Saturday, February 17, 2007

Co-sleeping is a dream ...

I'm having very vivid dreams these days, ones that I actually remember when I get up. This must mean that I'm getting a much better quality of sleep. Although Danny isn't sleeping through the night, our sleeping arrangements are helping us all get better rest.

For part of the night, Danny is in his crib. I'm reluctant to wake him and bring him to our bed when we retire for the night. I want to give him the chance to sleep for long periods of time if he's so inclined. So I wait until he wakes up for a night feeding to bring him to our bed. That means I have to get up only once. The rest of the night I am barely awake when he nurses. I've got to believe this is the way nature intended nighttime parenting. The notion that an infant, who has spent nine months nestled inside his mother, should sleep in a crib away from his mother came about only in the past century. As always, I ask, "Who stands to benefit from this arrangement?"

Certainly not the mother, who is forced from her warm bed several times a night to care for an infant. Certainly not the infant, who wakes in a panic several times a night to find himself alone in a bed surrounded by bars. Certainly not the father, who is likely awoken each time by the crying infant. When Danny is in our bed, he rarely cries in the night. I'm convinced that new parents are exhausted because of their sleeping arrangements. It seems unreasonable to expect an infant to sleep all alone. And why should he? The adults in the house get to sleep with a partner.

Here's a clue as to who benefits from this arrangement. A recent national campaign warning parents against co-sleeping was backed by the Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association - an association of crib manufacturers. They support their claims of co-sleeping dangers with misleading information. They try to convince parents that all co-sleeping is bad because some babies have died. In reality, more babies have died in cribs from SIDS than have died in adult beds. During an eight-year period in the 1990s, there were 65 cases of non-SIDS accidental death each year in a bed, and about 4,250 cases of actual SIDS occurred overall each year. And while the SIDS deaths are, by definition, unexplained, infant deaths in adult beds can be explained. Most are the result of drunk or drugged parents smothering the infant or of the infant being unsupervised.

There is a safe way to co-sleep and most pediatricians, Dr. Sears included, advise parents on how to do so safely. The knee-jerk reaction that all co-sleeping is dangerous cuts parents off from their instincts - and puts more money into crib manufacturers' pockets. I choose to follow my instincts. Right now, the baby needs to be near me at night. In fact, if he's not close enough, he inches, rolls, squirms and fusses his way over until he's close enough. So for now, I'm tailoring my expectations to his needs. For me to expect him to sleep on his own puts too much stress on all of us.

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