When Attached Parents at Work recently added a "Reasons to co-sleep" post to its Facebook page, very much in favour of the practice rooted in attachment parenting, there arose such a clatter that you could actually hear claws emerging from mama bears. Mothers on one side of the fence shouted about the perceived dangers of co-sleeping while the mothers on the other side were left to defend their choices.
Look, I know we're not all ever going to agree. On breastfeeding vs. formula, cloth vs. disposables, when and how to start solids, sleep training, spanking, TV limits, babywearing, juice, french fries (even if they're salt-free) -- and certainly not on co-sleeping.
But unless it's a truly life-threatening or neglectful choice, why can't we just agree to disagree, understanding -- from one parent to the next -- that this shit is hard and we're all doing the best we can?
I've adopted a lot of the attachment parenting principles, but co-sleeping isn't one of them. Unless they're sick or scared -- which of course happens from time to time and they're welcome in our bed -- I just can't do it. And I'm OK with that. So, attack me all you want but here are the top five reasons I don't co-sleep:
1. Comfort. When a two year old knees you in the back after you just fell asleep following a random smack to your face, sleep is choppy and unpleasant. My kids are all over the map when they sleep, and often end up sideways. I need long stretches of sleep to feel well-rested; my family needs me well-rested if they don't want psycho-mommy on their hands.
2. The tube. I like to watch TV before bed some nights. I've created a master bedroom that I really enjoy and I'll be damned if I'm going to be relegated to the basement to watch the Real Housewives.
3. Sex. It's fun to do, my mattress is comfortable and I want to have it in my bed whenever I want.
4. Pee. I haven't peed the bed in a long time, so a king-sized waterproof mattress protector is pretty low on the priority list.
5. Booze. Every once in a while I like to have a good bottle of wine -- all to myself. I would never live down the guilt of rolling on to one of my kids and hurting them. Besides, even a mild hangover is much more tolerable if you're not woken up with a swift kick to the jugular (see point No. 1).
If you're co-sleeping and it's working for you, hooray! If you're co-sleeping and it's not working for you, what's stopping you from making a change? And if you're not co-sleeping and you don't feel guilty or selfish, now you know you're not alone.
A study published in the journal <em>Infant Behavior & Development</em> revealed that the standard "<a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCQQtwIwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch?v%3DXTV8bOv3Jhs&ei=0uLBToKrMuPu0gHkmNH0BA&usg=AFQjCNFtutJJhlTFZJ2fm-cmsDo46XMpzw" target="_hplink">You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby</a>" has little to do with reality. When 253 college students were asked to rank photos of the same individuals as infants and young adults (without being told who was who), there was <a href="http://bodyodd.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/08/31/7542626-must-have-been-a-beautiful-baby-maybe-not" target="_hplink">no relationship between how cute the students found the babies and how attractive they found the grown-ups</a>.
No, really, it's true. It doesn't matter how many times you've heard the shout "Mine!" -- research shows babies can sense fairness at 15 months. During one study at the <a href="http://www.washington.edu/news/articles/babies-show-sense-of-fairness-altruism-as-early-as-15-months-1" target="_hplink">University of Washington</a>, 47 babies observed videos of an experimenter distributing milk and crackers to two people. When one recipient received more food than the other, the babies paid more attention. That means they had expected a fair distribution. The researchers also found that babies who did notice unfairness were more likely to share their own toys.
OK, so they're not exactly psychic. But a <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111101130204.htm" target="_hplink">recent study</a> from the University of Missouri found that babies just 10 months old are starting to follow the thought processes of others. Yuyan Luo, an associate professor of developmental psychology who conducted the study, tells The Huffington Post, "Babies, like adults, when they see something for the first time -- when something is surprising -- they look for a long time. It shows [they recognize] something is inconsistent." It's called the "violation of expectation," she explained. When babies are surprised by something or notice something unexpected has happened, they tend to gaze at that thing longer. In Luo's research, babies watched actors consistently choose object A (such as a block or a cylinder) over object B. When an actor then switched to object B, the babies stared for about five to six seconds longer, meaning they recognized the change in preference.
Don't judge a book by its cover. Treat all people the same. We're all equals. These are sentiments parents strive to teach their kids from a very young age. And they should. Starting, like, immediately. Researchers at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom found that babies at three months <a href="http://www.world-science.net/exclusives/060212_racefrm2.htm" target="_hplink">begin showing a preference for the faces of people of their own race</a>. But not all hope for equality is lost. The same study showed that babies who are exposed to people of all different races are less likely to develop bias at such an early age.
Researchers from Brigham Young University found that five-month-old babies can <a href=" http://news.byu.edu/archive08-oct-babymusic.aspx" target="_hplink">identify an upbeat song as being different from a series of sad, slow songs</a>. In other words, they are happy. They know it. They will clap their hands. Or stare longer, as the case may be. The experimenters showed babies an emotionless face while music played. When they played a new sad song, the babies looked away. When the music pepped up, the babies stared for three to four seconds longer.
Babies have a sense of morality at six months old, <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1275574/Babies-know-difference-good-evil-months-study-reveals.html" target="_hplink">say Yale researchers</a>. During the Yale study, babies watched a puppet show in which a wooden shape with eyes tried to climb a hill over and over again. Sometimes a second puppet helped him up the hill, and other times a third puppet pushed him down. After watching the act several times, the babies were presented with both puppets. They showed a clear preference for the good characters over the bad ones by reaching to play with the good puppet.
Dr. Janet Werker of the University of British Columbia, who studies how babies perceive language, found that if a mother spoke two languages while pregnant, her infant could <a href="http://www.livescience.com/13016-bilingual-babies-brain-language-learning.html" target="_hplink">recognize the difference</a> between the two. And they don't even have to be spoken out loud. Werker's research found that infants four to six months old can <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/11/health/views/11klass.html" target="_hplink">visually discriminate two languages</a> when watching muted videos of someone speaking both.
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