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Why Moms Who Co-Sleep Past 6 Months Are More Likely to Feel Depressed

Photograph by Twenty20

The parenting world is filled with contradictory advice concerning babies and sleep. The influx of new guidelines and recommendations seems to be never ending, and it can be confusing for any new mom.

We are all doing what we feel is best, but new research shows that moms who choose to co-sleep past six months are feeling more depressed and more judged. The new study, conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University and published in the journal Infant and Child Development, concluded that those moms were "more likely to feel depressed, worried about their babies' sleep and think their decisions were being criticized."

The researchers analyzed moms' sleeping patterns and feelings about sleep for the first year of their babies' lives. They concluded that moms who co-slept past six months reported feeling “about 76 percent more depressed than mothers who had moved their baby into a separate room.” They also reported feeling “about 16 percent more criticized or judged for their sleep habits."

While there are several possible explanations for this, there appears to be a correlation between the feelings of depression and the fear of criticism. It’s not all that surprising when you consider that another study found that 95 percent of moms have felt judged or criticized for their parenting decisions.

While there are several possible explanations for this, there appears to be a correlation between the feelings of depression and the fear of criticism.

Douglas Teti, department head and professor of human development and family studies at Penn State, says that the study shows that these moms feel "greater levels of worry about their baby's sleep," which he says, "makes sense when you're getting criticized about something that people are saying you shouldn't be doing, that raises self-doubt. That's not good for anyone."

He also points out that the public's attitude about co-sleeping in the U.S. is not necessarily the same worldwide.

“In other parts of the world, co-sleeping is considered normal, while here in the U.S., it tends to be frowned upon," Teti notes.

The researchers say that this study “isn't about whether co-sleeping is good or bad” but rather the importance of finding a sleeping arrangement that works best for moms and their partners.

“Co-sleeping, as long as it’s done safely, is fine as long as both parents are on board with it," Teti explains. "If it's working for everyone, and everyone is OK with it, then co-sleeping is a perfectly acceptable option."

One factor that is important to consider is whether or not Mom is getting adequate sleep. We all know that co-sleeping is going to disrupt your sleep—“probably Mom's sleep more than Dad's” Teti wisely points out.

In the end, it's up to parents to decide what sleeping arrangement will work best for their family, and they should be able to make that decision without fear of criticism or judgment.

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