Infant sleep safety guidelines for bedsharing

infant sleep safety brochure - cover picMany parents bedshare, all around the world. Attachment Parenting International (API) recognizes this, as well as the benefits that bedsharing brings to families. API educates and supports parents in ensuring safe sleep — both emotionally and physically — for their infants and children.

This is why API — in consultation with Dr. James McKenna, Dr. William Sears, and members of API’s Research Group — created the Infant Sleep Safety Guidelines brochure to help parents create a safe sleep environment for their baby’s first 6 months. This brochure provides safety guidelines for all infant sleep arrangements, including bedsharing and crib.

The brochure is free to download and distribute, and has been downloaded by the thousands. It is downloaded every day, by parents and professionals around the world who strive to create safe sleep environments for infants while protecting their emotional needs.

We welcome and invite you to download, read and put into practice the research-based infant sleep safety guidelines within this brochure, and then to feel free to print as many copies as you’d like to distribute among families in your community.

Making the Best Sleep Choices for my Family

This week someone got in touch with me to talk about a new study in the journal Pediatrics, which suggests that there’s no long-term harm associated with certain methods of sleep training. These methods use controlled crying in order to encourage babies to fall asleep on their own. They followed two groups of babies at seven months – one of which used sleep training techniques, and one of which didn’t. They followed up with these groups at six years old, and found no statistical differences. Their emotional health, behavior and sleep problems were the same. As well, the mothers’ levels of depression and anxiety were the same.

Many of the newspaper headlines around this article suggested that this means that sleep training is okay, or recommended. These two methods, when practiced with seven-month-olds, don’t appear to cause brain damage, so why not use them?

I have two children, who are now four and seven years old. The days of being up all night with a baby are currently behind me. I remember them all too well, though. And I remember how I handled them. One of the eight principles of Attachment Parenting International is ensuring safe sleep, physically and emotionally. I tried to do that, by keeping my babies close to me at night, and responding to their needs. I didn’t do this because I was afraid of causing them brain damage, I did this because it’s what worked best for my family.

Day 16

The truth is that many, if not most, parents go through periods where they’re not getting enough sleep. We all handle this in different ways. This is as it should be, because every baby is different, and every family is different. Each child will learn to sleep independently on a different timeline. Even with my own two children, I’ve seen very different temperaments and developmental paths. As a result, I don’t believe there’s any single answer when your baby is keeping you up at night, including sleep training.

I also don’t believe that I should do something simply because it isn’t harmful. There are many things that simply aren’t right for my family, even though they’re safe. For example, I have rules about not eating food on the couch. This isn’t because my children will be damaged if they eat on the couch, it’s because I don’t want to clean it. In the same way, I have always known that I didn’t want to let my babies cry themselves to sleep. It’s not about avoiding harm, it’s about making the choice that I feel is best for my family. Listening to my babies cry wasn’t best for me, or my family.

As well, I think it’s important to point out something about this study. It looked at two very specific sleep training methods, used with seven month olds. It did not look at all methods, and it did not look at four month olds or two month olds or even younger babies. We can say that there aren’t any apparent negative long-term effects in this case, but this doesn’t mean that would be the case for any sleep training method with any baby.

There were hard nights as the parent of an infant, but looking back I can honestly say that I’m happy I didn’t let my babies cry it out. It wasn’t for my family. And one study can’t change that.

What methods have you found effective to help everyone in your family get enough sleep, other than using “cry it out”? And do the results of this study change your opinion on the method?

Spring Mini Series Installment #2 – Baby Training and Sleep

My dad always used to say “dead man don’t need no sleep” and we would all laugh. We would laugh because we did not yet understand the depth of those words. Parenting is not a literal death but it is definitely dying to oneself in a whole new way and in hardly any other way is this more evident or more felt than in the sleep arena.

Sleep is a very hotly debated topic among parents and understandably so since of all the things in life after baby sleep is in short supply and emotions and exhaustion are running high. There is a line of thought that babies need to be trained to sleep that they are born with messed up sleep patterns that must be set straight by their parents so that they learn “healthy” sleeping habits. To sleep-deprived parental minds and bodies, nothing makes more sense than that. I mean how can it possibly be that waking every few hours is healthy? How can it be that someone can’t wait to eat until later? How can it be that day is a better time to sleep than night? And doesn’t it make sense that a baby must learn what is healthy and right? How else do they know to sleep when it is dark? Plus every other internal signal doesn’t seem to line up with ours and it has to some time, right? Continue reading “Spring Mini Series Installment #2 – Baby Training and Sleep”

Gentle Baby and Toddler Sleep Tips

Photo credit: Lab2112 on flickr

This post provides tips for sleep deprived parents that want their babies to sleep better and, like me, do not want to use the cry it out approach. Some of these things I have learned through experience and others I’ve learned through reading research. I should note that I have not necessarily tried all of these things because I do not consider my children’s sleep to be a problem. That doesn’t mean that they never wake up and it doesn’t mean that there are not tough nights here and there, but on the whole I get enough rest and my kids get enough rest.

1. Calming Bedtime Routine Continue reading “Gentle Baby and Toddler Sleep Tips”