Co-sleeping: Sleep and Bed

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Although taboo in Western culture, co-sleeping is making a comeback. After the retraction of previous statements against co-sleeping, Dr. Richard Ferber, child sleep guru, has now sided with a family’s decision to share a bed with their infants. Although the American Society of Pediatrics warns that sleeping with your infant can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, the exact cause of SIDS is still unknown. The emotional benefits of sharing a bed with your baby can be enormous and some would argue that engaging in co-sleeping strengthens the bond between parent and child. In a 1997 article in the Boston Globe, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton of Cambridge Massachusetts says he has had more parents ask about co-sleeping in recent years then ever before. “I began to realize that working mothers and single parents really could not leave their baby at night. They have been away too long, it’s too hard for them…How can we make mothers feel guilty when they have such deep issues to deal with?” What is Co-Sleeping?

Co-Sleeping is the practice of sharing a bed with a child. There has been much controversy surrounding the practice of co-sleeping or sleep sharing as it is also known. In all societies prior to the late 1700’s co-sleeping was a normal practice. To this day co-sleeping is practiced in about 90 percent the world. Solitary infant sleeping is primarily a practice of western culture and is a relatively new practice in terms of history. Cultural Practices

In various different cultures children are dependent upon their parents or family as opposed to the white culture of the United States. Filipino children are often looked after by a family member if not the parent. This is because in the Filipino culture strangers should not watch one’s children, even in the case of single parents. This duty is usually carried out by the family only, even extended. Children are taught to be wary of strangers and to trust their children from birth up to about 3-years-old. After they are toilet trained around 4 or so, they proceed to sleep with a sibling or in a bed of their own. Because physical closeness and affection is valuable in Filipino culture, it is acceptable for a grandparent, “auntie”, or sibling to sleep share as a form of affection. This is because emotional intimacy is expressed in other ways than with words. Polynesian cultures, Samoans and Hawaiians share similar practices with their infants as Filipinos. Families in the United States are increasing the practice of sleep sharing in recent years. Sleep sharing is still highly controversial, but the proponents of co-sleeping argue that it strengthens the bond between mother and child and promotes breast feeding. In 2000 the percentage of babies who shared a bed with a parent rose 5.5 percent from 1993. According to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Blacks and Asian-Americans, poorer women, and people living in the southern United States commonly practiced co-sleeping.

Dr. Melvin Connor a renowned anthropologist conducted a study on sleep practices in 173 developing countries in 1989. The study found that in 76 societies mothers shared beds with their infants. He also found that in the “primitive” societies solo sleeping was considered barbaric and abusive. (Sears, 2005)

When it comes to co-sleeping, Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician, and his wife Martha Sears, have made several observations throughout their years of practice in the pediatric field: (1)Infants thrive. They grow optimally, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. (2) The parents are closer to their children. They are better able to read and appropriately disciple their children. (3)The parents are more confident in giving intuitive and appropriate care to their children and need to rely less on outside advice. (4)The children tend to be happier and healthier.

(5)The children grow up to be appropriately independent.
(Sears, et...
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