We are the only mammals that push our babies out of the "nest" at birth.
This baby has been inside me for almost a year, why would I want to be so separated from it as soon as it's outside my body? I have had a sheepskin that all my five children have slept on as babies on my right side in the family bed. They can smell, feel and see you, and night feeds couldn't be easier, I simply roll over and in our semi-conscious states find each other. How can you describe the feeling of waking up and looking straight at the smiling face of your baby that has been watching you and waking gently?
There is not more of a joy that I have found in my years of parenting than sleeping with my babies. Feeling them close to me, hearing their breathing and nursing without fully waking. Seeing them wake every morning so happy to be right there with you.
Harvard psychiatrist Michael Commons and his colleagues recently presented the American Association for the Advancement of Science with research that suggests that babies who sleep alone are more susceptible to stress disorders.
The Commons report states that when babies are left alone to cry themselves to sleep, levels of Cortisol, a stress hormone, are elevated. Commons suggests that the constant stimulation of cortisol in infancy causes physical changes in the brain. "It makes you more prone to the effects of stress, more prone to illness, including mental illness and makes it harder to recover from illness", he concludes. In his book on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Paediatrician William Sears cites co-sleeping as a proactive measure parents can take to reduce the risk of this tragedy.
Notre Dame anthropology professor and leading sleep researcher, James McKenna has long held that babies who sleep with their mothers enjoy greater immunilogical benefits from breastfeeding because they nurse twice as often as their counterparts who sleep alone.
McKenna's research shows that babies who sleep with parents spend less time in Level III sleep, a state of deep sleep when the risk of apneas are increased. Further, co-sleeping babies learn to imitate healthy breathing patterns from their bunkmates.
Every scientific study of infant sleep confirms that babies benefit from co-sleeping. Not one shred of evidence exists to support the widely held notion that co-sleep is detrimental to the physiological or physical health of infants.
American studies show children who sleep with their parents are more independent than their peers. They perform better in school, having higher self-esteem and fewer health problems. After all, who is more likely to be well adjusted-the child who learns that his needs will be met or the one who is left alone for long periods of time? McKenna suggest that it is confusing for a baby who receives cuddles during the day, while also being taught that the same behaviour is inappropriate at night.
Richard Feber's best selling book on infant sleep is frighteningly misdirected and offers absolutely no scientific grounds for it's thesis. He suggests the best way to solve your child's "sleep problems" is to isolate them in another room, shut the door and let them cry for ten minutes without interruption. Then parents may enter the room and verbally soothe the baby, but are warned against making any physical contact with their baby. Shortly after, they are advised to leave the infant to cry for another timed interval.
Many parents argue that they have tried "Feberising" their baby and enjoyed great success with the technique.
Indeed, the infant may stop crying and learn to go to sleep on his own, but this is a short-term pay off for parents. The baby has not suddenly discovered quiet content. He is simply exhausted from his futile efforts to be nurtured. Fifteen years later, these same parents shrug their shoulders and wonder why their kids are shutting them out. Most sleep disorders are not biologically based, but rather, created by well-intended parents. Making oneself available by intercom is simply not meeting the nightime needs of an infant.
Though co-sleeping is common in most parts of the world, many UK parents would not consider it because they fear it will cause them sleep deprivation. Every scientific study concludes that parents who bring their babies
A few parents do experience difficulty sleeping with a baby in their bed. For them a "side-car" or bedside sleeper is an ideal way to meet their needs for sleep and their babies need for co-sleep. Keeping a cot or Moses basket in the parent's room is another option. A "Family Bed" is not for everyone, but creative solutions for co-sleep are abundant in our consumer-friendly culture.
The most common question co-sleepers are asked is about maintaining a sexual relationship with one's partner. The answer is simple. Go someplace the baby is not. Enough said.
For those who consider unlimited access to their sexual partner more important than meeting the needs of their baby, cat ownership is a wonderful alternative to parenthood. You can just toss a bowl of Go Cat on the floor and frolic around the house whenever the mood hits you. Co-sleeping is not right for everyone. Heavy drinkers and drug addicts should avoid sleeping with their babies. Of course, these people should probably avoid parenthood all together.
If scientific research consistently demonstrates that co-sleeping offers tremendous benefits for babies, and has no deleterious effects, it's time Britons join the global majority and parent our babies 24 hours a day.
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