We all know the
dangers of co-sleeping with babies and small children. It can result in
suffocation, strangulation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), none of
which seem like a sensible trade-off for a quick snuggle.
And let's not
forget the awkward exchange you and your partner will share if and when the mood is
Susan Stewart, a professor of sociology at Iowa State
University, despite the risks—and lack of privacy—associated with
co-sleeping, many parents continue to sleep with their children well into their
In her new book,
“Co‑Sleeping: Parents, Children and Musical
Beds,” Stewart interviews 51 moms and dads that co-sleep with their children
and shares the lengths they've gone to avoid being labeled in society.
several of the children started out on their own bed but ended up sneaking into
their parents' room in the middle of the night. This often led to parents
relocating to a couch or child’s bed to get a good, squish-free night's sleep.
households, kids were allowed to sleep on the floor of their parents’ bedroom;
either on a mattress or in a sleeping bag. In one instance, the mother slept on
a mattress next to the child’s crib so she could remain close (at a safe
distance) while another family admitted that they never even took the crib out
of the box.
that the competition among parents (in America) to raise the perfect child
might explain why families hide the fact that they co-sleep. In reality, the
shame and stigma associated with co-sleeping is so great, that half of the
parents either denied or avoided discussing it altogether.
“There is a lot
of pressure," says Stewart. "Everybody thinks they know how to parent
better than everybody else."
includes data from the National Sleep Foundation that links poor sleep to
anxiety, reduced work productivity, aggression, obesity, poor school
performance, lower marital happiness and increased mortality.
exhausted," says Stewart. "They’re stressed, and honestly, it’s often
easier to co-sleep.”
But what about dad? Is he just supposed to bury that wood somewhere in the backyard when
the kids aren’t looking?
When asked, most
parents agreed that, although there was some interference, physical intimacy
was not a major issue. As for emotional intimacy, Stewart’s data suggests that it offered
busy parents a chance to spend quality time together as a family. This is great news if
there aren't enough beds to go around and the decision to co-sleep is economically
unavoidable, but it would be hard for any marriage to survive—long term—without
intimacy, and we all know how temporary
My advice? Make a rule: Don't come a-knockin' if the headboard's a-rockin'.