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Attachment Parenting

Questions and Answers About the Family Bed
by Jay Gordon, MD and Maria Goodavage
Authors of Good Nights: The Happy Parents' Guide to the Family Bed (And a Peaceful Night's Sleep!)
Who has a family bed/co-sleeps?
The family bed is one of the best-kept secrets of parenthood: Some 80 percent of Americans from all walks of life allow their baby or young child into their bed, at least some of the time. (That's about 7 million new co-sleepers a year!)

Why are so many people sharing a bed with baby these days?
A huge increase in breastfeeding rates in the last decade has helped catapult co-sleeping, since sharing a bed makes it very easy to deal with nighttime feedings. (Mom doesn't have to get out of a cozy bed to go to the crying baby's room, feed the baby, then settle the awake baby back into the crib. With the family bed, everyone stays in the bed, the baby doesn't even need to cry, and mom and baby drift back to sleep with little disruption.) "I thought I'd be a zombie after my baby was born," says one mom, "but because we co-slept, I actually got plenty of sleep. My husband and friends were amazed. The whole experience was joy."

What about safety?
Despite recent admonitions by the Consumer Product Safety Commission against ever bringing a baby into an adult bed, the family bed can be as safe as a crib if a few basic safety guidelines are followed. Our book, Good Nights provides parents with everything they need to create a safe sleep environment in the family bed.

What about sex?
Surprise! Our extensive research has found that the majority of family bed parents have very satisfying sex lives. That's at least in part because parents can't become intimate in bed anymore. So they have to take sex out of the bedroom, which makes things more interesting. Read our fun list, derived from questionnaires filled out by hundreds of family bed parents: The Top 10 Places Family Bed Parents Make Love.

What about a child's independence?
We made a fascinating discovery during our research: The family bed actually encourages independence, not dependence. Dozens of family bed "graduates" told us they felt more independent than their peers (and yet closer to their families!). Allowing dependence in the early months and years increases independence later in life, in part because the child has a strong foundation. "I always knew my parents were there day or night to comfort and care for me," recalls a 22-year-old woman about her early days. "That has made me more independent and confident."

Is co-sleeping good for babies?
We gathered new scientific research from around the world that shows co-sleeping, done in a safe environment, is extremely beneficial to babies. Born with a mere 25 percent of their future brain volumne, human babies are the most vulnerable and slow growing of all mammals. (Other mammals are born with 60 to 90 percent of their future brain volume.) Research is showing that being next to a parent at night helps babies regulate many functions their fledgling nervous systems have yet to perfect, including heart rate and rhythm, hormone levels, blood pressure, and body temperature. It may even help protect against SIDS.

There are emotional benefits as well. Studies show that babies and young children who sleep beside their parents end up better adjusted than those who sleep without parental contact. Early in life they have fewer tantrums, handle stress better, and are less fearful. When older, they have very strong family ties, are less prone to peer pressure, and are more satisfied with life.

What's wrong with cry-it-out sleep training?
Because of the vast benefits of the family bed, we don't condone these techniques, but they we don't entirely condemn them either. Sleep training can help desperately tired parents who can't/don't want to sleep next to their babies to get more sleep - and thus be better, more patient parents by day. But cry-it-out sleep training can be extremely grueling for babies and parents. (Some techniques even advocate letting babies cry alone in a crib for hours, if that's how long it takes them to fall asleep.) And as sleep-training guru Richard Ferber, MD, recently pointed out, some babies just can't be "trained" to sleep.

Excerpted with permission from Good Nights: The Happy Parents' Guide to the Family Bed (And a Peaceful Night's Sleep!) written by Jay Gordon, MD, and Maria Goodavage. Visit their website at http://www.familybed.com/

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