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Confessing to Co-Sleeping

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There's an amazing amount of literature on the pros and cons of sleeping with your child...but in Italy, there's very limited talk on what's really happening in mom and dad's bedroom.

In fact, I discovered from a Sicilian mother, whom I admire immensely, that parents are not always truthful when it comes to sleeping arrangements, for fear of being judged negatively. She said that if the person asking was someone she knew to be prejudiced, she would never admit that her eight-year-old still seeks the safety of the king-sized bed in the dead of night.

"It's not done" is the general consensus on keeping your baby/small child in bed with you: allow it once and 10 years later he or she will continue snuggling up between mom and dad every night.

Interestingly, the safety issues of co-sleeping (baby being crushed or suffocating under the large covers) are usually not brought up. Despite recent reports from the UK warning against it, the widespread consensus is that only parents under the influence of the 2 Big Ds (Drugs or Drink) are at risk of killing their child while asleep (as long as basic security measures are taken).

As for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), US research has shown that it strikes babies that co-sleep less, probably because a parent has more chances of waking up and saving a child if it's sleeping right there.

On a personal note: we chose to keep our baby in bed with us from the day she was born. We believed that it would give her a sense of security and let her sleep more calmly; it would let me sleep better because I could nurse her and fall right back to sleep; and it would give daddy the opportunity to catch up on the cuddles he had missed during the working day. Plus, it is a key aspect of Attachment Parenting, championed by US pediatrician Dr William Sears.

Admittedly, some parents hate the thought of sleeping all huddled up in bed, while others simply cannot get a decent night's rest if their baby is in bed with them. But many parents just dare not admit that their children share their bed with them, for fear of being judged.

They fear being labelled as parents who spoil their children (as if mummy and daddy's bed were a vice); as parents who cannot control their children (as if children were automatons that should sleep through the night no matter what) and as parents who are preventing their kids from learning how to sleep alone.

When I openly confirm that our child sleeps with us, then others "admit" in a relieved manner that they too do the same. Sometimes kindred spirits are found in unexpected places: one rather gruff-looking daddy surprised us by saying that when his three-year old daughter decided she'd had enough of their bed and wanted to sleep in her own room, he was devastated!

Perhaps we need more people coming forward and declaring there is nothing wrong with co-sleeping. We need guilt complex-free parents admitting they did it in the past, and reassuring us that now their children are happily self-confident adolescents or adults...

Or perhaps we have reached a point at which we need more celebrities like Brad and Angelina -- who say they sleep with all six of theirs in a giant bed -- to convince the world that sleeping with your kids is actually a privilege.

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