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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Extended Co-sleeping

Once upon a time, like when my first son was about a week old, I "worried" if I was training him wrong by bringing him in my bed. Many parents worry the same thing and are very concerned about letting children sleep in the same room or more specifically in the same bed as them. For some reason we as parents are overly afraid they will never move out (of the bed) if they sleep with us.

Even parents who don't mind the baby in the bed at first, start getting leery at 2 months, 6 months, 2 years, whatever the individual case may be. For me, I panicked suddenly when William was seven months and I got it in my head that he should definitely be independent in a crib. We had the crib in our room close by. But William didn't think he belonged in a crib and he let me know with horrific crying. So I continued to bring him in the big bed thinking I was training him wrong. Yet I knew it felt so good to have his warm little body right there.

Before Scott was born I had found Dr. Sears parenting philosophies. Although I didn't know too many parents who admitted to keeping the children in the bed, through Sears I realized I was doing the right thing for my family. I relaxed. Scott and later David benefited from the family bed from birth meeting no parental resistance, and never having to sleep alone at night. I could breastfeed and fall asleep without moving anyone. I could read them stories until I couldn't keep my eyes open and my relaxed body didn't have to get up again.

I often tell my regular patients (or my one-time consults that I know I won't get another chance) that I recommend sleeping with your baby. I emphasize it by warning them, that I am probably the only doctor in town who will give them this recommendation. I usually see relieved parents. Parents have often encountered the AAP's list of rules for safe bedsharing and the SIDS back to sleep campaign, making sleeping together sound incredibly dangerous. Now, the AAP overall implies that sleeping together is okay, but only with a list of rules a mile long. Only if you don't smoke, only if you don't drink, only if the mattress is hard, only if your not fat, only in bed, only, only, only.... The message I get, is since no one is perfect and no one should sleep with their baby. My favorite place to nap together was on the couch or recliner often with two of my kids at the same time falling asleep at the breast. A huge no, no according to AAP rules. Sometimes it wasn't practical to get up and move (or I'd wake them up). It was just as easy to go to sleep with them. Now, I don't mean to say you shouldn't be concerned about safety (and especially the affects of tobacco and excessive alcohol), but I do think its overdone in relation to bed sharing in relation to other daily routines.

The take home message with the SIDS back to sleep campaign implies that your kid should be on it's back all the time to sleep (but what if you are watching your baby sleep, have your baby at your breast, in a sling, or fell asleep uprignt in someones arms, or swing or seat). I have seen A LOT of flat heads and asymmetric shaped heads in babies. I mostly attribute plagiocephally (the fancy term for this) on the fear of repositioning our babies off their backs due to this campaign. By the way, babywearing is good to prevent this!

It should come as no surprise to you that my 11 yo and 6 yo want to be in the big bed still. My 11 yo, years ago, promised he wouldn't leave till he was 40. What a relief to me! Over the years he admits he was just a baby when he said that and the "exact" age and conditions to move out has varied up and down. Mostly down. My 6 yo doesn't get moving out, so we don't discuss it. Sometimes he thinks wants a "sleep-over" in William's room. But he changes his mind and comes back to me. Good 'cause I miss him.

The reasoning I thought to write all this is now is one, I wonder what the sleeping arrangements will be when we get into our home with new rooms and more space? Has our choice of house with few rooms kept my boys close. :) and two, because my 12 yo has longed moved out and jumps at the chance of going to a sleep over. He is officially done. The one who I was so concerned would never sleep by himself is totally done. I started writing this up the night he went to a sleep over and was thinking about all the issues parents fear. He jumps at the chance to spend the night elsewhere with friends. Fears unfounded. I have a happy healthy 12 yo.

I promise you even if you extend your co-sleeping they will move out of the bed in their time!

7 comments:

Tara said...

Thanks for your stories...they are very inspiring and motivating in a time and place where very few, or not enough people practice attachment parenting. I have a 12 month old and my husband has been wanting her to move out of our bed for a long time. I am not ready. I work full time that I consider that my time with her since I only see her for 45 minutes in the morning before I go to work and about 3 hours between the time I get home and when she goes to sleep. Second issue--she still breastfeeds at night which I am totally fine with and encourage. She doesn't open her eyes--neither of us get out of bed or wake up. We went to the pediatrician today for our 1 year follow-up and she said she should no longer be nursing at night and was concerned about teeth rot. She is 20 lbs, 25th percentile for weight and 95th percentile for height, so tall and skinny. I feel she needs to nurse at night and that she is reverse feeding-making up for not seeing me during the day. She does drink between 6-10oz of my milk when at the sitters during the day but it's not that much and my production is waning. I'm kind of frustrated by not enough support from my husband, my pediatrician, and the community at large. I treasure breastfeeding to the fullest and I will be super-sad if/when she ever weans.

Becky R said...

My 6 year still co-sleeps. It makes sense to me, but I get no support for it. My 11 year old slept with me until he was 5, then decicded his noisy brother was not a good sleep companion. But he still loves to cuddle in bed with me.
Thanks for sharing as I feels so weird about talking about co-sleeping since it can be so taboo, but I still have no plans to stop until my son is ready.

Trish the dish said...

I think it would be easier if we had a bigger bed. We have a queen and I'm constantly rolling around and pushing my husband out of the way. My mom used to sleep with her babies when they were newborns and then they shared her room until they were ready for their own bed. I didn't find anything weird about that. I think people today are so paranoid about everything and if its not government agency approved then forget individual thinking!

Permission to Mother said...

One of the first night time parenting books I read, The Family Bed suggested investing in a King size bed instead of a crib. Such a simple concept. The idea always stuck with me.

The Cooking Lady said...

I slept with mine but not on acontinual basis(I wish I had now). But when they cried, we brought them in bed with us and let them stay as long as they wanted. My daughter kept coming in with her bad dreams until she got too big and then made her own blanket pallet on the floor next to me, wheter it be bad weather or another bad dream. She was there when 'she ' needed to be.

I also rocked my children. My son was rocke duntil I could no longer physiclaly hold him. Him getting to big and my belly swelling with child number two.

People ridiculed me all the tiume, saying I was spoiling him and that I was doing him a grave in justice. Yet I lok at him now at 20 and you know what? He does nto want to be rocked any longer...imagine that. (And hasn't for quite a while just to clarify things)

I would do it all again and have more one on one contact, sleep with them more, have more physical contact. Peopel underestimate the power and 'NEED' for physical contact. I love sitting with my daughter now watching a TV show, or an old movie with our bowl of popcorn and our footsies intertwined.

Be with your children, they you you and we need them, and before you know it they will be on their own and not needing you as much as you will still want or need them.

P.S. Pardon and and all typos.

Minu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Minu said...

I'm a Big Big Huge extended co-sleeping and breastfeeding fan. My little girl's 15 months and breastfeeding and co-sleeping since day one. Personally I don't get moms who don't do this - why in the world would anyone leave their little treasures to sleep in a little cage all by themselves???? Keep doing your wonderful co-sleeping, ladies!

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