There are plenty of controversial topics out there when it comes to parenting. And while parents may get into arguments over issues like screen time or the merits of crying it out, one of the biggest debates is co-sleeping. Now, a new study claims that parents who co-sleep often lie about it, because the stigma associated with it is so strong.
Co-sleeping is definitely a tricky subject. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against certain kinds of co-sleeping — bed-sharing specifically — saying that newborns should sleep in the same room as parents, but not in the same bed. There's a good reason for that: Co-sleeping has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), as well as other sleep-related deaths. Parents who come out as co-sleepers are often accused of not caring about their infant's safety — often because the general public doesn't differentiate between co-sleeping and bed-sharing.
So it's no wonder the study in question, conducted by sociology professor Susan Stewart, found that half of co-sleeping parents interviewed didn't want anyone else to know, and lied about their sleeping habits to friends, family, and even pediatricians. (While lying to judgmental mom friends is one thing, lying to your child's pediatrician isn't a great idea when it comes to getting your child the proper, fully-informed care he or she needs.)
But while some are quick to shame those who fall asleep next to their infants, co-sleeping has plenty of advocates too, who point out that, in addition to being an easier option for exhausted parents and a valuable way to bond, it's also the way to go in much of the rest of the world. Harvard researchers Robert and Sarah Levine wrote in an op-ed for The Los Angeles Times that parents in Japan sleep in the same bed as their babies, and that country has one of the lowest rates of infant mortality in the world, lower than the rate in the United States. The Levines also pointed to evidence that co-sleeping leads to less sleep disruption for children. And what tired parent doesn't want that?
Then there's the whole issue of age — is it okay to co-sleep with your children once they're a little older, and the risk of SIDS is gone, or does it make them co-dependent? While some claim that continued co-sleeping can emotionally stunt children, a recent study in Pediatrics found that it didn't have any adverse affects.
Most people can agree that, while co-sleeping will likely continue to be controversial, parents shouldn't feel that they have to lie about the choices they're making for their children. That's not good for anyone.