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You are here: Home > Baby > Parenting

Benefits of the Family Bed

by Jeri Carr
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After the birth of our first baby, her cries of protest at being laid down in her bassinet taught us very fast that she didn't like to sleep alone. My husband and I became zombies from lack of sleep -- one of us would stay up with our baby while the other one slept for a couple hours, and then we'd take turns and on it would go through the night (and she would cry when it was his turn because she wanted mommy and mommy's breasts). Within the first month my husband got sick, and he couldn't help for a couple weeks, so out of necessity I began sleeping with our baby. What a relief!

After a while I started feeling guilty about our sleeping arrangement. Friends and books warned me that I'd be sorry for sleeping with my baby. They painted the bad scenario of a baby who would "never" learn to sleep alone and would become too dependant on mommy and, conversely, if I taught her to sleep alone I'd be giving her a very special gift. As a result, I hardened my heart and let my baby cry alone in her crib. She did start sleeping in her crib for at least part of the night, but one of the sad things is, when she finally did, I slept terribly; I was always going in to check on her to make sure she was still breathing. So much for a good night's sleep!

When I had my next baby I knew better: I didn't expect him to want to sleep alone. I knew that babies crave and need to be close to their mommy. I needed to be with him, too. I've slept with him right from the start, and it is such a joy! I feel secure, and he feels secure, and our whole family sleeps amazingly well.

But am I doing something wrong? Should babies sleep alone in a crib or cradle? Actually, the use of cribs and having babies sleep in separate rooms is cultural and relatively new, and many people believe that babies are not meant to sleep alone. Some people feel that it can be dangerous for a new baby to sleep alone.

Wherever the baby and his parents sleep best is the right arrangement for them, and many parents have found that the best choice for them is the family bed, also known as co-sleeping. Parents all over the world sleep with their children -- even many parents in the USA! It's much more common than one might think, and it's a perfectly normal and loving way to parent your child.

The family bed can benefit the whole family: it provides a loving way for parents to meet their child's needs, and it helps them to get some sleep at the same time. Many newborns crave the security of sleeping next to their mommy, and many mothers also instinctively feel the need to be near their baby.

Co-sleeping helps create good sleeping habits and a positive attitude toward sleep. Newborns are less likely to get day and night confused when they sleep with their mommy. Plus, as a child grows up, his memories of nighttime (and of waking up in the morning, cuddled beside his mamma and daddy) will be pleasant ones -- as will his parents'. Parents who work outside the home may find that they want to be close to their child after having been away. Many parents feel that spending the nighttime hours together helps them "re-connect" and gives much-needed quantity time to their child.

The family bed has many safety benefits. Research suggests that sleeping with your baby reduces the chances of SIDS. Also, mom is more aware of her baby and his needs and can care for him if he gets sick during the night. Baby is right next to her if there is a fire, and mom can protect baby from intruders or anyone who might want to harm her baby.

It also makes breastfeeding easier and more convenient. If a mother sleeps with her baby and nurses throughout the night, it can help boost her milk supply. Laying down during the day with baby and nursing him to sleep can give many opportunities for mother and baby to nap.

What about all the warnings about the family bed my friends and books gave me? "Your child will stay in your bed forever." Or "Your child will be too dependant." "Sleeping with your child is emotional passive abuse." I am convinced that children eventually want to sleep in their own bed and in their own room, and meeting their needs for dependence at an early age will encourage them to have a true, strong independence when they are ready. As parents meet their child's needs, he will grow into independence at his own rate.

My name is Jeri, and I am married to a wonderful man named John. We have two beautiful, wonderful children who have very different personalities. Our daughter is three, and she was a high-need baby (so I understand what moms of babies who cry a lot are going through!). Our son is a happy, content, breastfed baby. I am a stay-at-home mom who practices attachment parenting. You can find out more about me at my website: http://www.geocities.com/~mykidzmom/


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