Co-sleeping & Why I Think Asian Parents are Right about It

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this site includes a lot of information and how disinformation spreads about co-sleeping.

I’ve read a number of blog posts about how silly or obsessive or even dangerous it is when traditional Asian parents believe that all babies belong in bed next to mom. I have to agree with them that they do. Unfortunately, western cultures often follow the belief that bed sharing is dangerous for the infant. This “truth” isn’t easy to claim. In some situations bed sharing can be very dangerous, especially when one or both of the parents is drinking or on drugs. Smoking even poses a risk through third hand smoke.

The site linked above includes a lot more information about why those risks are pretty much the only risks regarding co-sleeping. But really babies throughout human history have been accustomed and biologically programmed to be sleeping near mom. If you take out the past 100 years of modern western culture, before a time of cribs and diapers, there was breastfeeding and chamber pots.

In many third world countries, this is still the case. Therefore the best way to keep a baby alive, clean, and cared for is to bed share (which is commonly misnomer-ed and referred to as co-sleeping). I doubt many will argue the benefits of breastfeeding, although many will claim they tried everything, I wonder if they did try unrestricted access to nursing. What do I mean by unrestricted access? I mean, bed-sharing where baby could nurse all long if they desired, which I promise you a newborn will do, if given the chance. All this bed sharing nursing in addition to eight weeks (you read that right, not the six weeks common to many westerners view of maternity leave) of nursing on demand, meaning mom and breast (not person with bottle of pumped milk) must be available for the baby.

This leads me to another commonly held Asian parent belief that new mothers should rest in bed with the new baby for the first two-three months. I’ve heard (and read) a fair bit about women complaining that this outdated practice “confines” them to their beds or homes and they are ready to break free. I don’t doubt that. And I do understand cabin fever and believe that women (even newborn mothers) ought to be able to get a break from time to time. However, the belief that mom needs to be at the beck and call of the infant is really to both the mother’s and infant’s benefit. Mom needs rest. The weeks after birth are incredibly important for bonding/attachment, hormone regulation, milk supply establishment, emotional recovery, and physical recovery. Allowing (some might say pushing) mom to stay home and relax helps encourage these important postpartum events to be positive. I’ve even read on nepalijiwan’s blog about Nepal folk wisdom that new mothers are given food that includes fenugreek, which is often recommended to increase milk supply.

So before you knock another “traditional Asian” parenting method, consider that maybe there is some value to the perspective.

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