Over 15 years ago I co-slept with my daughter. If I remember rightly she was in our bed for a good ten months. She was breastfed, and to be honest the only reason I co-slept is because I was too lazy to have her in another room. I didn’t want to make the effort to get out of bed during the wee hours.
She never cried during the night, she simply wiggled a lot when she needed feeding, meaning I barely woke up to put her on the breast, and we all I have to, say slept pretty well.
I never told anyone I was doing this, as frankly it was no one else’s business.
Little did I know just how frowned upon it would have been, and to a degree still is.
The UK charity — The Lullaby Trust — have recently changed their advice from warning against co sleeping, to putting out advice for safe co-sleeping.
No surprises though, this is an incredibly divisive issue between co-sleeping and sleep training.
Sadly, this topic is hotly debated with shame hurled at many new mothers no matter which side they pick.
The two distinct camps are co-sleeping versus sleep training.
Opinions on either side are fierce.
Co sleeping advocates sleeping with your child, and tending to their needs as and when they need them. This can mean waking every two hours to feed a baby, and the co sleeping continues until the child is able, of their own free will — generally — to sleep alone. This can and often does take years to happen.
Sleep training on the other hand uses controlled crying to get the baby to settle on its own, with the idea that within a very short time frame — days to weeks, the baby will sleep in its own bed, without waking much during the night.
Those on the co-sleeping side feel sleep training is detrimental to the emotional development of the baby and why would you do that to your child? While those on the training side don’t understand why you would torture yourself into exhaustion for years, plus you are teaching your baby to self soothe.
(I have to admit a bias here, as I never really let my daughter cry, as I felt her crying was her means of communication. I certainly didn’t believe she could self soothe either and so I soothed her, but as I said, it was my laziness that made the decision for me, and I was nowhere near as informed as parents are these days.)
Sleep training is a western, fairly newish concept and this is where the reason for this article, and my question comes into play.
When I had my daughter, we were able to live off one salary. I was a stay at home Mum, so I didn’t matter too much if I had a restless night or three. I could kip in the afternoon with my daughter.
Would I though have co-slept had I had to go back to work very early on?
I’m not so sure I would have.
In many places around the globe there is little to no maternity leave and families need both incomes in order to survive .There is no way that you can work effectively when grossly sleep deprived.
Yet this doesn’t seem to stop the shame game.
Being a new Mum brings with it so much judgement, and this co-sleeping v sleep training is yet another excuse, it appears, to judge and shame others.
My ask is can we simply stop this shame slinging and instead of blaming parents for sleep training and alleging they are depriving their children and vice versa, that we turn the gaze towards the economics that are more than likely forcing this issue for some?
How many parents would change their views and habits if they could afford to?
Because surely this must be a factor?
I strongly believe in choice and choices that work for you .
I was very fortunate, I know that, yet when I go into facebook groups and hear the pain of women that want to co-sleep avoiding mother and baby groups because they are shamed due to their choices, well, something is very very wrong.
And likewise when the co-sleeping parents get on their high horse and ‘how could you do that to your child’ it’s no better really.
Why are women shaming each other at all for their decisions around sleep?
Perhaps there is no right or wrong way when it comes to sleep and babies, and perhaps there could be a little more understanding on both sides as all new mothers figure out what works for them, their baby and family.
Not everyone can do what others do, but as long as a child is loved, warm and wanted — is it really a matter of shame how they sleep?
If you want to know more about sleep environments for newborns, this is a great resource.