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September 15th, 2008
12:16 PM ET

Sharing the bed with baby

By Shahreen Abedin
CNN Medical Senior Producer

On Sunday we were hanging out with friends when I heard my husband say something that immediately raised red flags for me. “Yeah, by November the baby should be out of our room and in his own crib.” Gulp! About a month ago, he had voiced his desire to have our then-8-month old sleep in his own crib all night, but my compromise was to install a bed rail guard on one side, so we would have the option of putting the munchkin on one side of us, instead of between us.

Yes, we are co-sleeping parents. And apparently there are many opinions about co-sleepers among “crib-sleeper” parents, as highlighted in the current issue of Parenting magazine. ( read Parenting article). According to its national survey, nearly half of all crib-sleepers feel that co-sleeper parents are “irresponsible” and that they are putting their baby’s health at risk. Almost 40 percent think we’re spoiling the baby by not fostering an independent sleeper.

It’s always seemed unnatural to me that we would banish our small child to sleep alone. It was also more efficient for me to have him right there when I was breastfeeding throughout the night. And when my baby wraps his arms around my neck and snuggles with me, it’s clear that he feels secure and slumbers much better. Four other couples we know also share their beds. I’m not sure whether it matters that three of them are also of South Asian descent (like me), and the other couple is from Spain. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, since many cultures find it unusual to NOT sleep with your baby.

I understand that SIDS concerns are associated with co-sleeping, and that’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend the practice. (read AAP recommendation) That’s a safer stance to take than risking parents rolling over onto their babies in bed, causing harm or even death.

We started sleeping with him in the bed only after he was a couple of months old. When he was teeny he slept in the bassinet pulled up right next to me. And when he sleeps in the crib, since we never put him in our bed without one of us with him, we are careful about all of the other SIDS risk factors (read about SIDS) including keeping blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals out of the way, placing him on his back, and avoiding overheating.

From a safety standpoint, we’re doing OK. No smushed babies here. One of the tenets of co-sleeping that I do think is critical is that it’s based upon agreement by all three parties: both parents and the baby. If any one of these people is uncomfortable with the arrangement, then it’s time to give it up and put “baby in the corner” (crib, that is).

So, now I need to learn how to transition to this new arrangement and I need help. For you co-sleepers out there, what helped you make that transition, and when did you do it? Was it emotionally harder for you than it was for the baby? For you crib-sleepers, do you think parents like me are putting their own needs above the baby’s? If SIDS wasn’t a concern, would you still have a problem with it?

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