Why we have a family bed and how it works for us part 2
Like I said in part one of this article, my mission is not to convert you into a “Family- bed-lover”. I am not in search of arguments, in order to persuade my readers of doing it the same way we do.
Last week I explained to you why we do that way, and how it worked for us.
- The fear that the risk of SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome) is even higher while having a family bed
- The fear of harming the baby by lying on it or suffocating it by pillows or blankets
- The fear that babies will become egocentric and overly dependent to the parents if they act to “baby-centered”.
- The fear that intimacy in marriage will be nearly impossible
- And – the unwillingness of accepting that the parents’ comfortable “childless life” will change drastically by having children – even more by having them in the same room or even the same bed.
Some of those beliefs are simply myths. Some of them are reality, in need of a creative solution.
Digging into the material of guidelines for a family bed, I realized that having a family bed is very much a mindset – you have to want it, see the purpose behind it. You have to be convinced, that having the baby near you at night is healthy, profitable and valuable for you and your baby.
That means, it is more than the mere decision of where the baby should sleep, more than a set of rules to follow, more than strictly adhering to guidelines.
Family bed can have as many different names as it can have meanings. Co-sleeping, bed sharing, sleep sharing or familybed… you choose. There are plenty of variations of how you put it into practice.
From starting our family with one baby in our bed up to coming to the point where our whole family of six slept in the same room, we had many different variations of how we made it work. One big bed, a big bed with a co sleep bed, two big beds, two big beds and a small one, we even tried a loft bed with a big bed underneath… We simply adapted it to our needs, tried out different ways, open to adapt to the actual needs of our family.
In this Article I will share with you some information and guidelines on how to make it safe for the baby. How, by applying some personal initiative, it can work for you too. There is no substantial reason why you should not share your room with your kids, your bed with your babies.
“The Baby sleep book” by Dr. Sears, a renowned pediatric from California, US. Dr Sears writes from the view of a father of eight, a health expert for over 40 years, specialized in the area of Family, children and parenting.
“The science of Parenting” by Margot Sunderland. She’s a British child psychologist and psychotherapist since 30 years. She wrote that specific book together with Jaak Panksepp, an affective neuroscientist professor.
It would by far exceed the extent of this post to include the many facts they tell us about the subject. Both books include numerous studies to explain in detail what happens to the baby (and mother) when sleeping close.
I will only take a few headwords and facts out of it. If you’re interested to know more, I encourage you to purchase those books and dig into the subject.
Fear Nr.1 “The risk of SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome) is even higher while having a family bed”
M.Sunderland tells us in her book, page 73, that researches around the world show very low rates of SIDS in countries where cosleeping is common.
She writes that
“In China, where cosleeping is taken for granted, SIDS is so rare it doesn’t have a name. One key childcare researcher found out that no one in China knew what he was talking about when he spoke about SIDS. They simply didn’t understand his description of a young baby dying suddenly for no apparent reason.
SIDS Is also uncommon among the population of Southeast Asia, such as those of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, where nearly all babies sleep with their parents” (… )
“A recent international childcare survey team, the SIDS Global Task Force, found that “cultures practicing the highest cosleep and bed-sharing rates experienced… the lowest SIDS rates of all.”
( Reference: Michael Odent, Lancet 1986 Jan25; cited in Jackson D (1999) three in a bed; The benefits of sleeping with your baby, Bloomsbury, London)
Of course I could include numerous reasons why it is that way. There are many psychological, biological and neurological arguments to explain in details what happens to the baby on all these levels while sleeping close. However, because that would by far exceed this article, I chose to only include the above information :
“Cultures practicing the highest cosleep and bed-sharing rates experience the lowest SIDS rates of all.”
Dr.Sears writes: “Instead of making parents afraid to sleep with their babies, a more valid approach would be to teach parents who choose to cosleep how to do it safely.” (p.121)
Sunderland includes in her Book a list of key facts.
She tells us “To minimize the risk of SIDS, you should adhere to the commonsense safety rules listed below. “
- A baby should not be laid to sleep face down (either a crib or parent’s bed)
- A baby’s head should not be covered while he sleeps (either in a crib or in his parents’ bed)
- A baby up to 11 weeks old should not sleep in a room on his own
- If you or anyone in the house smokes, you should not cosleep with your baby
- If you have been consuming alcohol, you should not cosleep with your baby
- Do not let your baby sleep on a pillow, or in close proximity to a pillow
- A baby should not cosleep lying between two people
- A baby should not cosleep on sofas, waterbed or with other children
- Do not cosleep with your baby if your vigilance is impaired by exhaustion
- Never leave your baby unattended in or on top of an adult bed.
Fear Nr.2 “I might kill the baby by lying on it or suffocate it by pillows or blanket. “
Dr.R.Largo, a famous Swiss pediatric, explains in his book ”Babyjahre” , page 164, that film footages realized with countless parents and their children during nighttimes, show that there was not one situation, endangering the babies sleeping near their parents.
From Jeanine Young , “Bedsharing with Babies; the Facts (1998) ” we learn that around 800 hours of video material of mothers and babies showed that even when asleep, mothers appeared to be aware of the baby next to them. No mother rolled on her infant, however close they were to each other.
To know that made me even more comfortable with our way of having a family bed. We applied common sense; followed some guidelines and our babies were save. I can definitely say that I enjoyed having my babies so close during nighttimes too.
As guidelines apply the same points as above
Dr Sears (who practiced a family bed with his 8 children), gives us some additional tips: (Page 78-80))
If you leave your baby without your presence on the bed, you might:
- use a baby monitor so you can hear when baby stirs. (we had a baby phone that transmitted every noise. We could even hear the baby’s breath)
- Cover the baby with a small baby blanket only. Pull the bed sheets and blankets down to the foot of the bed.
- Once baby starts scooting on her tummy or crawling, teach her how to safely crawl backward down off the bed.
- When you place your bed close to the floor, baby can safely clime down.
- Place rails on both sides of the bed.
Additional, he adds:
- “Avoid overheating the baby. Consider that your body gives additional heat. A co-sleeping infant needs to be dressed less warmly than a baby who is solo sleeping. If you bring your baby from crib to bed, you may need to remove a layer of his clothing. (Overheating can diminish baby’s natural arousability from sleep.) ”
- “Avoid pungent hair sprays, deodorants and perfumes. Not only may these camouflage the natural maternal smells that baby is used to and attracted to, but foreign odors may irritate and clog baby’s tiny nasal passage. “
Fear Nr.3 “Babies will become egocentric and overly dependent to the parents if they behave too “baby-centered”.
I’ve met parents, scared to give a family bed a try because they fear that a child will become egocentric and demanding, if it doesn’t learn from early age that the whole world doesn’t revolve around them.
That they will raise children who are overly dependent on the parent. That they will never sleep in their own bed.
Well, to be honest, I had no idea if the day would come where my four children didn’t want to sleep in the same room anymore.
I wasn’t in a hurry, as I loved to have my kids so near me during nighttime.
A strange noise in the house? I only had to look around, see my whole family soundly asleep and I went back to sleep myself immediately.
However, after our last vacations were I took my kids to a campground in south of France, my two oldest (then 6 and 7) decided that they wanted to have their own room. We always told them that whenever they’re ready for it – they get it.
Since that time, they sleep in their own room, relaxed and happy to have a room by their own.
(This experience was a great example of how Vacation are priceless, not only creating Memories together and having fun, but how Holidays have a wide range of lasting social, emotional and psychological benefits, like I explained in this article. )
Concerning the fears of raise children that become egocentric and overly dependent, Dr.Sears tells us from his 40 years of practice, that
“In the overwhelming majority of co-sleeping families, we’ve noticed the following outcomes:
- The infants thrive. They grow optimally physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
- The parents are closer to their children. They are better able to read appropriately discipline their children
- The parents are more confident in giving intuitive and appropriate care to their children and need to rely less on outside advice (even our advice!)
- The children tend to be happier and healthier
- The children grow up to be appropriately independent, or more accurately, interdependent.
(this may be a new term to you. Interdependence is the most mature stage of independence; an interdependent child learns that he can do something by himself, but he can do it better in cooperation with another person)
- Fear Nr.4: “intimacy in marriage will be nearly impossible”
Be there, felt that 😉 It is a reality, that by having a family bed staffed with children, spontaneous sex isn’t an option any more.
It was different with only one small baby in our bed, where we knew that he won’t wake up – and if he would, Baby wouldn’t realize what we were doing.
However, our first baby was growing up, 16months later having baby two in our bed, things got more complicated.
We discovered that every room in the house can be a potential “love chamber” – wherever the mood strikes and the opportunity allows.
Last year we added a wonderful investment:
We decided that we goanna create our very own “love chamber”. A place only for us – a place we can keep always tidy – a room we can turn the keys and have our intimacy.
Today we enjoy daytime-sex. We are less tired, the kids won’t wake up – Dr. Sears talks in his Book about a “built-in romance alarm” As soon as your intimacy goes off, the baby or toddler wakes up, and suddenly things arent’s so hot anymore. ..” We experienced more then once that this is crude reality of parenthood 😉
During daytime we can put them in front of a screen for the time we need our peace. They love those times – and so do we.
And – that unwillingness of accepting that their comfortable “childless life” will change drastically by having children – even more by having them the same room or even same bed.
In this article and the previous one I wrote a lot about how wonderful and good a family bed is for a family.
I cited experts who encourage the family bed, I named sources and cited studies that tell you how a family bed is save and how profitable this way of sleeping is for your kids.
However, it is very important to understand that even if you are not up to give this way of sleeping a try – it doesn’t make you a less good/successful/loving/capable parent.
Like I wrote in the beginning of this article, a family bed is much more then following guidelines and abide to rules. Nor is it the foundation of a successful parenthood.
It is a mindset. It is a lifestyle and should be a privilege and not a “must” or “obligation” for those who choose to do so.
It is certain; having children changed drastically our lives.
However, I wouldn’t say that having a family bed makes matters worse.