It was just brought to my attention that New York State has an entire campaign dedicated to the dangers of co-sleeping. What the fuck. Could this be any more idiotic and wrongheaded?
They have an entire webpage, entitled, “Babies sleep safest alone,” that pretty much misleads parents, in my opinion. While the page correctly states that co-sleeping can be dangerous, they fail to make clear that it is only considered dangerous in some very specific circumstances. In fact, parents can co-sleep with they children perfectly safely if they follow some easy (and pretty logical) rules. (See this page, from La Leche League, that lists the ways to co-sleep safely).
Here are some of problems that are caused by the above campaign:
- The webpage for the campaign actually seems to group the danger of SIDS with supposed (but wrong) presumptions that co-sleeping is dangerous. This is completely wrong and misleading. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that responsible co-sleeping with infants can actually reduce the rates of SIDS.
- Speaking of reducing rates of SIDS, breastfeeding also reduces the chance of your baby dying of SIDS. And what action can parents take at night to help their breastfeeding relationship? Co-sleeping! Of course, many breastfeeding parents successfully nurse their children and do not co-sleep. But many parents do find that co-sleeping has many benefits in terms of breastfeeding: helping the mother to breastfeed frequently during the night with little sleep interruption (and thereby helping to support a good milk supply), helping parents and babies to continue to be in touch with each other during the night, and making the baby feel safe and secure.
- The campaign missed the big picture. They fail to mention the many benefits of co-sleeping, while only mentioning the dangers. Many experts, including Dr. Sears, have pointed out the many benefits of co-sleeping, and how the scientific data does not, in fact, show a real danger to babies from the practice.
- They ignore thousands and thousands of years of human history. Human mothers have been sleeping next to their babies for quite some time now. If we look at the link from Dr. Sears mentioned above, we can see how it makes sense physiologically, how it probably helped (and still helps) human infants survive. Isn’t it obvious that hubris is at work when a bunch of crib manufacturers and a few government officials (from a western country that just happens to have a terrible rate of neonatal mortality and a skyrocketing cesarean rate) decide that they should wipe away millions of years of mother-child instinct?
- They assume that all parents are idiots, who either don’t care about their babies or are too stupid to follow a very short list of rules for safe co-sleeping. I admit it – I have met a few bad parents out there. Some parents really do not seem to care about their kids very much. But even though many parents are different than me, I’m working on the assumption that most parents actually do care about their kids and want them to be safe and happy. I’d wager that most parents are perfectly capable of following a few simple suggestions on how to co-sleep safely. When the government uses erroneous information and fear-mongering to force all parents to stop co-sleeping, then we all lose out. Even the good parents are filled with misplaced fear.
If you would like to co-sleep with your baby, read this link to learn how to do it safely: Sleeping Safely With Your Baby. It’s not neuroscience. If you can learn how to drive or how to use a stove safely, you can learn to co-sleep in safety. My husband has told me on more than one occasion how much he enjoys waking up in the morning and seeing one of our lovely children crawling over to him in bed. I agree – co-sleeping rocks.