This is so tiring: Warnings against co-sleeping are misleading and inflammatory

Today I received a Tweet from MomLogic:

@momlogic WARNING: Co-sleeping with your baby can be deadly http://tinyurl.com/cqkffb
I wanted to scream.

First of all co-sleeping is when a parent sleeps in the same room or a close distance from their baby in a separate sleeping area such as a crib, bassinet, or "co-sleeper." Bed sharing, on the other hand is exactly what it sounds like: a parent and infant share a bed.

Secondly, infant deaths by smothering, are most commonly attributed to unsafe bed sharing practices. Not simply by sharing a bed. For instance, smoking, drinking, and using drugs by the parents increases the chances of infant death. Having unsafe bedding, mattress firmness, and bed position also increase chances of a tragic accident. On top of all that, you have to be careful of what the baby's wearing: are there ties and strings? Is she going to over heat?? And only the parents should sleep with baby. Not grandma or Uncle Brad.

And lastly, it gets me really going to see hundreds of titles of research, articles, etc. stating that sharing a bed is what has caused higher levels of infant deaths by smothering. Because the truth is experts have altered the definition of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), clarified it, and therefore have begun to count what would have been a SIDS death 10 years ago as a death by smothering due to bed sharing. Yet again another example of shifting data that no one seems to care to point out.

The Mom Logic article is inflammatory, sensational, and deliberately trying to scare parents out of doing something that is, when done responsibly, a safe, loving, and bonding experience. Parents sleep with their infants for many different reasons, from helping to prevent SIDS to economic and space reasons (no money or space for a separate sleeping area) to cultural preferences. Since the "rise" in bed sharing deaths lately, parents who are trying to protect their little ones or simply be closer to them are being frightened into placing their babies in a crib.

I want to freaking puke sometimes when I think about how goddamned muddled we've made everything about parenting and birthing. Who the hell are these people who say you aren't supposed to comfort your child when he cries? Who say breastfeeding isn't critical? Who say breastfeeding is obscene? Who say that birth is better controlled than allowed to run its course? Who say your baby is spoiled because you answer her cries?

And I know the article didn't mention any of those things, but in my mind, they're all tied up together with this pregnancy-birth-and-parenting-should-be-orderly-tidy-easy-and-predictable-stinking-bow. We are practically brainwashed from the time we know what a baby is that they should be independent, not "spoiled", self-soothing, and whatever else we want in an ADULT.

God forbid that you want to be close to your tiny little baby who was JUST INSIDE OF YOU. And now we have the freaking American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) telling everyone to not bed share becauase it's dangerous!

Anthropologist James McKenna, director of Notre Dame’s Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory and a renowned expert on infant co-sleeping, breast-feeding and (SIDS) says, “Without a full understanding of what it meant to dismantle an age-old integrated biological system … that is, infants sleeping on their backs, to breastfeed, next to their mothers, Western medical science created the conditions within which hundreds of thousands of babies died from SIDS. The AAP now seems set on perpetuating aspects of this tragedy by assuming that American parents, in contrast to mothers everywhere in the world, are uneducable as to how to lay safely next to their infants to successfully breastfeed, nurture and sleep with their infants. It is not bed-sharing that is dangerous but how it is practiced. The AAP chose not to be forthcoming about this important distinction.”

Right on, dude! I couldn't have said it better myself.

In almost every single article I've read about a smothering incident the babies have been on a couch, a recliner, or in an unsafe bed situation. I've never read, "A baby died yesterday in what can only be described as an extremely safe sleeping area, wearing appropriate clothing, and whose parents are sober and non-smoking." Never.

Peggy O'Mara of Mothering Magazine writes,

And yet, the gold standard for infant sleep is an approved crib. According to controversial research conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year 60 babies die in adult beds—but most of these babies are alone. On the other hand, 900 babies die each year in cribs, and in the last 25 years there have been 36 recalls of cribs. Does this mean that cribs are unsafe? No. It means that babies sometimes die at night.
And please don't think I blame the parents whose babies were lost. It breaks my heart to hear a baby has died due to smothering or unsafe sleeping conditions. I can't imagine the pain and remorse that man or woman must feel, the gut wrenching, awful sight before them. It's truly horrific.

The media and experts attempting to scare the rest of us out of bed sharing are doing a disservice to natural parenting, to the gut instinct of a plugged-in parent who can offer a kind touch, monitor their baby throughout the night, and who can tend to his needs with ease. And they're doing a disservice to the millions of parents out there who need to be better educated about better bed sharing practices because they're unable to do anything but share a sleeping space with their infant.

These articles are stripping away a parent's intuition down to a sum of its parts, and like the nutrients in an apple, they are each crucial and mysterious. We can't simply say, "Here eat some vitamin C, it's as good as an apple," and so we also can't say, "Separate from your baby, it's as good as sleeping together."

I think it's cruel and unfair to use the loss of other people's children to advocate for something that goes against the mothering and fathering practices of most of this planet for most of humankind. I don't think anyone should be scaring parents out of a practice which may come very naturally to them, such as bed sharing. It may not be something some parents even want to try, so bully for them, but for those parents who do, they should be supported, not dissuaded.

And for the record, I bed-shared and co-slept with Hawk and moved him into his own room at 6-months where he began sleeping more soundly than he did next to me. Until he was in his own room, he was always by my side or an arm's reach away in the co-sleeper. Now that he's in his own room, the baby monitor is always turned up and I am an extremely light sleeper and can hear every tremor, exhalation, and rustle. I'm neither a bed-sharer-till-the-next-baby-arrives, nor a baby-down-the-hall type, but sorta in the middle.


  1. Thanks so much for visiting my blog!!!

  2. I tend to agree with you. Sure, there are worries, but there are worries with leaving your baby in his or her crib while we parents are sleeping in our own beds. No matter what, having a baby is scary on so many levels. I think if it makes parents feel better to have their babies close, more power to them!
    I am following your blog now :) Very good writing & information!
    Kelly :0)

  3. I bed shared for primarily selfish reasons, but I totally enjoyed and did it with all three of my dudes. I think it's a personal preference and after losing a sister to SIDS, I'm well aware of the dangers, but decided that it was the right thing for my family. Way to let 'em have it, though:)

  4. Fantastic post.
    That is really bad article, to say the least.
    My oldest son slept in the Arms Reach Co-Sleeper in our room until he was 6 months old. Then we moved him to his room, and he slept in his crib. I had a floor mattress in his room that I often slept on. Then we got him his big boy bed when he was 2, right before baby number 2 arrived. When baby number arrived, he again slept in the co-sleeper beside me until he was 5 months old. Then to his crib. And every single night, at one point, he will wake up, and I bring him to my room, and he sleeps beside me in my bed. My husband goes to our oldest son's queen size beds and sleeps there. I love sleeping with my baby boy. And I'm safe about. It's the nicest feeling ever and both my boys sleep so soundly when I'm sleeping beside them. We should not be scared to do what is so natural.

  5. I find the fear-mongering and the judgmental parenting to be exhausting and exasperating. I totally agree that there is a safe way to bed-share and co-sleep. And after a scary episode with this last baby that I discovered when his breathing stoppage woke me up in the middle of the night, I am a big believer in the benefits of having baby close by. He is now 7 months and happily ensconced in his crib (finally sleeping through), but I wouldn't trade those 6.5 months of having him in my arms all night for anything.

  6. First I have to say, I'm thrilled that you've continued your blog in the direction of standing up for what you believe in rather then worrying what other people think.

    Second.I believe I'm in your general boat here. As a Mother I firmly believe in doing what feels natural. If a Mother is confused, I say, confide in their own Mothers, friends that have had babies etc......Honestly, I say, listen to the so called experts and books as a last resort. Thats just me of course, but I have to trust in the fact that the human race has moved along just fine for centuries without the guidence and guidelines of the flavor of the month opinion.
    Drives me crazy~

  7. I was just getting ready to blog about this but I see that now I don't need to. You said everything I wanted to say, and more. Fantastic post!

    I read the MomLogic blog until I saw how anti-AP and natural parenting it is. Blech.

  8. My babies all slept in bed with me for the first several months. My 17 month old still is, actually. I'm so much more nervous having them rooms away from me, and love snuggling them when they're small. I agree 100%.

  9. Great post. We have done both with our girls- one bed shared, but the other preferred her own space so did not. I learned early on to listen to my intuition.

  10. I'm guessing that you feel better after getting that off your chest. I didn't read the original article that you refer to so I have no opinion either way.

    You quoted Dr. McKenna. I'm very familiar with Dr. McKenna's work. I will share with you what I've spoken to Dr. McKenna about. That is that when you look at anthropology you are looking at the past. I no longer live in a cave or teepee or log cabin. I live in a home with alot of soft items. One of those is my bed.

    I no longer need to keep my baby close to prevent them from being eaten by a lion nor do I need to keep my baby warm with my body heat.

    I don't have a problem with your choice to bedshare but let's not equate it to historial bedsharing. The bed in the United States is significantly different than it was even 15 years ago.

    You speak of cost - a generic portable crib or play yard can be purchased for $50. Rarely is cost the issue.

    As an educator, its my job to inform you of the risks. As the parent, you get to make the decisions. Most babies live..

  11. What an excellent post. There is so much evidence that co-sleeping (or bed-sharing - I don't count a cot n the same room as being co-sleeping) is beneficial for babies. Rather than writing it off as an unsafe practice, new parents should be given guidelines on how to co-sleep safely. UNICEF even produce a leaflet on this. I bedshare with my 7 month old and I intend to continue as long as it suits us both (as I will with breastfeeding). I cannot imagine how exhausted I would be if I had to get out of bed to feed her several times a night and I refuse to contemplate crying it out. But I don't feel that I am being 'crunchy', just following my basic mootherly instincts.


  12. Hallelujah and Amen. I am co-sleeping with my second child. My first loved our bed so much that at the age of 6.5 I was really trying hard to get her out. Never had a dangerous incident and it was perfect for nursing.

    THank you for this article. It is profound ;)

  13. http://www.amazon.com/review/R3GF2R2YYU3CRN/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

    And, also... do be aware that there have been studies done that have directly compared babies who have died of SIDS to surviving babies, to look at what factors differ between the two groups (this is how we found out, for example, that stomach sleeping and parental smoking can increase risk), and there is evidence, from these studies, of an increase in SIDS risk when you bedshare with a baby in the first few months of life. Even when you adjust for all the other factors that could be associated with increased risk, there's still an association between bedsharing and SIDS seen in that very young age group. So, yes, there is good evidence that there's at least some increased risk for very young babies (especially premature babies). I think that, as long as all safety guidelines are followed, you are going to be looking at a very, very tiny risk overall, and I think that it does get blown way out of proportion and there's far too much scaremongering around the issue. But, yes, there is good evidence of at least some increased risk, whether we like it or not. It can't all be attributed to unsafe bedsharing practices.