Sleep Week: Controversy Around Co-Sleeping

By: John Harding Email
By: John Harding Email

The Watson family of Colorado Springs is as close as a family can be. Jeff and his wife, Zakary, are the parents of 10-year-old Zoe and 3-year-old Troy. From the day their children were born, the youngsters have slept with Jeff and Zakary. Zoe has recently ventured into her own bed. Her brother often begins the night sleeping with her, but winds up in bed with his parents.

The Watsons began co-sleeping or bed sharing as a way to keep an eye on their children. They enjoy the closeness and connection it provides as a family. It's now been 10 years, and Zakary says she is prepared to spend another seven years co-sleeping with her youngest. While she says it does affect the amount of sleep she receives, and she is often tired, the benefits outweigh the costs.

Audrey Cassibry and her husband, Tim, have a much different approach to bedtime in their home. Their sons are now 14 and 11, and have never slept with their parents. Audrey says she was a stay-at-home mom, and spent plenty of time caring and connecting with her sons during the day, and did not feel the need to share a bed at night with them. She believes it is important for children to respect the relationship between their parents, and that makes the shared bed "off limits."

While there are many opinions on the subject, there are few absolutes as to the benefits or disadvantages to co-sleeping. Some credit co-sleeping with creating a closer tie between parent and child, and producing more confident kids. Babies may cry less and it's often easier for breast feeding moms. Opponents say parents lose sleep and intimacy, and the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages bed sharing for very young children due to the risk of suffocation or other bodily injury.

One thing both Zakary and Audrey agree on is the potentially difficult transition of changing a child's sleeping arrangements. They both encourage new parents to prepare to live with their choice of co-sleeping or putting children in their own beds for a long time.

An interesting side note: we contacted several family and child counselors and therapists, as well as university professors to share their expertise on the subject of co-sleeping. All of them declined. One contact told 11 News, the subject was too controversial and embedded in various cultures to address.

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