A Christian Perspective on Co-Sleeping


 

A baby breastfeeding.

Image via Wikipedia

 

God designed the physiology of human babies so that breast-milk continues to be a healthy part of their diet for at least 2-3 years. Mothers who co-sleep with their infants breastfeed about twice as long as mothers who don’t co-sleep. Breast-feeding mothers who continue to maintain separate sleeping quarters usually find it difficult to keep their energy levels up or to continue nursing their babies for more than a few weeks or months. Should they fall back to sleep while nursing in an upright position in an inappropriate furnishing, they may also risk dropping their babies. Co-sleeping induces important behavioral and physiological adaptations in mothers and infants, including increased breast-feeding, increased use of the safe back sleeping position, reduced deep-sleep, which may prevent SIDs (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), longer stretches of infant sleep, more affectionate and protective maternal instincts, less infant crying, and more positive night time experiences by bed-sharing families. Nurturing throughout the night is important to maintaining infant breathing patterns and heart rates, proper infant brain development, with higher IQs later, healthier weight gain with less childhood obesity, less risk for SIDs, less fussiness, more consistent care and comfort of newborn babies.  It’s also beneficial for natural child spacing and minimal sleep deprivation for new mothers. Mother-infant co-sleeping arrangements with breastfeeding is a biologically and psychologically appropriate developmental behavior for your infants first years of life.

The primarily Western societal taboo on parents sleeping with their children is an unfounded, paranoid trend of modern culture.  Since the beginning of time, parents in every culture have slept along side their babies.  This practice was attested to in the Bible, where a man who was disturbed during the night by a neighbor exclaimed that he was already in bed with his children and couldn’t get up.  Children sleeping alone is a relatively new observable fact that has permeated this society since the Freudian movement, which claimed to have scientific evidence to support this deviant practice.  These so called authorities, who have turned the world-wide practice of co-sleeping into an abnormal behavior, while accepting the more recent preference of isolating infants, which is mainly associated with our Western society, have characterized this modern practice as normal parenting.  Some Freudian authorities purport that child sexual abuse is more likely to occur in a bed-sharing family, but this is generally unsubstantiated.  Someone who intends to sexually abuse a child will do it regardless of where the child sleeps in the home, but this won’t likely occur in a co-sleeping arrangement where another parent is present.  The child sleeping alone is the unprotected child, who would be a more likely target by an abuser.  Parents who have genuine emotional bonds with their children, which is often enhanced by the co-sleeping environment, are less likely to act abusively toward their children.  Babies separated from their mothers at night have been sexually abused by others in the home, kidnapped from their cribs, bitten and suffocated by house pets, choked to death from vomiting, died in house fires, and often died from SIDs.  A more recent development is insurance frauds, where a parent has suffocated an unsupervised child to collect on insurance premiums.  There’s absolutely no indication of any emotional or physical benefit to an infant sleeping apart from its mother in a frequently unsafe environment.

Silent Screams

None of the anti-co-sleeping authorities give any really convincing reason that babies should sleep in their own bed, except for the often selfishly motivated sexual convenience of the parents.  The sexual desires of the adult relationship should never be considered more important than the immediate needs of the child.  This is not to say that parents should neglect their relationship in order to satisfy every demand of an uncooperative toddler, but that the true needs of children should always come before sexual convenience.  Co-sleeping parents may need to have a bit more inventive sex life, but it’s well worth the inconvenience to grow a happier, healthier, and safer baby.  The sexual relations may need to be moved out of its traditional bedroom location to another vacant area of the house.  The parent’s attention to the child’s needs allows them to grow up secure and independent.  Children will eventually develop the desire to have their own sleeping space in their own time if allowed to do so.  Co-sleeping is usually a safe and normal behavior, depending on the environmental circumstances, and likely beneficial to parent-child connection.  Separation during the long evening hours may even decrease the emotional bond between family relationships.  Sleeping alone may mean turning from dependence on people to objects like bottles, pacifiers, blankies, and teddy bears.  This practice may give rise to the materialism in today’s object infatuated culture.  Infant isolation teaches our little ones a harmful mistrust for people, and a great loneliness that teddy bears just can’t fix.  Some more sensitive babies may suffer more psychological damage from the nightly trauma of being separated from the mother.  Parent-centered advice such as letting the child cry it out is inhumane and has definite psychological consequences.  Weaning children from their normal need for the emotional security and comfort of the parents’ presence may give the child emotional problems later such as depression, anxiety, and difficulty establishing intimate adult relationships. A baby’s continuous cries are enough evidence of emotional turmoil, along with the moral apathy of the parents.

From Biblical times until now, most sudden infant deaths were believed to be caused by accidental suffocation by a co-sleeping mother who rolls over on her child.  Now that many babies sleep alone in cribs, this idea no longer holds true.  The typical parent would be easily disturbed by the discomfort of lying on a child unless intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, whether the drugs are for medical or recreational purposes.  Co-sleeping isn’t inherently dangerous, though it may be considerably safer.  Almost all SIDs deaths occur when a child is sleeping alone, rather than in a co-sleeping arrangement.  The majority of SIDs deaths happen when an infant is sleeping alone in a crib, which is where the common term crib death comes from.   Many children are endangered when they get trapped in unsafe bedroom furnishings, such as infant cribs, headboards and foot railings, pillows and comforters, and other bedding. In Japan, where co-sleeping on a futon type arrangement on the floor is the norm, the lowest SIDs rate of industrialized nations has been consistently maintained.  Deaths in the co-sleeping environment are tragic accidents, but can almost always be attributed to unsafe sleeping conditions. The parents’ primary goal is to avoid a dangerous bed-sharing situation, while keeping the proven and obvious benefits of the co-sleeping arrangement.  Instead of making parents hesitate to sleep with their infants, it would be more reasonable for safety conscious authorities, to teach parents who sleep with their children to do it safely.

Safe Co-sleeping

  1. Babies should always sleep on a firm surface, never on waterbeds, comforters, soft pillows, or toys.
  2. Parents should never sleep with a baby on sofas or recliners with crevices the baby may get trapped in.
  3. Never sleep with a baby while smoking or intoxicated with medications, alcohol, or drugs.
  4. Protect your baby from falling off the bed with walls or bedrails, and don’t allow any space between them.
  5. Your baby should sleep on its back or side as is the natural position for a breastfeeding baby.
  6. Don’t let a toddler sleep next to a very tiny infant.
  7. Avoid railing that could trap a baby’s head or neck.
  8. Never place bed near blinds with hanging strings.

For Further Reading:

The Family Bed by Tine Thevenin

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding- La Leche League

Nighttime Parenting – Dr. William Sears

Mom of 8 Parenting Little People

About mamaheartfilled

I am a mother of eight wonderful children and five grandkids, of whom I am very proud. I am also a bi-vocational ordained evangelical minister, and a Christian Counselor. I received my B.S. degree in 2004, studying primarily in the areas of Psychology, with minors in Religion and English. I received my Masters Degree in 2009 in Psychological Counseling with an emphasis in Christian Counseling. I have endeavored to paraphrase the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, for the last ten years or so and am working on a final edit, now. It is my hope that it will be of some use in the great commission of Christ. My ministry is primarily geared toward victims of sexual and domestic violence, including victims of childhood sexual abuse, whether currently or in the past. Since I have personally experienced the healing hand of God in overcoming many of the life issues that Christians may face, I feel qualified and compelled to discuss them in a truthful and open manner, as God’s word tells us that “We shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free.” God has brought me through such diverse tribulations as sexual, physical, and mental abuse, being a victim of a drunk driving accident, spousal pornography addiction, adultery, divorce, remarriage, a very brief, though unjust, incarceration, and having experienced multiple miscarriages and various other trials. I have been asked to leave two Southern Baptist Churches, due to my being a female, ordained as a minister, and fired from a SBC sponsored Christian School (mostly white) for speaking out against racial prejudice in the Family of God. Through God’s merciful forgiveness of my own sins and inadequacies and God’s grace given to me to forgive those who have been a stumbling block to me, I have overcome many of these adversities. God’s word tells us that “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to the purposes of God." Since I have this hope, I believe that God has blessed me with the ability to confront and relate these issues to the Christian community around the world. I hope to be able to use my personal experiences as a ministry of God’s grace and in the comforting of the people of God with the truth of God's mercy. I claim II Corinthians 1: 3 & 4 as my calling, which states: “Blessed be God, the Origin of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Origin of mercies, and the God of comfort; who comforts us in all our troubles, that we may be able to comfort those who are in trouble, by the comfort we ourselves have been given by God.” As I have received the gift of God’s healing, I hope to be able to bring the peace beyond understanding to others with the message of God’s mercy and grace. My love for the Sovereign Lord of my life, Jesus Christ, along with my passion for writing has drawn me to explore these commonly experienced crisis issues from the perspective of my own experience in the hope that I may bring an empathetic and compassionate insight to God’s people. I am now a published author and have several books in publication, including my autobiography, "A Little Redneck Theology." The views expressed in my writings are strictly my own insights, acquired from personal experience and diligent study of the related topics and God’s word concerning them. Though I am an ordained minister, my views should not be considered authoritative. I believe that the Christian community’s ultimate authority is the guidance of the human heart by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
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4 Responses to A Christian Perspective on Co-Sleeping

  1. Pingback: Co-sleeping fun! | Go Fish Ministries, Inc

  2. Pingback: An Essay on Motherhood | Go Fish Ministries, Inc

  3. Tiffany says:

    It would be nice for you to actually sight some evidence for you claims.

    http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;116/5/1245

    AAP,2005 report
    “Bed sharing between an infant and adult(s) is a highly controversial topic. Although electrophysiologic and behavioral studies offer a strong case for its effect in facilitating breastfeeding and the enhancement of maternal-infant bonding,35,36 epidemiologic studies of bed sharing have shown that it can be hazardous under certain conditions. Several case series of accidental suffocation or death from undetermined cause suggest that bed sharing is hazardous.34,37–39 A number of case-control studies of SIDS deaths have investigated the relationship of SIDS with parent(s) and/or other adults or children sleeping with an infant.16,31,40–48 Some of these studies have found the correlation between death and bed sharing to reach statistical significance only among mothers who smoked.41,47 However, the European Concerted Action on SIDS study,42 which was a large multisite study, found that bed sharing with mothers who did not smoke was a significant risk factor among infants up to 8 weeks of age. Similarly, a more recent study conducted in Scotland48 found that the risk of bed sharing was greatest for infants younger than 11 weeks, and this association remained among infants with nonsmoking mothers. The risk of SIDS seems to be particularly high when there are multiple bed sharers31 and also may be increased when the bed sharer has consumed alcohol or is overtired.42,47 Also, the risk of SIDS is higher when bed sharing occurs with young infants.40–42 It is extremely hazardous when adults sleep with an infant on a couch.31,40,41,48 Finally, the risk of bed sharing is higher the longer the duration of bed sharing during the night.41,47 Returning the infant to his or her crib was not associated with an increased risk in 2 studies,40,41 and in another, the risk was significant only when the bed sharing occurred for more than 1 hour or for the whole night.16 There is growing evidence that room sharing (infant sleeping in the parent’s room) without bed sharing is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.41,42,43,48 Data from the European Concerted Action on SIDS42 study led to the recommendation by its authors that the most protective sleep setting for an infant is in a crib in the parents’ room. On the basis of their study results, investigators in Scotland48 endorsed the United Kingdom Department of Health’s advice that the safest place for an infant to sleep is in a crib in the parents’ room for the first 6 months of life.”

    • Though I don’t agree with some points of the above “evidence”, I do agree that SIDS is associated with those who smoke and drink. I slept with all eight of my children, in a safe environment, didn’t smoke, drink, or use other drugs, and never had any problems. Even my smallest was perfectly safe. No mother who is not under the influence will roll over on her baby and not know it. SIDS was originally called CRIB DEATH for a reason. Babies in a crib do not have the benefit of the mother’s regulating heartbeat to steady their own beat and breathing patterns. God’s way is still the best way.

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