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Sleeping with children attracts extremes
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Q: My wife and I are looking into “co-sleeping” with our new baby girl. When I told a neighbor of mine, she shook her head and said it was too risky and would “spoil” her, causing later behavior problems. What are the risks, the benefits, and what should we do?
A: While co-sleeping, or sleeping with an infant in your adult bed, has only recently re-entered the conversation in North America, it is not some newfangled idea. Outside of the English-speaking world it’s the norm, and before the 20th century it was standard pretty much everywhere.
Advocates of co-sleeping cite studies that show that co-sleeping helps sync the sleep cycles of mother and child, facilitates nighttime breastfeeding, reduces stress hormones, and encourages closer attachment. But the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission advises against it, saying babies are at risk of suffocation if an adult rolls over on the child, or the child becomes wedged between bed and wall. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends against co-sleeping, suggesting it increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). As you might expect, many prominent experts have a completely different view, saying that co-sleeping may actually prevent SIDS.
When expert opinion is divided in this way, it often indicates that the evidence is so sketchy that neither extreme is justified. The safety commission estimates that about 64 children die each year as a result of sleeping with adults, which indicates a very rare occurrence, and probably included extenuating circumstances.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers questions at
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