By Dr. Gregory Gordon
Author of Raising Good
Parents – A Guide to Your
Baby’s First Year
I do not recommend co-sleeping. I do agree that when humans slept in caves, newborns slept with or on top of their mothers. I also recognize that babies sleep their best on their mother’s belly.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend co-sleeping either. The AAP cites the small number of children who are crushed and suffocated each year in the United States as a primary reason.
My main objection to co-sleeping is failure to see it work. Co-sleeping has to end sometime. Your child cannot still be sleeping with his mother when he is 14 years old. So, somewhere between birth and 14 years old, co-sleeping must end. The transition to his own bed gets increasingly difficult as the months and years go by.
When is it easiest to end a bad habit? Consider an example of a child holding a pencil incorrectly. If he begins holding it incorrectly the first time, and it is not corrected, he will continue to improperly use it. Attempting to correct the issue later on only presents new challenges and a hard-to-break habit. As with anything, it is best to avoid bad habits from the start.
One of the families in my practice came to me frustrated with the baby’s grandparents. The grandparents had recently decided that they could no longer babysit their grandson overnight or in the evenings. The parents had been co-sleeping with their 8-month-old son. He had always co-slept well for his parents. The grandparents, though eager to help, had been unable to sleep or get their grandson to sleep while the parents were away.
Co-sleeping was dividing the family. The parents were frustrated with the grandparents. The grandparents (who wanted to help) were exhausted and frustrated with the parents. After a long discussion with the family and several weeks of hard, emotional work, their son finally learned good sleep habits.
Fortunately, this family recognized the problem and corrected it. Too often, parents do not see this as a problem, or worse, one parent wants to co-sleep and the other does not. I have found several families where mother and child sleep together and the father sleeps in the guest room. This ultimately damages the couple’s relationship and eventually their family.
Parenting begins with a newborn that is completely dependent. Good parenting should create a self-sufficient, independent person. We parents need to let our kids “grow up.” We need to teach our children to do tasks and then back off. Teach your son to dress himself, and then let him dress himself. Teach your daughter how to feed herself, and then let her feed herself. Teach your baby how to sleep and let him sleep.
The easiest way to impart good sleep habits to your child is to develop these habits from the beginning. By co-sleeping, even for a few months, you miss the best, most natural opportunity to give your child the gift of good sleep.
Dr. Gordon is the proud father of eight children. He is the Vice President of “The Gift of Swimming” (a local charity that provides swim lessons to Orlando’s needy children). In early 2010 Dr. Gordon started gregorygordonmd.com to share his pediatric and parenting experience.