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December 29, 2005

We're Co-Sleeping, We're Proud, Get Used To It

sweet_hereafter.jpgThe NYT reports on the growing Co-Sleeping Pride movement, in which literally several new parents who have been co-sleeping in secret shame have come out of the closet now that Dr. Richard Ferber has backtracked from his previous "cry it out, dammit" babysleeping advice. The biggest shock: they look just like us normal people.

[Is this for real? In the original 1985 edition of Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, Ferber advocated brusquely cleaning up and leaving again if your child cried so much he threw up? "If you reward him for throwing up by staying with him, he will only learn that this is a good way for him to get what he wants." Should we be preparing for a wave of ADD-addled serial killers when this first Ferber generation hits high school?]

The whole article is shot through with over-emotional gotcha moments between co-sleepers and their oppressors: militant pediatricians, and "moralizing" fellow parents who have used a different approach. Emotions and tension runs pretty high for new parents, especially during those first few months where a shower suddenly seems like an overambitious goal.

But seriously, people, give a conscientious parent the benefit of the doubt; who they decide to sleep with is really nobody's business but their own.

And Baby Makes Three in One Bed [nyt]
image: from Atom Egoyan's Sweet Hereafter, which I wrote about here, and which you should buy here.

posted December 29, 2005 9:03 AM | add to del.icio.us | digg this


I am against co-sleeping but our 1 yr. old usually (5-6 times a week) makes it into our bed between 2 and 4 am. There is one glaring wrinkle in Ferber's earlier, "let em cry till they puke" regimen - what human can stand a screaming baby for more than 3 minutes at that time of night. I challenge Ferber to come to my house, sleep over, and see if he can make it more than one night.

posted by: Mike at December 29, 2005 10:54 AM

Came to your blog because I was interested in seeing what others thought of Dr. Richard Ferber...who I call Dr. Dick.
I normally post humor, but he got me so angry thinking about how new parents feel they must listen to his nonsense. Now, 20 years later he changes his mind?
Great blog...

posted by: Carol Scibelli at December 29, 2005 12:27 PM

Around 1 year or so, the boy used to wake up and cry (and cry and cry and cry) around 2am. We'd take him into our bed so we could all get some sleep. When he started sleeping through the night we no longer had a need to bring him into our bed.

So maybe someone should write a book explaining that different solutions might work for different people at different times. Hmm. Do you think I can I pad that out to 200 pages?

posted by: Abu Danny at December 29, 2005 12:39 PM

In the same way parents are convicted for their decision to co-sleep, I feel convicted for Ferberizing. While not a perfect process, our lives (including our baby's) have changed! We were practially walking into walls by the time we relented and tried his method. It worked and we are thrilled that someone out there gave us the "permission" to stick it out and let him cry. It's not easy and the baby wasn't the only one crying but by the 3rd day he went from waking up 3 to 5 times a night to sleeping between 10 and 12 hours straight! I say live and let live. Whatever works for you is what you should do.

posted by: Fiona at December 29, 2005 2:34 PM

I just posted a comment on this recently in the 'baby monitor' blog entry. Funny that it is up now. I agree with the couples who said they had to 'come out' we always have talked about our co-sleeping with our children but some people really are quite shocked at it when telling them and sometimes state or ask that it is dangerous, etc.

our first daughter slept with us for just about 2 years, when she was three she moved to a matress next to our bed and then at 3 1/2 moved into her bedroom. the process was very natural and she did it when she was ready, this was very important to us. now at 4 1/2 she loves her bedroom and bunk bed.

our youngest (at 4 months) now sleeps with us as well. there are co-sleeper items to purchase if you are uncomfortable with the idea of sleeping with your child for possible risks, however these 'risks' really have never been an issue for us and we simply sleep next to our child as we do with one another. for breast feeding mothers this is a major blessing as your child will be able to take what they need throughout the night with minimal or no effort on your part.

posted by: Ken at December 29, 2005 3:16 PM

It seems like both sides of the Ferber/Sears conflict are moving together.

I guess the moral of the story is that you can't take any book as gospel (well, except for maybe that book).

posted by: Neal Patrick at December 29, 2005 5:16 PM

Just to clarify, Ferber did not "backtrack", "change his mind" or "reverse his position". He simply clarified a point... which I believe was just one sentence in his book.

I have found that many people who claim his method is cruel or doesn't work never actually read his book completely. Many just hear "let them cry", and that's all they try to do. The actual method is more complex, and needs to be adjusted to work with the needs of your own child and family. His book, like all parenting advice, is just an idea -- it is up to the parents to determine how to use it (or not) in their own lives.

Also, I found the NYT article rather amusing. Another "news story" where they interview a couple very vocal people and claim it's a "new trend". My thought is: Any parent who feels embarrassed or persecuting over their parenting decisions should get over it. Choose what's right for you -- sleeping along vs co-sleeping, breast vs bottle, TV or not -- and if it is working for you, don't worry what others think about it.

posted by: Dan at December 29, 2005 5:34 PM

On nights when our newborn was especially restless and I brought him into bed I loved having him there - but I didn't sleep comfortably or well. So most of the time I'd just get up, feed him, and put him back in the bassinet, milkily asleep. We weren't cut out to be full-time cosleepers. However - a post-6am wakeup has always meant he comes into bed and nurses there and has a little nap with us.

He's 7months now and that morning feed is the only one left. (Well, we still feed him, but it's the only time he nurses.) That little nurse&nap is relaxing and precious for all three of us. My point? No one had to tell us when it worked and when it didn't.

Having said that, I will say - my kid sleeps. Sometimes he has to be coaxed, but ultimately he sleeps. So I don't know what 'cry till they puke' or 'cosleep or your kid will be a serial killer' theories might sound good to me if I was sleep deprived and on the edge of reason.

posted by: meaganmac at December 29, 2005 11:30 PM

With regards to the quote about children throwing up: I used to be able to vomit easily by sheer willpower if I was desperate for attention (or wanted to stay home from school). At least once, I can recall throwing up dinner because I was irate that my parents weren't paying attention to me when I wanted it. Although, even in my case, I would have to say that if your child is upset enough to be vomiting, it's something you need to look at and address as a parent.

posted by: Trent at December 30, 2005 5:46 PM

Funny to read comments about the dangers of co-sleeping... In our case the only danger is to me (daddy) , as our 10 month insists to sleep horizontally with the head towards mommy (ready to eat) and his feet in my face, waking me up occasionally with a good kick in the nose...

posted by: Ori at December 15, 2006 9:42 AM
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