I wrote this in response to Authentic Parenting's call for posts for a blog carnival on the subject of Radical Parenting.
My 2 year-old recently informed me that "Sydney doesn't have a bed." I'm not entirely sure if this is his own observation or the result of overhearing conversations with my mom. Regardless, my response was "No, Syd sleeps with mommy. When you were a little baby you slept with mommy too." Occasionally he still does, although he is relegated to Daddy's side for safety's sake. But he's right, we don't even own a crib.
The lack of bed seems troublesome to many. My son was content enough with my answer. I guess it made sense to him. Others have more adult concerns. How can I sleep? Isn't it dangerous? Will she ever sleep on her own? And....insert hushed voice....how will we ever have sex again? The answers are pretty straightforward.
I sleep great. It was much harder for me to sleep the first month James moved into his own room and he was almost 2 at that point. I don't believe it is dangerous if you employ some common sense and some safety measures. Syd sleeps beside me and I sleep between her and my husband and/or son. I'm careful with my pillow and I have a special co-sleeping bolster that prevents roll off. As far as sleeping on her own, my son is sleeping on his own upstairs, so yeah, she'll sleep on her own. Although my son is always welcome to come into our bed if he needs the comfort. And sex? Yeah, not an issue. As I once told someone that asked this question, not everyone has sex at night or in bed.
But why is sleep sharing so important to me? Well, I won't lie. It is convenient. It's a lot easier to soothe, feed, or change the baby. But it's more than that. Sleep sharing is supremely natural. My child belongs with me. She needs me in the most basic, simple, yet all-consuming way that she will ever need.
As humans, we feel some desperate need to separate ourselves from animals. We're intelligent, we tell ourselves. We have more demands, more capabilities, more know-how. Whatever floats your boat. It seems to me we could learn a thing or two from animals. When was the last time you saw a mama cat stick her newborn kitten in a little cage for the night? Yeah, never. We could do this with damn near every animal on the planet, but we won't. You get the point.
Now somewhere along the line we convinced ourselves that letting our babies sleep in bed with us would cripple their development. They would become dependent, unable to sleep on their own, clingy. But if I could go back to my animal analogy, I'd like to argue the opposite. Those same animals that bunk down with their little ones, send their babies off into the world much earlier than us. They are nurtured carefully during their developmental stages in preparation for going out into the world. It's logical. An infant of any species needs to feel secure when they are at their most vulnerable to ensure their ability to grow and prosper.
Imagine, if you will, that you have lost your ability to speak, walk, sit up, even form rational thought. All you have is pure, visceral basic needs and emotions. You know you are hungry. You know you are uncomfortable. You know you have soiled yourself. You know you are scared. You know you are alone. You know you need. You don't know someone is in the next room. You don't know someone will come for you. You can't remember that.
Now imagine in this vulnerable state that you awaken in a dark room in a box with bars. You cry out not to alert someone to come in...you don't have the capacity to do that. You cry out in fear - pure, basic fear.
Fear is crippling. Fear can stop grown adults from facing obstacles. It can send them cowering away from a difficult task. If you start your life in fear and impotence, how do you learn to be independent? or even to ask for help? If you had to choose between fear and security, what would you choose for yourself? your children? By removing fear, we stop wasting energy on it. We have the capacity to channel our energy into growth.
Now ask me why I don't put my babies in cribs.