Co-sleeping – the ultimate parenting taboo?

Our mostly ornamental cot.

Our mostly ornamental cot.

I make no secret of the fact that I co-sleep with my daughter. It’s not something we’ve done since birth, nor was it a conscious parenting decision, but here we are, co-sleeping.

When I found out I was pregnant, I already had some ideas about how I wanted to parent my baby. I knew that I wanted to breastfeed and that I wanted her to be surrounded by books and music. I knew that I wanted to be a stay at home mum until she reached school age and that I didn’t want to leave her in the care of strangers at daycare.

I had been told at birth classes that co-sleeping was dangerous and not recommended due to increased risk of SIDS, so I never considered that my baby would sleep anywhere other than her bassinet and then cot. What my birth coach failed to mention, due to hospital policy I’m sure, is that there are many benefits of co-sleeping, which I would soon work out for myself.

Initially, Little Chop slept swaddled and warm in her bassinet in the lounge room by day and by my side of the bed at night. Night time feedings were in the lounge room – she would feed and drift back to sleep and we would return to our close but separate beds. The temperate summer climate made leaving the warmth of the bed easier, and I was an eager new mum, doing things by the book.

Four months later the temperature had dropped, Little Chop no longer wanted to be swaddled, and her night time feeding schedule had left me feeling beyond exhausted. My ‘getting baby to sleep’ technique had gone out the window and she was wriggling and writhing, fussing and screaming, and definitely not napping in her cot. So during the day, I would lay down with her in my bed and she would drift quietly off to sleep. Hallelujah!

During the cold Winter nights, I would bring Little Chop into the bed to feed, then return her to the cot when she had fallen back to sleep. Until one night, out of sheer exhaustion, I fell asleep with her still in the bed. I woke up in a panic, “Shit! What have I done? Is she breathing? How could I let myself fall asleep with my precious daughter in the bed!” – she was warm, comfortable and sleeping soundly. Once I had crossed that bridge, it became a regular occurrence. Little Chop would begin the night in her bed and wake up in mine. After a month or so, Hubby moved into the spare room and Little Chop moved in with me. She was happy, I was getting more sleep and we weren’t trudging to the cold lounge room for nightly feeds.

In the end, co-sleeping, was something that happened organically for us because it complemented other parenting decisions I had made – to have my baby sleep in my bedroom, to breastfeed on demand, to practise attachment parenting. I am now in the process of weaning Little Chop as I am pregnant again, but we continue to co-sleep because I don’t believe in ‘cry it out’ or ‘controlled crying’ sleep training methods.

It’s widely reported that co-sleeping is unsafe, but I have never felt that I was putting my daughter in danger. I don’t drink and don’t smoke, I’m not overweight and not a heavy sleeper. If you don’t meet all these conditions, co-sleeping is definitely not the safest sleeping arrangement for your baby.

Since opening up to my friends and family about co-sleeping with my daughter, I have found that EVERY breastfeeding mum I know, plus one bottle feeding mum, has co-slept or currently co-sleeps with her baby, making up more than half the mums I know! Co-sleeping is a common practise around the world, especially in Asian countries, and in recent studies, about two thirds of the American and English families who participated said that they had co-slept with their children.

So next time you feel judged for co-sleeping with your child, remember, it’s not taboo, its normal.

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9 thoughts on “Co-sleeping – the ultimate parenting taboo?

  1. I agree, it’s such a natural thing to do, I live in Thailand, (originally from Australia) and it’s frowned upon to leave the baby sleeping alone in a cot! In fact, finding a good quality cot here is expensive and difficult to come by.. not that it’s an issue as we plan on co-sleeping as well when our little one arrives.
    Looking forward to reading more of your blog and feel free to check out the give away that I’m currently running.
    How far along are you in your second pregnancy? All the best! 🙂

    • Hi! Yes, I think that we should be taught how to co-sleep safetly rather than being told not to do it at all. So many of us do it but we don’t discuss it, especially with medical professionals because we fear being reprimanded! Good luck with the arrival of your baby. Is it your first? I’m 17 wks with baby no.2. Thanks for checking out my blog 🙂

  2. I think it all comes down to personal choice and what works for you. We didn’t co-sleep but if I was in your situation of not sleeping I would definately have given it a try. Anything to get the little buggers to sleep!

  3. I have been happily surprised to hear just how many mothers decide to (or end up) co-sleeping! It’s not the unsafe thing that they make it out to be. What’s interesting to me is that so many of us feel (or have felt) like we can’t admit we do it because it’s frowned upon – this shouldn’t be the case! I love blogging because the truth of how we living our lives comes out. 😀 Did you see this post? http://atlantamomofthree.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/what-do-you-think-co-sleeping/ The responses are a high percentage of co-sleepers!

  4. I agree it comes down to personal choice (who cares about the many taboo’s of parenting! I swear the list is endless…) If it works for you then thats great:) My lil man likes his own space so he prefers his own cot however if its a rough night, he sleeps better with mama next to him in my bed.

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