.

    Interesting how the medical profession changes their ideas over time, isn’t it?

  20. I am so interested in cosleeping. We tried it and honestly could NOT make it work. I laid awake terrified of rolling on my baby… when I sleep I am a HUGE tosser/turner, so having to think about a wee one in the bed was just nerve-wracking! We did have him sleep right next to the bed in a bassinet tho until 6 months. We tried to cosleep a few other times, when he was bigger and I wasn’t afraid of smooshing him, but by that point he could move around and putting him in our bed just signalled “play” to him and he would immediately romp and laugh and generally NOT sleep! LOL. So… I sorta wish I got in on all those sleepy snuggle actions, but I guess it wasn’t mean to be for me! 🙂

  21. Journalists in large media like CNN rarely get to choose their experts,rather the expert is chosen by a sponsor with a specific agenda that slants the story in their desired direction.

    I would like to know if the parents were informed of the journalistic slant or not.

    If the people who were willing to discuss their co-sleeping behaviour on CNN were not previously informed of the journalstic slant -then they were set up. If this is the case, then CNN may find iit increasingly difficult to find anyone willing to be their targets.

    If they were informed of the journalistic slant, then CNN is working one of the oldest tricks in the book -Want to gain readers’ attention? Pick a fight woth the biggest target you can find.

  22. I don’t understand the controversy at all. My daughters and I share a bed (ages 3 & 6). They have their own beds, but they’d rather sleep with me, which is fine. My husband finds the family bed a little crowded and sleeps in one of the girls’ beds. My friends all think I’m a loon, but it doesn’t bother me.

    I know that someday, my kids will want their own space, and they know they are welcome to that whenever they want. Once in a while, my 6-year-old sleeps on the couch in the living room.

    I just don’t get the hangup about who sleeps where. There are so many other patenting issues worthy of discussion; this one just seems like a non-issue to me.

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