Some good discussion surrounding cosleeping habits was generated, and I wanted to share some of it here. Some questions have risen particularly regarding marriage relationships, intimacy, and independant sleeping for older children.
Dana had some good points here:
I think what the cosleeping contingent is saying is: do not assume that own-room-crib-sleeping is the only, best and safest way for a baby to sleep. In-room and in-bed sleeping arrangements are great and safe too. And can have some particular benefits.
Each family should find its own solution. But, taking into consideration that co-sleeping is a valid arrangement. Because many families just don't know or believe that.
As far as the marriage goes, it's important to have some perspective on disruptions to what we consider ideal. It's a relatively short period of time; each phase passes, it really does. Sometimes we need to make changes (for instance, when Micah started waking up when we went to bed, we moved him to his own room) and sometimes we have to adjust our attitude and ride it out.
Also, I would contend that having a sleep deprived Mom- one who's getting up and walking over to the nursery to feed baby several times a night- places just as much strain on a marriage as having a (contented) baby in the bed. :)
I would like to add that a marriage that has problems that lead to its disintegration is generally a relationship with multifaceted problems. Children in their parents' bed might be a symptom of a larger distance or misprioritization, but they are not the problem itself. Infants sleeping in the same room as their parents is a proximity that is protective. But cobedding and cosleeping or cobedding with older babies or children needs to be something that responds to the needs of the family as a whole. If it doesn't work for either parent or is not working on some level--for example, interfering with intimacy, it needs to be reevaluated and possibly changed. If it is continuing to work for everyone involved, it should be recognized as within a safe and healthy realm of parenting styles and decisions. A marriage relationship that has flexibility and open, respectful communication will not be endangered by cosleeping or cobedding.
I wrote in an email to a friend about this topic that;
And as for the cosleeping thing, I have never said it is something EVERYONE needs to do, but it is something I wish was more widely accepted as within the safe and normal parameters of parenting. Sometimes cosleeping requires some creativity as far as sex goes; relocations to guest room/closet/bathroom/etc are a solution. Moving baby once he's asleep is a solution. I've always put my older babies to sleep in their own beds, and then cosleep after the first night feed. Some parents do it differently. It doesn't bother me to have sex with a baby in the room as long as they are SLEEPING--as soon as they start waking up to the noise/activity, they move to their own bedroom. This system works well for us because we don't have sex in the middle of the night, so starting in their own bed and cosleeping after the first wakeup doesn't interfere with sex. We've always managed to be very close and intimate despite having kids and cosleeping.
A few of my friends have said they couldn't actually sleep with a kid in their bed with them, so obviously it's not the best plan for THEM. But I'd really appreciate more people being open to it being a good plan for OTHERS. And sharing a room is considered cosleeping. Cobedding is different. We do a mixture of both, but having baby in your room in a bassinette or crib or other infant bed is considered cosleeping and has protective effects as far as SIDS.
Sure, it's nice when they move out and you have your room back for sleeping and reading and etc. But it's nice to roll over in bed and hardly wake up if they need a night feed, too. So it's six of one and half dozen of the other. Starting in their own beds and cosleeping after the first night feed solves this for me, also! I get the best of both worlds.
Here's my honest opinion on this:
for the first few months I believe babies should sleep in the same room as their parents. This facilitates optimal infant feeding and protects baby against sleep dangers like SIDS, strangulation, and getting caught in the crib rails, and ensures bonding and consolidation of syncronized rhythms. After the baby is a few months old I think it is equally good to choose either cosleeping or separate sleeping, based on what works for your family. The greatest vulnerability to SIDS is from 2 months to 4 months, so this would probably be a good time frame to cosleep (also the first month!), but some babies are strong and healthy, or restless sleepers, so do better in their own room at 3 or 4 months, the age would be variable. But those early weeks are pretty important for having mom in close proximity. Stress hormones are high in a neonate who is separated from its mom, even if it is sleeping, and this is a biological protective mechanism. Babies in proximity to moms have increased chances for survival in nature, so it makes sense that we have retained that function/characteristic.
After that, what works for families is variable. And whether baby is in the parent's actual bed or not, is variable also.
Cobedding isn't for everyone, but it works well for many!
As soon as I finished this post I saw that Dana had written a post that was a spinoff of this discussion, which I think is excellent, and firmly within my experience as a wife and mom. She discusses how children can help a marriage consolidate and bond, rather than inherently stress. Read it here!