Sharing sleep: An in-depth look

Tine Thevenin, in her book, Mothering and Fathering: The Gender Differences in Child Rearing discusses the basic gender traits that have lead to the general acceptance of the male perspective as the "correct" way and left many mothers feeling that they must ignore their instincts (she is describing generic male/female archetypes). She notes that the experts opposed to co-sleeping usually describe the practice as "unhealthy." However, this is based on a characteristically male concept of health. For men independence feels healthy but for women, intimacy and connectedness with their young children feels healthy. She also notes that "In many cultures, particularly societies where child-rearing expertise is considered a woman's specialty, it would be considered unhealthy for babies to sleep without their mothers." Many researchers contend that co-sleeping will lead to "problems." However, closer examination reveals that they have defined "problems" as anything that deviates from their belief that children should be alone in their own beds at night (e.g. these children are more likely to resist sleeping alone, want someone with them when they go to sleep, and wake up more frequently seeking companionship).

The issue of independence is usually linked with co-sleeping. Our society has a reverence for independence and many people feel that the earlier it is achieved the better. However, the recommendation that children sleep alone because "it promotes independence" is based on cultural preferences, not on scientific evidence. Dr. James McKenna, Ph.D. (professor of anthropology and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at the University of California's Irvine School of Medicine) states that there is no scientific backing to the ideas that co-sleeping causes prolonged infant dependency or psychological damage to the baby. In fact, he notes that there have been no scientific studies on the pros or cons of solitary sleeping. Many parents feel that it actually promotes independence by giving the child strong feelings of security. William Sears, M.D., is a pediatrician, co-sleeping father of 8, and an advocate of attachment parenting (and does not hesitate to state his belief that full-time mothering is better for babies). In his book

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