Friday, September 17, 2010

Co-Attachment Parenting Through Divorce?

This will be a breif post but I appreciate as many comments as possible because I feel desperate for any ideas as to what to do. 

I have only one neice (15 months old) whom I adore and am very close to.  She has lived with me off and on and I have treated her in the same healthy, attached way as I always have my own three children.  I don't think much is needed in the way of elaboration to stress how close I am to this little one for anyone who has ever loved a child!

My sister (her mother) hates the idea of anything "attachment parenting" related but due to my time with the two of them and providing insight as well as scientific studies to back it up, my sister gradually adapted to co-sleeping with my neice.  I felt this was a huge victory.  When DN (dear neice from here) was six months old, my sister and her husband split up and my sister plus her baby moved into my house for a couple of months. 

While I was reading to my kids before bedtime in my husband's and my bedroom, I could hear my little sister in the room down the hall, crying and screaming at her six month old daughter to go to sleep in her playpen while the baby just wailed.  Well, that was not going to happen in my house. 

I flew down the hall and threw open the door.  My little sister was sitting on the bed, head in her hands.  My neice was lying on her back in her playpen, sobbing, with tears streaming down the sides of her face.  I scooped her up and started to sway with her.  She immediately tangled her fingers into my hair, and started to calm down, with shuddering sobs.  My sister said she could not deal with the effort and time it took and was just too overwhelmed and I should place the baby back down and leave her to cry; that eventually, as she had every night for the past three months, DN would exhaust herself and stop crying. 

Instead, with a million things I wanted to say but realized could wait until the next day, I offered to keep DN for the night in our bed, with our kids, and my sister could take a hot bath and get a good sleep.  She accepted (I would not have let her decline!) and I took the little baby into bed with me.  She woke up three times that night and I had her back to sleep within minutes, so long as I was holding onto her (she was long ago used to not feeding through the night due to being denied it) and snuggling with her. 

The next day, my somewhat apologetic sister finally came downstairs toward noon, and thanked me for the extra sleep.  She assumed I'd had none at all.  I went on to explain to her why I had gotten sleep with few awakenings and why the baby hadn't been screaming and crying.  My sister was finally willing to listen. 

Over the next few weeks, I taught her as much as I could about the benefits of co-sleeping; how it is healthy and practical for baby and mother; why it is safe; where the bogus myths that it is a danger originated from; and how she could use co-sleeping to actually get some SLEEP without leaving DN to suffer in angst. 

They were co-sleeping champs before long.  Then something happened I did not see coming; overnight, she went back to her ex.  He hated everyone in her family and we could barely see her.  It was a highly abusive relationship.  Without getting into the details (oh boy, there sure are many!) of that (maybe I'll save it for another post), DN's father insisted on putting her back into the crib.  It didn't work so well this time.  DN would be rocked to sleep, placed in the crib for a short while, and when she awoke in the night, my sister brought her into bed with them. 

This routine lasted for several months.  DN's father became more and more upset the longer it went on.  His mother advocated the CIO method strongly.  He couldn't see the harm in it (we came to find out LATER that when alone with DN, he and/or his mother were also double dosing DN on cold medication to make her pass out so they wouldn't have to 'deal with her').

The relationship between this man and my sister, however, did not last.  He ended up leaving and it was just my sister with DN once more.  They immediately went back to co-sleeping and it was a major success for them both.

Currently, there is a custody battle going on for DN.  No matter what, the father will have overnights with her; he is upfront that he will stick her in an unfamiliar room in a crib-jail, turn off the light, shut the door, and just let her CIO. 

My sister is horrified at the idea; I am DEVASTATED.  There is nothing I can do-- is there?  Has anyone else dealt with this?  Is it possible to convince him to do otherwise?  None of the information or tactics I've tried to take have made any difference to him. 

I literally feel sick to my stomach with anxiety over picturing my neice, who is completely used to co-sleeping by now, being placed alone in a dark, scary, unfamiliar place and forced to cry herself to sleep, again and again and again with each visit. 

Have you gone through this?  Do you know anyone who has?  Do you have an opinion on what will be/should be done/might happen?

Any comment/input/suggestion/story/experience is greatly appreciated!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"The Prophet" On Children

I am definitely borrowing this, but in case there are those among us who've never read this before, or maybe just enjoy reading it again (such as myself), I thought I should share a section of "The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran which has always been near and dear to my heart since the first time I read it when I was twelve years old and still "lifetimes" away from becoming a mother.  I've read this so many times I could recite it from memory by the time I was fifteen.  It's a beautiful reminder about our beautiful children. 

"The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran, On Children:

"And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children."

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable."

Friday, September 10, 2010

I'm Not That Mom

I'm not that mom. . . . who tells her children they can't touch the piano simply because they can't "play a song" yet.  (I'm the kind of mom who can hear the music.)

I'm not that mom. . . . who leaves her kids for "me time" a couple of times a week when they're still so precious and small.  (I'm the kind of mom having slumber parties on the living room floor every Saturday night.) 

I'm not that mom. . . . who listens to her baby crying in her crib because she has to learn to sleep on my schedule and stop "intentionally manipulating".  (I'm the kind of mom who snuggles my baby to sleep at night and soothes her when needed-- even if it's "just for attention".)

I'm not that mom. . . . who automatically replies, "Because I said so!" when her son asks, "Why?".  (I'm the kind of mom taking painstaking care to explain photosynthesis to a four year old.)

I'm not that mom. . . . who ignores her own instincts or thoughts about her child because everyone else is doing things a certain way or telling her she should.  (I'm the kind of mom going by "first, do no harm" and researching or seeking out better ways because parents can learn just as much as their kids.)

I'm not that mom. . . . who uses force for punishment against her children or calls them names, even if they are misbehaving.  (I'm the kind of mom putting other things on hold to talk it out and mend the reason behind the reaction with gentle guidance and respectful discipline.)

I'm not that mom. . . . whose house is always enviously clean because the kids can't even take out their toys.  (I'm the kind of mom who doesn't mind playing the evil dragon locked in the cardboard fortress, who pulls out the face paints on random days, and who has more than her fair share of battle wounds from stepping on wayward wooden blocks.)

I'm not that mom. . . . who is up to date, up to the minute, on the latest gossip and drama circulating online and in real life.  (I am the kind of mom with a backed up inbox of e-mails I just can't get to, and who will silence the ringer on the phone until we finish the next chapter. . . or two.)

I'm not that mom. . . . who looks perfect every day, with gorgeously styled hair no toddler's hands have tangled and high heels that click so precisely below unflawed thighs.  (I'm the kind of mom who settles most days for a pony tail, and whose tee shirts and jeans often bear the tell tale peanut butter finger smudges of embraces unencumbered by that day's choice of fabric.)

I'm not that mom. . . . who pretends that parents can't make mistakes or do anything wrong where a child is concerned.  (I'm the kind of mom who admits when I do err and apologizes, because children deserve as much respect and dignity from adults as other grownups do.)

I'm not that mom. . . . who mainstream society points to as the ultimate goal for motherhood, who most women wish they were like, who is completely sure of herself one hundred percent of the time.  (I'm the kind of mom whose children see her as their unconditionally loving protector, who will not have regrets over missing out on moments with her children, and who will never stop learning and looking for every new opportunity to love them.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Spanking: Effective Discipline or Harmful Abuse?

It's a hot debate among parents around the globe: to spank, or not to spank. Both sides rigorously defend their positions, but it's a complicated issue. Spanking children is a widely used method with the intention of attaining prompt compliance of parental wishes. Indeed, that is one of the strongest arguments for using a corporal punishment method. If used with consistency, a child's reaction to comply to avoid being struck becomes a learned behavior: little effort from the parent resulting in the expiditious attainment of the desired reaction. However, critics claim that while an initial obedient response may occur, spanking does not lead to long-term compliance, and is not even necessary; in fact, it is detrimental, both physically, psychologically and emotionally.  In order to debunk particular spanking myths which support this violent and barbaric practice, an thorough set of facts must be examined. 

There was not ever a time in history when spanking of children was not employed as a disciplinary tactic, and has been recorded as a practice as early as the 10th Century BC (Solomon's Proverbs). Violence and corporal punishment were used for children by caretakers, parents and educators; for women by their husbands; for men and women as a form of legal punishment. In some places in the world, there were spanking rituals customary to a given culture, and in some places, there still are, such as in China: for over a hundred years, thousands of citizens visit the Dong Lung Gong temple on an important new year holiday where men are spanked and women are whipped by Taoist priests in the belief that it will bring them good luck. Corporal punishment has been used in different militaries around the world, and in public community examples of humiliation. Slaves and servents were often treated with various methods of corporal punishment, not excluding spanking. However, in today's times, most of the "modern" world has banned or outlawed methods of corporal punishment for adults as a judicial method; for students as a means of educational discipline; and even in 25 countries, beginning with Switzerland in 1979, and including Germany, Latvia, Greece, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Croatia, Norway, Holland, Israel and others, banned as a practice even privately in the home, cited as unnecessary and harmful to the children who it was/had been administered to. Other countries have put limits on what is acceptable as far as striking a child, such as Canada, where it is only legally acceptable to spank between the ages of 3 and 12, and it is to be only with an open hand, and no objects are acceptable, such as switches, belts, or paddles. In countries where spanking has been abolished, such as Sweden, the no-spank policy has shown great progress in the way of familial violence and the death rate of children; in 1970, the rate was at 18%; in more recent years, the rate is less than 1%, according to the University of Manitoba Family Studies professor, Joan Durrant. There is a miscontstrued notion that parents who are found guilty of using spanking on their children can risk jail time, but that is not so: they are not tried criminally, but instead, in a civil court, and are referred to resources which are made available to them: i.e., counseling, parenting courses, court observation, etc.

There are multiple negative mental, behavioral and emotional detriments as after-effects of using spanking as a method of discipline on children. The 14th International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma included research results to the credit of Murray Straus, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, including this quote: "The higher the percentage of parents in a nation who used corporal punishment. . . . the lower the national IQ." In a study, 806 children ages 2, 3, and 4 were tested; and 704 children ages 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 were tested, and both groups were again tested 4 years later. The IQs of children who were not spanked were between 2.8 and 5 points higher than those who were spanked. The more frequently a child was spanked, the lower the IQ would drop. Straus and his contributers studied over 17,000 children in 32 countries and another result was unfortunately that the more a child was spanked, the greater was the evidence of post traumatic stress syndrome. In 1950, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to chemist Edward Kendall for discovering effects of cortisol. In multiple studies, cortisol and adrenaline are released in the brain when one encounters stress, including being spanked as a child. Too much cortisol and adrenaline being released has, among other effects, the suppression of the immune system and the elevation of blood pressure. Many links are found between these triggers and a future problem with alcohol abuse, anti-social behavior and anxiety disorders, as cited by the Canadian Medical Association Journal. These studies are just the tip of the iceberg.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is widely respected and counted on for their stances on multiple child-rearing situations. They have a firm policy statement on spanking: ". . . . corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects." Older infants, toddlers and preschool age children may be best disciplined by time-outs as they are too young to understand logical consequences. Mirroring their unacceptable aggressive or irrational behavior by striking them is confusing and frightening and only sends the idea that the stronger person who can inflict the most pain is the one who "wins" in a disagreement. It damages the bond of trust and comfort that should always exist between a child and parent. Distraction is a positive tool that is not thoroughly employed as it should be; it can truly work wonders. If a parent is in tune with their own child's cues and attitudes, it is not difficult to surmise when a child is becoming upset, or what will upset them, and little ones have a very short attention span. Often times, they can be distracted with a change of subject or a simple choice which makes them feel that they have some control in the situation: if a child is having a tantrum over not wanting to take a bath, you can give them the option of which bath toys they'd like to use or whether they'd like bubbles in their bath. Another underused method is positive reinforcement when a desired result or behavior is displayed. Children begin to develop a learned, subconscious understanding that certain actions will please their parent, and if they are rewarded for those actions with praise, cuddling, and small rewards, they will want to please their parent by following rules. The American Medical Association agrees that peaceful methods such as these, along with in-depth talking, removal of privelages and constant stated expectations for older children/teenagers have a higher rate of success than spanking without the detrimental side effects of a violent method.

Another downfall of choosing to punish a child with force is that in countless studies by respected establishments, spanking escalates. It may start out as a practice used as a last resort with a fairly even temper, good intentions and no implements, or objects, included in the ritual. That very rarely continues to be true as a child's behavior escalates-- it's human nature for them to test boundaries and limits. If lighter spanking ceases to yield the desired compliance with the parent's wishes, more aggressive force is used; if it starts to hurt the parent's hand, they often turn to using a paddle or a wooden spoon or a belt. They often begin to spank other places besides the buttocks, in too many situations, including the face or head. Just as the child is developing a sense of spanking being, while terrifying, "normal", so does the parent. Most children who are spanked- with or without an implement- go on to bully other children or siblings or animals- and most children grow up to parent the way that they were parented, and to discipline the way that they were disciplined. In general, as humans, we do what we learn. Striking a child, or using force through any other, less mainstream, type of corporal punishment reduces the shock value of child abuse; indeed, the two go hand in hand. It is easier to accept or to sugarcoat if a neighbor to child abuse is already being accepted and the dangers and ill effects are set aside by looking the other way. Spanking does not work; it does not teach a child how to learn to understand the differences between right and wrong; it instills anger that they are being treated unjustly, a fear of their punisher, lower self esteem and produced aggression. Dr. Caron Goode founded the Academy for Coaching Parents International and stands by all of these points as well as maintaining that spanking is a traumatic event for both the parent and the child (parents often feel guilty later) and good memories are replaced by bad ones, which alters the entire relationship between the parent and child and a child's entire overall impression of parenting and being parented.

One of the most disturbing reasons why spanking parents champion the method is for Biblical reasons. Depending on which of the numerous versions of even just Christian bibles one would choose from, verses are interpreted in so many different ways. The old addage "spare the rod, spoil the child" can be interpreted as saying that you should spare the rod and spoil the child, or that if you spare the rod you will spoil the child. If you go with the latter meaning, there is debate still. The "rod" was used by a shephard to herd the sheep and gently guide them, as well as protect them. The animals were valued and were not ever struck or beaten. Even if one was to throw that aside and stick with the Bible saying a child should be beaten by a literal rod or other device or even the hand, consider other things in Biblical times which were acceptable and widely practiced: the beating of women; slavery; public stoning; flaggelation. . . . the list goes on and on. We do not live in Biblical times now. Would Jesus strike a child? Of course, many Christians oppose the use of physical force as they understand this concept. Parents mainly spank because it is easy, requires little effort, and it is mostly learned behavior: i.e., they were spanked. Spankers love to claim, "I was spanked, and I turned out okay." In "Plain Talk About Spanking", by Jordan Riak, a good argument is posed about that particular claim. There are so many things we grew up with in past generations, such as smoking around children (even in hospitals!), not using carseats or even seatbelts, use of lead-based paint, etc. Maybe those of us who are "okay" were really just lucky; or maybe we would have been far improved individuals if not having been struck. It can be said that if a child was spanked and grew into a healthy, functioning adult who does not continue the cycle of abuse, it is in spite of the abuse, not because of it, and only reflects the strength of the child, not the advocacy of the method. Parents who spank on the buttocks claim that it's the safest place to spank, and cannot inflict damage, but that also is untrue. The largest nerve in the body is the sciatic nerve, running through just that area. Heavy and repeated blows to that part of the body can cause bleeding in the muscles in that area, which can cause tissue and nerve damage. It's only made worse if an instument is included. The tailbone can be damaged because spanking the buttocks "sends force waves upward through the spinal column possibly causing disc compression or compression fractures of vertebral bones". This does not even include the sexual side effects. In 1971, author and professor at York University, David Bakan wrote, ". . . We are familiar with the argument that it is a safe 'locus' for spanking. However, the anal region is also the major erotic region at precisely the time the child is likely to be beaten there. This is aptly chosen to achieve the result of deranged sexuality in adulthood. . . . " There are links between sexual spanking fetish addictions in adults and the spanking and physical abuse they endured in their childhoods. Another argument is that if a child were to run into traffic, any parent would grab a child or would yank their hand back if they were to reach toward a hot stove. This is faulty as an argument for spanking for more than one reason. First of all, the spanking is administered as a punishment for intentional, unfavorable behavior; intervening to stop a life-threatening situation is not the same as intended discipline. Secondly, it does not take many admonishments or close calls for a child to learn not to dart into the street or run with scissors. If a parallel could be drawn to spanking as a punishment, then by that token, children would only back-talk a handful of times in their lives, or would only have a tantrum or break a rule a couple of times, and then spanking would never be warranted again.

In summation, spanking is the cause of an untold number of negative effects. It is not a necessary tool for achieving obedience, and the problems caused by corporal discipline are so negative that the behaviors which the spankings stemmed from pale in comparison. There is no place in a child's life for violence, and the effects of spanking a child are long-term and in-depth. Until there is legal intervention in our country which prohibits the use of any form of violence against a defenseless child, the best way to contribute is to spread awareness of the dangers of spanking and the peaceful, effective alternatives available. Spanking as the cause of so many horrific results should show us that we now know better. If it is unnecessary, ineffective, cruel and harmful, and there are so many other effective options, then why do it? A researcher for Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty, Elizabeth Gershoff, was responsible for a study based on an analysis of 88 studies over 62 years interpreting the effects of corporal punishments on 11 specific child behaviors, including the hinderance of learning right from wrong, delinquincy, and contribution to the escalation of child abuse. Gershoff stated, "The bottom line is that corporal punishment is associated with numerous risks for children. . . . parents should. . . avoid using corporal punishment and instead use nonphysical and more positive types of discipline that we know are effective." ( My hope is that this paper has shown a different perspective on the true effects caused by spanking and that even one person might interact differently with regards to punishment of children. If it is punishable by law to strike another adult, someone else's child, and even animals, those same basic human rights should be extended to a child by their parents.


Caron Goode research (

Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty's study by Elizabeth Gershoff (

"Slaughter of the Innocents" by David Bakan, Beacon paperbacks (1971)

"Plain Talk About Spanking" by Jordan Riak

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Confession of a Closet Co-Sleeper

Our first of three amazing, brilliant children was born in February of 2005. We planned on breastfeeding and were completely anti-CIO and all for using exclusively gentle parenting and discipline methods. We would raise our child (and any to follow) in a healthy, stable, loving environment, with awareness, compassion, learning, respect and clear, safe boundaries. Oh, and we had a crib.

In my third trimester, I often heard the question: “Is baby’s room ready?” Well, yes, it was, but I immediately added that we’d have our son rooming in with us in a bassinet connected to our bed “for at least the first few weeks”. I was assured from friends, family members, magazines and doctors that by about six weeks, babies did best on a set schedule for feeding and waking and sleeping as well as most daytime activities like bathing, storytime, cuddles, and so on.

There was a gross error in my naive comprehension of that phrase: “by about six weeks, baby does best on a set schedule”. I don’t know why I was so naive, coming from a large family, but maybe my nesting frenzy was clouding my brain or something, and I was confident that what that really meant was that most babies just start to fall asleep at night and sleep for extended stretches by about six weeks. What it really meant was more akin to: “many parents prefer to feel more relaxed and less overwhelmed by forcing baby into a nocturnal pattern they have developed throughout life despite how alien and unnatural it is to baby and how poorly it fulfills baby’s physical, emotional and mental needs”.

From the second I met my devastatingly gorgeous son, I could barely look away from him. I shuddered at the idea of sending him to the nursery available at the hospital where I birthed and I marveled at how hungry he was all the time. His first pediatrician warned us, “Don’t let him use you as a pacifier. Nursing every three hours is more than sufficient or you’ll just drain your milk supply. If he’s still acting hungry after twenty or thirty minutes of nursing, give him a few ounces of water.” (Yes, this is actually a highly respected pediatrician in our city who even had a guest ‘ask the doctor’ spot on a local morning news channel.) I didn’t even have access to the internet at the time and I had no friends or connections with any breastfeeding experience or advice; my son was tongue tied which made nursing painful, and I had a medical condition which made things even more difficult, but despite all that I continued to nurse on demand, around the clock, despite criticism. Even if there was no medical or physical or nutritional reason (which I learned soon that there is), I couldn’t bear to deny him what he needed emotionally. That included all night long.

Yes, aaaaaaaaaall niiiiiiiiight loooooong. Babies are rockstars that way. My husband would offer to take him so I could sleep. Could I? No. I’d feel nothing but panic and the most undeniable, superhuman urge to run to my loving, supportive, understanding husband and rip the baby from him arms and just be with him. I didn’t exactly RIP him, but I sure couldn’t sleep if he was awake. My son wanted me to hold him all the time. I couldn’t bear to lay him down for a nap; he’d start to fuss even if all he wanted was to be held and snuggled. I held him at mealtimes and the art of eating one handed became a quick and expert skill of mine. Wearing my son worked out a lot, and I loved taking walks with him every day in his sling, but most often, he just wanted my arms, and I couldn’t refuse. I carried and snuggled him everywhere. He didn’t want to be left in his carseat, and I hated the times he HAD to be strapped in, like car rides (I cannot count the times we had to pull over so I could nurse him [I’d even nursed him WHILE my husband drove, us in the backseat, baby strapped in safely, me buckled next to him, leaning way over so we could reach each other]) or solo grocery shopping trips when the cart was just too heavy to push one handed and he wouldn’t ride in a carrier.

He wanted to eat at night, and even when he was full, he refused any resting spot but cuddled up with me. Our breathing rhythms matched; I’m certain our heartbeats did as well. His slightest move was detected by my mind and body almost before he made it. I would do ANYTHING to soothe him. At one point when he had bad reflux and colic, my husband described what I did as an “Indian Rain Dance” where I sort of did lunges through the house while rocking my upper body and “shushing” loudly in my son’s ear (he was comforted by the white noise).

Due to a rare medical condition, we had to stop nursing prematurely, which was heartbreaking for me, but I continued to comfort him whenever he needed it, to hold him as often as he preferred (which was about 23.5 hours a day) and to answer each need immediately, whether it be hunger, boredom, crankiness, emotional needs or just plain being attached to mama. A friend of mine said, “Now that you don’t have to nurse anymore, you can finally get him out of your room!” as though congratulating me. I meekly responded that, no, I didn’t think he was ready yet.

Those “first few weeks” of his rooming in turned into three months, then six. I remember all of my friends who were parents responding bugeyed that he still woke up every two to three hours and still slept in our room. I heard rave reviews about the Ferber method, “cry it out”, “controlled crying”, “sleep training”. They all consisted of the same basic idea: deny your baby’s basic needs of comfort and nourishment; ignore their cries; leave them alone in their grief, discomfort, fear, hunger and stress even to the point of physical danger (HOW is the “back to sleep” campaign supposed to work if it’s all right according to sleep training methods for a baby to cry so hard they vomit?), night after night, day after day, until they finally learn that they are truly alone and completely give up on expecting their parents to come when they are needed most. Oh, but it’s worth it because then the parents can sleep as if they’d never even had a baby. *face>palm*

I kind of laugh at myself over spending so much money on that silly bassinet. Even if I laid my son down in it, I would hover over him, feeling his chest to see if he was breathing, then at two months old, when he became addicted to holding onto my hair almost all of the time and especially when sleeping, I’d try to lie with my body on the bed, and my hand on or next to his chest and my head and neck leaned over into the bassinet so he could still hold onto a fistful of my hair– bottom line, it would have been impossible to sleep that way. The bassinet was moved into his nursery, which was quickly becoming a store room for things. When I went in to put away laundry or get him an outfit for the day, the crib began to appear more and more menacing and cold and jail like. I abhored the very thought of putting him there alone, leaving him in the room alone, and the idea of not having constant vigil while he slept of his breathing rhythm and his comfort levels was something I just couldn’t fathom. I would begin to feel panicky and overwhelmed at the notion of it.

Our son slept perfectly content with my arms around him, in our bed, the comforting scents of his parents who loved him and responded to his needs lovingly all around. At his six month checkup, the nurse asked the basic questions about whether he’d started solids, if he was rolling over, and then joked, “This is a good age because you don’t have those awful nighttime feedings and all that crying to deal with.” My husband told her that he still woke up several times a night and she immediately looked up warily from her clipboard, her eyes darting from one of us to the other to see if we were serious. When our doctor came in a little later, he said, “I see you’re having some sleep issues?”

“No, he’s just still not ready to sleep for more than three hours or so at a time,” I explained.

“By this age, you’re just going to have to learn to let him cry. It’s good for his lungs, and there is nothing wrong with him. If you don’t, you’ll be dealing with this for as long as you let him be in control.”

On the drive home, I thought a lot about it. “Letting him be in control”? I had never seen it as control. We were the parents, and it was our choice to attend to our child’s needs whether it was 2 p.m. or 2 a.m. It didn’t mean we weren’t in control, just that we took our parenting job seriously regardless of the time. Our doctor didn’t like the co-sleeping idea. He said it was dangerous and increased the chances of SIDS and keeping him there was selfish of me and that we needed to put his safety at the forefront of our concerns. I didn’t have access to accurate information and statistics on co-sleeping and bed-sharing at the time (and didn’t even hear the term “attachment parenting” for the first time until several years later), but I knew in my heart that the way we were sleeping was not only safe and emotionally beneficial for our entire family, but it was also the only way I myself would ever be able to get any sleep. The alternative, without choosing a CIO method, would be for me to stand constant vigil at our son’s crib, soothing him throughout the night, and if I ever laid down myself, I’d be back up and standing for hours every few minutes. Why go through that, when there was a loving, safe, effective, natural method of sleeping with our baby that was not only possible, but was already working for us?

We didn’t return to that pediatrician’s office again after that.

About this time, I became pregnant with our second child. With each pregnancy, I had severe hyperemesis gravidarum (a rare and sometimes deadly disease few women endure while pregnant which made me constantly ill and very weak every moment from conception until birth), and it was harder than the first pregnancy, when I could be on bed rest, because now I also had a six month old, but we made it through to the end and welcomed our daughter into our family when our son was just shy of 15 months old. By this time, he slept snuggled between me and my six and a half foot tall husband, cuddling back and forth between the two of us. Our daughter took our son’s old spot in my arms, my body curled around her, my knees below her feet, with my lips pursed against her forehead while I dozed, which prevented her nose and mouth from pressing against any part of my body or clothing (thus, no risk of her air supply every being threatened and no risk of suffocation). I don’t think anyone but a cosleeping mother can understand that exact pose and how it both comforts and protects your child. Co-sleeping does not mean sleeping on a couch or a futon; it does not mean drinking, smoking or doing drugs and then going to bed with the baby. It is a sober, healthy environment where the mother’s body and being is so aware of her child’s and in tune with her child’s breathing rhythms that there is no safer possible sleeping arrangement. I’d pulled out the bassinet again and attached it to my side of the bed. It was a real lifesaver. . . . for holding diapers, wipes, my ice water and the phone.

With our expanding family, we were in need of a larger home, and we rented a bigger house in the same town. On our second day there, we answered a knock at the door to a social worker from the Department of Human Services, coming to investigate us for, you guessed it, co-sleeping. She had to check our nursery and was satisfied that the kids had their own sleeping spaces: a crib for our daughter (actually used to hold stuffed animals, a fact which didn’t seem to bother her even though stuffed animals in a crib with a baby hugely increases the risk of suffocation) and a toddler bed for our son (actually used for playing on and under). To this day, I still don’t know exactly who it was who made the report against us, and I have tried in vain to get a decent answer from the Department of Human Services as to why any parent could be investigated for co-sleeping with their own children. It seems the only stance we were given by the social worker was the “incredibly high risk of SIDS” and that it was lazier and more selfish to not provide a child with their own sleeping spaces. Well, our children didn’t want their own sleeping spaces, and I myself think it is a lot more lazy and selfish to let your baby or child cry it out alone in their room so that you can sleep like you did before you were ever a parent. Being a no CIO family, was there a benefit of more sleep and more cuddling (which I loved) for myself by bed-sharing? Well, yes, but that wasn’t why we’d begun doing it in the first place. It was because it was what our children needed to feel safe, loved and secure and to have their needs met.

With all of the negative responses we received from family, friends, doctors, DHS and the public in general, I started to feel a need to keep our co-sleeping practice on the quiet side. I stopped answering honestly and instead changed the subject if I heard the topic come up. Sometimes I’d wish to hear someone else say that they, too, shared a bed with their child; I’d hope to read an article where it wasn’t made out to be a lazy, unsafe hazard; I’d desire praise or acceptance from a family member for my unwavering support of our children’s needs. When so much time went by without it, I stopped waiting for it and felt very alone.

My husband’s job took him overseas shortly before the birth of our third child. It was a tough adjustment but it did leave more room in our bed. Our daughter, now 16 months, slept on one side of me, our oldest son, now two and a half, slept across the bottom of the bed at my legs, and our newborn son was curled up on my other side in our trademark “newborn” position. By this point, only my closest friends and some family knew about our sleeping arrangement. We didn’t know anyone else who shared a bed with their children, and I’d still never found access to any positive resources regarding the practice. I was still decidedly against any CIO methods if the topic came up among friends or on social networking sites, but I didn’t elaborate on our sleeping situation.

When our youngest child turned two, we bought our first house and used the game room as our bedroom. It was upstairs near our daughter’s room and our sons’ room (though they still slept in our room) and had plenty of room for us to push our queen size bed next to a full size roll away bed, which gave us the options to cuddle as well as to stretch out. Our downstairs “master bedroom” is the perfect playroom for now. It was only months after moving in that I stumbled upon an article posted on Facebook by peacefulparenting on benefits of co-sleeping.

A whole new world opened up in front of me. After feeling so completely alone for almost five years, I suddenly was connected with a community of like minded parents who advocated bed-sharing for as long as a child needs it, among other things. I could barely believe that there actually are others out there. I mean, I always knew there had to be some families, but I never found any before, and I never knew there were so many. I hadn’t known that there was such a thing as “attachment parenting”, a description which fit our family pretty well. I hadn’t known there were places I could talk openly and honestly about our family. I hadn’t known there was a plethora of scientific evidence and studies showing how spot-on our parenting instincts can be despite all of the Western, modernized propaganda shoved in our faces from the time we’re born to tell us otherwise. I hadn’t known what amazing friends and sources of support were waiting for me in this safe, friendly, informed, gentle world of families. I hadn’t known. I hadn’t known. I hadn’t known.

My confidence started to grow and within a few months, I found myself being able to open up about co-sleeping as well as lots of other “taboo” parenting topics, such as intact vs. circumcision, natural breastfeeding, the real dangers of many vaccines, the proven harm of corporal punishment, and on and on and on. What really blew me out of the water weren’t the negative comments I’d get (I was used to those) but the positive feedback I received from so many moms (and even some dads!) whom I’d never suspected of sleep-sharing. It comes as a surprise every time I find another kindred spirit to whom I can relate, and the times when I learn that I myself have turned out to be a much-needed source of support for them are even more rewarding. I often marvel and wonder how there could be so many families like ours out there and how it somehow slipped past my radar; but then, I reason, I was once a closet co-sleeper, too.