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Co-sleeping is one of those hot-button parenting topics that most parents avoid like the plague. Much like breastfeeding, circumcision, and screen time, co-sleeping is a controversial subject where parents have to decide what’s right for their own families. The judgement around these issues can be so strong that it’s no surprise to hear a recent study out of Iowa State University found that many parents who co-sleep with their children lie about it to avoid being shamed.
Susan Stewart, a professor of sociology at Iowa State, wanted to study co-sleeping because most research on the subject comes from the medical field and is related to SIDS. Stewart is one of the first researchers to take a broader approach and include parents who slept with infants as well as children up to age 13. In her research, she found that of the 51 families she interviewed, about half of the parents lied about co-sleeping when asked about it by family or their pediatrician. Why? The shame and stigma associated with co-sleeping.
“There is a lot of pressure. Everybody thinks they know how to parent better than everybody else,” Stewart said. “Unfortunately, there’s a lot of judgment and, in general, very little support for parents.” There is also a lot of conflicting information about the safety and benefits of co-sleeping. The American Academy of Pediatrics is against it, recommending that babies sleep “on a separate surface, such as a crib or bassinet, and never on a couch, armchair or soft surface” to lower the risks of sleep-related deaths. However, co-sleeping is incredibly popular in Scandinavian, Asian and South American countries, where SIDS deaths are far lower than in the United States.
Stewart, who compiled her study’s results into a book, “Co‑Sleeping: Parents, Children, and Musical Beds,” thinks parents should trust their instincts. “Parents are exhausted, they’re stressed and honestly, it’s often easier to co-sleep,” Stewart said. “There’s no one size fits all, and in my view, there is no right or wrong.” You gotta do what you gotta do, fam. Just make sure everyone is safe, and catch those family Zs however you can.