Why I will continue to cosleep

22 May, 2013

I hadn’t been online all day, so it was snuggled in bed with my 4 week old baby nestled in the crook of my arm where I read the headlines on my phone “Sudden infant death greater when parents share beds with babies” – and this one from the Guardian, that balanced, unsensationalist, altogether superior news outlet (spoken like a true biased liberal, HA.)

I read the report with what must have been an expression on my face much like the one that appears when people tell me they don’t have Twitter accounts – somewhere between incredulity and fear.

Could it be true? Despite years of rubbish data and myth peddling around cosleeping, have they finally proven something that means I must stop this beautiful parenting practice?

I love cosleeping with my little ones. My two and a half year old, Ramona, is still in the bed with us mostly and I am once again delighting in the joys of sharing sleep with my tiny (okay, actually comically MASSIVE) newborn, Juno.

Cosleeping is a continuation of our daytime parenting philosophy; until they are several months old they will be rarely out of our arms – let alone sight. And, as psychologists and neuroscientists have suggested could happen, this initial closeness has developed a fierce independence and daring confidence in my toddler.  Rather than night time and those frequent night feeds being dreaded I look forward to it, knowing that I am likely to get a steady ten hours where I am barely disturbed because even at 4 weeks old Juno can latch on without either of us stirring much. (I’m not the only one who loves this element- even SCIENCE loves the way cosleeping aids breastfeeding; a wonderful relationship has been established by researchers between the two, and it has been shown that breastfeeding lowers the chances of SIDS.)

Once or twice in the last few weeks I have risen to the surface to discover Juno’s breathing doing something a little bit peculiar, just for a few moments, and have been able to listen in to it settling back down again- almost as if there is a subconscious thread that connects her rhythms to mine. When she snuffles about I can restore her peace with a gentle hand on her belly or a badger mamma-like nuzzle into her cheek with my nose. (I can see myself like a badger; lopingly calm until crossed and wearing edgy monochrome.)

As my older daughter has grown cosleeping has continued to hold benefits – allowing a sleepful connection and passing of love between us even when I was often doing long days at work without her close by. I’m sure it has made the transition of a New Kid On the Block much smoother for her too. (It also provides a few jolly chuckles, like the time Ramona played hide and seek with her legs in her sleep.)
Why I will continue cosleeping

I love cosleeping; it has helped my parenting in both a touchy-feely emotional way and a very practical way too. Yet as I read the news last night I wondered if I would have to let it go for the safety of my babies. Should I turn against this deep instinct of mine – an instinct that parents have felt for thousands of years?

Fortunately, as the words from the newspapers flew like darts into my brain other facts, reports and stats swam amongst them- from books and blogs and articles I have enjoyed over the last few years. How can one new bit of research make all of that redundant? This niggle caused me to delve a bit deeper (erm, search Twitter) and I found that – OF COURSE- it doesn’t. In actual fact, the “new” bit of research isn’t new at all, but a regurgiation of old data – data that was initially flawed and now even more so as it has been shoe horned in to a prove an unprovable hypothesis.

As the British Medical Journal hit publish on this cosleeping research by a fellow called Carpenter a host of other scientists, professors and sleep experts from across the globe rushed to hit publish on their own analysis- analysis that deeply calls into question both the methodology and the conclusions of the Carpenter study.

*Serious face* I do have a BA and an Msc in Social Policy, so can get my head around statistics and research methodology and the making of health policy but I’m not going to do my own analysis because, hello; YAWN!! *serious face vanishes* Just kidding, it is because it is all there, already ready to read.

Please see below for the 5 MUST-READS in response to the Carpenter study and the propaganda (YES, propoganda why, why, WHY is there this crazy bias against cosleeping?) that has been produced in the last 24 hours.

But one thing I must add that I don’t think can be said enough. There is a GARGANTUAN difference between intentional and accidental cosleeping and this hasn’t been differentiated between at all in any of the studies used. 50% of parents cosleep at some points but the majority of these doing it in an impromptu manner, as mother and baby fall asleep together during a night nurse. This MUST NOT COUNT as cosleeping in these studies!

People who choose to cosleep take into account their bedding, their night wear, baby’s night wear, room temperature, presence of pillows, the presence – and state- of other people in the bed and baby’s position. All of these things can produce extra risk for baby’s in the parent’s bed so if people have planned and prepared for cosleeping these factors are more often than not taken into account and eliminated. Very much unlike accidental cosleepers.

Not only does this hugely skew nearly every study done, but it also poses a problem for generating policy on cosleeping. Calling for a ban on cosleeping stops any dialogue about all those factors above and makes unintentional cosleeping much more likely to happen.

Cosleepers with intention: YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR.

Read on for full assurance…

Psychology Today, SIDS Risks and Realities – a comprehensive rebuttal of the Carpenter study by other academics
“…it is not possible to determine that one variable, such as bedsharing itself is inherently responsible for risk remaining in this study.”

Peter Blair’s Peer Review Before items get any steam behind them they must be peer reviewed – this study was reviewed and found to be good by a few academics (all of which have published anti-bedsharing stuff before) apart from one, Peter Blair, a leading SIDS epidemiologist who writes this scathing and damming review – it is a download but an absolute must!
“The primary focus of this paper, stated in the article summary, is to answer the question “Is there a risk of SIDS due to bed sharing when baby is breast fed, the parents do not smoke and the mother does not use alcohol or illegal drugs?” This question cannot be addressed when only two of the five studies collected data on maternal alcohol consumption, none of them collected data on the use of illegal drugs prior to bed sharing and the question is confined to one cosleeping parent when there are often two.”

Another damming critique, this time from ISIS (Infant Sleep Information Source) – it is a download
“… it is important to be aware that the data upon which these analyses are based are now 15-26 years old (although referred to as ‘recent’), and have been compiled ad hocfrom a heterogeneous collection of studies performed in different countries at different time points, using different methods and definitions for data collection (i.e. it is based upon data that are neither comprehensive nor systematic). It can therefore provide only weak evidence for informing public health policy, and parental infant care behaviour in 2013”

The war on bedsharing- academic and parenting author, Uncommon John
“Discombobulated, perhaps, by recent evidence that has clarified that the risks of bedsharing are limited , and that breastfeeding protects against SIDS (a finding which some SIDS researchers have never wanted to accept) several authors teamed up to to rehash and respin some of their old data, much of which uses poor, outdated definitions of things like co-sleeping and breastfeeding.

Unicef Statement – calling into question the methodology used
“The impression from the press release is that infants in the general population are at a 5-fold risk of SIDS when the parents bed-share and don’t smoke, which is untrue. The risk is considerably smaller than 2.7 and might not even be significant. Considering these findings, it is surprising that the authors have focused on the risk among non-smoking, non-drinking bed-sharing mothers, when there are groups at far higher risk.”

Bedsharing and SIDS- Why we have it all wrong by Sarah Ockwell Smith – a helpful list of the variables not included in the study and a great comparison to driving cars!
“…the Carpenter research has many flaws, aside from the damaging call to action they propose they have just missed far too many variables for the research to be considered of any use to society.”

Bedsharing by Analytical Armidillo – not only does it discuss the dangers of a blanket ban but discusses all the research proving safe cosleeping is actually HEALTHIER for babies!
“So here we have internationally recognised doctors … stating actually co-sleeping may be protective against SIDS.”

NCT statement
“NCT does not support a universal instruction not to bed share as it could lead to an increased likelihood that a parent or carer inadvertently falls asleep while holding the baby, in a chair or on a sofa, which is much less safe for the infant.”

If only our media were better at finding this stuff and giving us balanced reporting (GOSH,  I’m just a blogger tapping away on a laptop with a newborn strapped to my front and a toddler trying to put her Thomas the Tank Engine down my pants and I can manage it! Pull your finger out, Guardian et al.)


PS Have you found any cosleeping must-reads? Do share!

PPS I’d hate for you to miss a post… enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!

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  • Circus Queen 22 May, 2013 at 11:12 am

    I so wanted to pen a response to this but have been helping sick child. In the meantime, you’ve come along and just about said what I wanted to say!! I have loved cosleeping and if I have another, he or she will come join us in the family bed. One of the things I feel is pertinent to the debate over whether or not to cosleep, though, is planned cosleeping. This post by a blogger I follow really helped me when I was trying to figure out how to do it safely: I should write a post about how we ended up doing it, actually…

    • Lucy 23 May, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      Thank you lady, that is a great post. The one good thing about this study is that it has got alot of people writing about their experiences of cosleeping!

  • Yael 22 May, 2013 at 11:15 am

    It’s actually quite amazing that people know they would not fall out of bed in their sleep, but will somehow believe they can squash their baby in their sleep.
    I LOVE cosleeping. Not only it’s fun and cuddly, it also makes night feeding so much easier!

    • Lucy 23 May, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      Oh, that is so true, have never thought about that element before! Love your “fun and cuddly” description!

  • Eeh Bah Mum 22 May, 2013 at 11:37 am

    I think your point about intentional co sleeping is a really important definition. We loved co sleeping with both our little ones.
    The recent media coverage just hands more poorly informed ammunition to people who want to bash parents who choose co sleeping.
    What with that and Kate bloody Garraway I am fit to scream at the next person who wants to tell me how to be a mum.

    • Lucy 23 May, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      I do feel like attachment parents are a bit more got at- although maybe all parents feel this way for whatever choice they make?!

  • Hopeful Wife 22 May, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Thank you for your article. My husband and I are planning to start a family soon, and it has long been my intention to co-sleep. When the news story broke, I groaned. I don’t believe the results are correct, so your links to refutations are very helpful. I- and my future children- thank you!

    • Lucy 23 May, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      Such a pleasure 🙂
      COngratulations- you are going to love life snuggly with your newborn! xx

  • Cat (Yellow Days) 22 May, 2013 at 11:40 am

    I think the whole issue just shows how hard it is for the general public to really grasp the concept of very small risks and how you compare them. We’ve been lucky enough to be able to pretty much wipe out the things that have posed real significant risks to the the lives of children in the UK over the last few centuries but that does seem to free us up to obsess over tiny risks in the hope of finding a way to reduce them to zero when that is never going to be possible.

    While the research is always going to be flawed when you are looking at such a small risk in an area with so many other variables I don’t think it is unreasonable to say there still appears to be ‘a’ risk associated with co-sleeping as long as we are clear that that level of risk is so tiny as to be virtually insignificant in the greater scheme of things.

    As a result, while I’m not a particular fan of co-sleeping myself, it would seem an illogical overreaction to take on the real ‘risk’ of giving up all the concrete benefits you and your daughters are getting from co-sleeping to only partly mitigate against a tiny risk of SIDS.

    Maybe we just have to get better at acknowledging that there is no perfect risk free way of bringing up kids and accept that it will always be a matter of weighing up the pros and cons to find the best balance we can.

    • Lucy 23 May, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      Completely! I think people CAN understand risk and research but are not given the opportunity too- we trust news too much rather than delving in to what things actually mean!
      I think you need to write a post all about this risk stuff 🙂

  • Umm Yahya 22 May, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Thank you!

    Put me in such a bad when I read the Guardian yesterday!!

    • Lucy 23 May, 2013 at 6:00 pm


  • Rachel/ Roo Paprika 22 May, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Ahh thank you for those links. As a parent-to-be (20 weeks eep!) we are looking to incorporate an element of co-sleeping (probably with a bedside cot to begin with) in to our parenting. But I was slightly dismayed and questioned our intended approach when I read these reports yesterday. I often feel that I am having to pick through media bias and flawed studies to make every parenting decision when, quite frankly, I have neither the time or the energy. Being a new parent or a parent to be is overwhelming enough. All I would really like are some facts.

    • Lucy 23 May, 2013 at 6:01 pm

      20 weeks! Wow it is going so quickly!
      Yes, it is a minefield. I reckon going with your instincts and then reading up on it is a good way to do it…

  • Kirsty 22 May, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Thank you for this. I just saw your post retweeted by someone on Twitter, and I’m so pleased (and relieved) to have found it. While we hadn’t planned to co-sleep with our daughter (now 16mths) it very quickly felt like the natural thing to do.

    Your point about accidental vs purposeful co-sleeping is so important, and I find it bizarre that that crucial distinction wasn’t taken into consideration in the original study.

    • Lucy 23 May, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      It is bizarre isn’t it. I don’t know a single intentional co-sleeper who isn’t totally up to scratch on how to do it safely. But if you accidentally fall asleep with your little one that is such a different story 🙁

  • Kev 23 May, 2013 at 9:02 am

    “Maybe we just have to get better at acknowledging that there is no perfect risk free way of bringing up kids” – Absolutely right, Cat. Completely agree.

    What really angers me about this is the way the critics deal with men. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen/read ‘but what about if your husband comes home drunk and falls asleep in the bed?’. It really angers me that these people think women should be encouraged to live their lives around an assumption that all men are selfish idiots with complete indifference to them and their children. It seems a lot of people are against planned cosleeping because they think that it is impossible for men to be a responsible part of that planning. Men are capable of more and women should demand it, not work around it’s absence.

    • MsXpat 23 May, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      Well said Kev! I must admit I was a bit nervous for hubby to co-sleep with our newborn girl, she’s so tiny and he’s massive but turns out he was/is much better than me. I’m a restless sleeper and could never sleep with such a tiny infant. I would never sleep. She sleeps much better with him when needs be snore as loud as he might but he’s a still sleeper and he’s got her and she feels safe.

    • Lucy 23 May, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      Greta to hear from a guy- thank you for your comment! Actually my husband is a million times more diligent, safe, fun and all round better parent to our girls!
      I agree that mothers should insist on fathers stepping up over time 🙂

  • vally 23 May, 2013 at 11:06 am

    thank you! you summed it all up very well… we also co-sleep with both our boys, 3 yo and 6 mo, yesterday morning when i heard the news on the tv i just told my partner “uhm, there must be more to this study that they are not mentioning” and yep, there it goes… i add to the why oh why is this attitude?…
    i absolutely love to share our bed and sleep with our boys, i couldn’t do it any other way! the easiness of it all, even when for some reason the night is shorter (because i hang around doing stuff until 12 pm!…), the sleep is soooo sooo much better! and people always tell me how fresh i look in the morning?? of course! i sleep well thank you!

    • Lucy 23 May, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      Gosh, I know, if only we went to bed much earlier we’d look like a million bucks!

  • MsXpat 23 May, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    I have to admit that I began co-sleeping reluctantly. I co-sleeped with my mum untill I was 10 years old and it took me a long time learn to sleep on my own. I was a sensitive anxious child and I didn’t want that for my own kids. I want my kids to be confident but with my first born who’s now 2 1/2 he broke me and I gave in to co-sleeping when her was 1 1/2 I was close to losing my minds with lack of sleep. I’d be up as much as 7 times per night cuddling and settling him back to sleep. Turns out he was not afraid of the dark and he didn’t lack confidence he just wanted to be close to me. One year on we are still co-sleeping and its now ME who can’t sleep without him, in spite of all the kicks and slaps he dishes out in his sleep, lol. Our baby girl sleeps in her cot but if she has a cold or a bit unsettled she sleeps on her daddy. She’s not as robust yet as her big bro and I don’t trust myself with her, lol.

    • Lucy 23 May, 2013 at 6:05 pm

      Great to hear your story – don’t they all just want to be close to us at all times? I think so 🙂

  • Ummmm... 23 May, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Sorry to be blunt, but am I the only one who’s wondering how you guys have a sex life?? Genuine question … Doing it in front of the kids would surely be frowned upon, but I can’t think of an alternative…? Or does ‘all that’ just go out of the window in the wake of more important things?

    • Lucy 23 May, 2013 at 6:06 pm

      Love a bit of bluntness!
      We are lucky to have a biggish house so don’t have to be limited to the bedroom. Also, kids actually sleep INCREDIBLY soundly…. but once they get to a certain age I’d definitely seek out another room! x

  • Heather Scott 30 May, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    This is a fantastic post, thank you. I have never considered co-sleeping before simply because it has never crossed my mind (not that I have a problem with it or any parent who does it!) but reading this has been thoroughly interesting. 🙂

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  • Louise naylor 14 August, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    I had no idea this was a thing, let alone a thing of contention! I simply could not bear to out my babies out of my sight or touch. Learnt to sleep on my back with my arm in a protective right angle shape and ignored all male protestations.

    I also breast fed determinedly when and wherever required for two years per child. This was in ’88 – 90 and ’92 – 94. In England and in Holland, the latter receiving the most (ignored) disapproval.

    The boys are in their 20’s, strong, self confident, non criminal, upstanding societal contributors who have almost never been sick in their lives.

    I find it impossible to understand how anyone could put their child in another room. No cot = no cot death.

  • MARÍA MONTES DE OCA 13 April, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Hi Lucy! I love your lifestyle, is so cool and cute. I saw you’re a good mommy and you have a pretty family and omg, I’m in love with your photos. I’m a latin girl and I’m so happy for learn new cultures like yours.

    Well, congrats from Venezuela (South America) <3

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