International Parenting: Co-Sleeping

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There are many hot button issues when it comes to parenting. It doesn’t matter what the issue is but you know you will have one opinion and someone else will have a differing. SEEK has interviewed moms from around the world because we are curious about their cultural and personal views on certain issues.

 

By Becky Horace

Our first article in this series will discuss co-sleeping. Co-sleeping is one of those hot topics that everyone has an opinion on. If you mention that you did or didn’t someone is bound to turn up their nose at your response. Co-sleeping is known as “the practice of sleeping in the same bed with one’s infant or young child.” This can also be known as having a “family bed.”

There has been several research studies conducted on the topic of co-sleeping to see how the family unit responds to this different sleep environment.  You can read articles and essays that are available for download on this website that will discuss all sides of this debate scientifically. One of the studies concludes there are many reasons as to why parents should not co-sleep, such as when other children are in the bed, if the mother isn’t breastfeeding, or if you are using a soft mattress or big blankets to name a few. The same study concluded that breastfeeding mothers and infants are “biologically designed to sleep next to each other.” To read more you can view with webpage. On the opposing side there are research studies being done that have found “placing infants in adult beds is associated with three times the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).” Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against co-sleeping. Like I said, we could argue this until the cows come home but instead let’s look to see what other moms are doing around the world regarding this topic.

 

United StatesUS

  • Cultural: The above mentioned research comes from the United States and as you can see our culture is divided on this issue.
  • Personal: “My husband is a pediatrician in the United States. We followed the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation against co-sleeping. Because I was breast feeding my daughter, I kept her in a bassinet by my bed and nursed her on demand.”

Venezuela

  • Cultural: “I am not sure how parents in Venezuela act now, but in my experience I slept with my parents in their bed until I was ven7 years old. I was the youngest and the only girl so I guess I was spoiled. My brothers slept in their own rooms. What I have seen is that co-sleeping is very popular at least until the child is 1 year old but I was an extreme case.”
  • Personal: “I had my child in my room until 1 and a half years old, which is until my husband who is British, not Venezuelan kicked her out of the room. It was hard for me as a mom, but I agree that for the health of the marriage and spending more time as a couple, kids should have their own space at least for sleeping but that doesn’t mean that you love them any less.”

India

  • Cultural: “In India, for the longest time there was no concept of allowing babies to sleep in a different room and most families would have a child as old as 8 years sleeping with the parents. My mother-in-law wouindiald say “children need the warmth of their mother when they are sleeping “.
  • Personal: “I always wanted my children to be independent when it came to sleeping so I insisted they have their own room and own bed which they actually enjoyed. I personally don’t mind them coming into our room in the middle of the night but I would always encourage them to sleep in their own bed by rewarding them and that always worked. I would read stories about brave princesses who don’t get up in the night to go to their parents room and they love that and it encourages them. I will also give them treats in the morning if they sleep the whole night in their bed.”

Bangladesh

  • Cultural: “Co-sleeping is very normal and acceptable in the culture I grew up in. Rather babies and toddlers sleeping separately bangladeshwas/is still a bit frowned upon by society and grandparents especially if they belong to the Baby Boomers generation. But recently Gen X and Gen Y parents are more aware of SIDS and other risks of co-sleeping, also parents want some ‘me’ time so nowadays most parents have a crib, bassinet, etc in the room or even have a separate baby room. Still, even if not co-sleeping, it is the norm for infants and babies to be kept in the same room as parents but in their cribs or bassinets, until at least a year old.”
  • Personal: “I had my baby in the same room as us but in a pack and play yard which came with a bassinet. So we did not do co-sleeping, but the baby is in same room as ours. I plan is to shift him to a separate room with a baby monitor once he is a year old.”

France

  • Cultural: “In my country, I think most people will not sleep with their baby in the bed, but will keep them in their bedroom for a francewhile. I think you have a bit of everything, I would say that you either get people not doing co-sleeping and put their baby into their own bedroom quite early or when they decide to do co-sleeping they will do it for years.”
  • Personal: “What I did with my children is to keep them in my bedroom until approximately 8 weeks old. They were sleeping in their Moses basket next to me. I would not have them sleep in my bed due to safety, as I’ve always been told that this can be dangerous as you can roll over on your baby. While breastfeeding at night, I would always sit on either a sofa chair or in the bed. With my second baby, I tried breastfeeding while lying down and sleeping but I didn’t feel this to be safe for my baby. I think they actually sleep well in their own bedroom, and we also slept better.”

Sweden

  • Cultural: “It is very common to co-sleep from the start with your newborn. Although there are new recommendations to keep the baby in a baby nest or in a cot next to the bed. The baby is put in its own cot from around 3 months old. After that it’s common that thesweden child will be in the parent’s bed at night and stay there until morning. Of course, there are also some parents who put their children in a cot from early on and will teach their children to stay in their own bed at night. I am not sure when kids are supposed to stop co-sleeping but it is possibly around school age which is 7-10 years old.”
  • Personal: “I have co-slept with both my kids from the time they were a newborn. My first child was put in a cot at around 6 months old, but mostly because of limited space in our house. When he was 1.5/2 years old he got his own child bed. He comes to our bed regularly in the mornings, sometimes at night if he has nightmares and that is okay. My baby who is now 5 months old has been co-sleeping since she was a newborn. We both get better sleep that way and I have more energy for my 4 year old during the day. Although co-sleeping has been working for us, I will now put her in a cot to make her sleep the whole night through.”

United Kingdom

  • Cultural: “In the UK, culturally we are totally against it. There is also a child protection law that allows social workers to judge a case by case basis if the child is in an inappropriate situation.”uk
  • Personal: “My mum always said we were great sleepers, she used the analogy slept through hammers. I presume she meant the sound! She is from Malta and babies are the center of the family and this remains in place for the youngest as they come along. I only remember sleeping in my mum’s bed once but that was when I was ill- mumps she said. With my own son, he slept in his cot and because of UK advice, I guess, we stuck rigidly to that but if he woke in the night, one of us would pull him into ours. This is still the case with him being a four year old. I expect we will do the same with our new arrival but who knows, one thing I have learned when it comes to sleep is that the old adage ‘sleeping like a baby’ doesn’t mean what we think!”

Canada 

  • Cultural: “Honestly it was a term I learned of only after giving birth to my first child. I guess at home (in Canada) it’s each to their own. I assume it’s less common than children sleeping independently – certainly in my family anyway.”
  • Personal: “It’s been a much different experience for me as a mom, however. My husband comes from (Indonesia) a culture where canadachildren tend to share a room and often a bed with their parents until the age of 5 or 6. It’s just something that has taken place over centuries so the term co-sleeping isn’t something my husband was familiar with. Personally I wanted the children to have their own rooms so that my husband and I could have our own space, in my mind ‘marriage first.’ However the concept of babies being separated from their parents was so alien to him that we compromised. The children had their own bed in our room until they were 1. I would have preferred six months but I lost that battle. I feel that it did impact our marriage somewhat, but I made my feelings known and my husband made a big effort to understand where I was coming from. The kids now share a room and we have our own space… although generally one of the little people crawls in with us at some point in the night or one of us ends up falling asleep with the kids for the night. But at least we have our own space if we need it!!!”

 

A big thank you to the moms who were able to help us with this interview. Check back next week when we discuss the issue of vaccinations! 

photo by Sugar and Vice CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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