Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book Review Three in a Bed: The Benefits of Sleeping with Your Baby

I read this book a few months ago and didn't get around to reviewing it because of my silly space bar dilemma. So, here goes.

I really enjoyed reading Three in a Bed. It definitely appealed to the nerd within me as it had literally hundreds of quotes from cultural anthropologists, psychologists, medical doctors, professors, historical treatises on parenting, and the #1 experts--real parents.  There was a quote on almost every single page pointing to the benefits of sleeping with your baby, babywearing, forgoing cry-it-out sleep training, breastfeeding, etc.  It is written by Deborah Jackson, British mother of three, all of whom co-slept with her and her husband.

Jackson held traditional views about where a baby should sleep--in his crib, in his own room--until reading The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedorff.  In a section of Liedorff's book, she speaks of her experience one night sleeping in the jungle among the natives of South America.  At one point, all of the sleepers were awakened, one told a joke, they all laughed, and then went immediately back to sleep.  There were no sleep troubles and every person was able to be roused, awakened, and fall back asleep without any problems whatsoever.  In her study of this same group of natives, she found that within their culture, families slept together rather than separately, as is the custom in most of Western society.  She concluded that a lot of our sleep problems in the West--from insomnia to general tiredness--have been created by our "laboratory style" sleep conditions including lights out, comfortable bed, quietness, and undisturbed sleep. As such, these laboratory sleep conditions may, in fact, be creating sleep problems rather than preventing them.  And so, Jackson decided in the final weeks of pregnancy with her first child, to get rid of their assembled crib and bring Baby to bed with her and her husband.

Throughout the book, Jackson addresses a myriad of issues that face the co-sleeping family including the typical concerns about SIDS, overlaying, and general safety.  She also addresses practical matters such as sexual intimacy between husband and wife (which, was one part of the book that I didn't really catch her fire.  She basically subscribes to the thought that it's not that big of a deal if Baby is there, awake or asleep, and that it may even be healthy for babies and very young children to be privy to sexual exchanges between parents.  Not really my cup of tea, personally but whatever floats your boat); how to wean from the family bed when desired; as well as the emotional, health, sociological, and psychological benefits to co-sleeping.

My personal favorite section was her chapter entitled "Nomads and Nannies" where she examines parenting practices across many cultures.  She dispels the belief that all "uncivilized" and non-Western cultures are high-touch, co-sleeping, and nurturing.  Instead, she gives example after example of gentle parenting practices in some cultures, and how they, in turn, produce a culture characterized as gentle, meek, and kind.  In contrast, she gives mention to aggressive cultures that are highly disciplined, leave young babies to cry excessively (at one point, she talks about a culture that swaddles their babies and put them in a hanging basket on the wall except for when they are permitted to eat or to be changed), and who do not nurture and hold their babies.  Jackson suggests that perhaps our aggressive Western culture spawns from low-touch, overly disciplined parenting practices.  I think that's a little simplistic, but definitely some food for thought.

I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who has considered co-sleeping in their family.  I do wish she had included a little more information about how to handle a few of the issues we're currently facing in our co-sleeping situation--i.e. Mr. Baby Bed Hog and how to prevent my arms from falling asleep when they're trying to avoid Mr. Baby Bed Hog.  Again, I didn't agree or buy everything she had to say but overall, I found it to be very informative, enlightening, and thought-provoking book.

Happy Reading!

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