Co-sleeping: Is that an option or the only option?

Just about today morning I was thinking about writing a post – ‘Motherhood means perpetual sleep deprivation’; when I stumbled onto this Scarry Mommy post about co-sleeping. A friend of mine, someone I know from a very long time, who lives in South Africa, works as a ‘Production Designer’ in films and whose beautiful daughter I have lovingly played with when she would bring her along to work; had shared this on Facebook. She belongs to the world which strongly believes in separate rooms for kids since birth and sleep training. So I believe she shared it under that context. But me, as an Indian, brought up in a simple middle class family, whose mother never ever read a parenting book or magazine to help her through my growing up years wants to talk about this in the Indian context.


Just the other day I was talking to a friend and we were discussing about how getting a good nanny is so difficult. And then whether do we really need nannies. And her stand was very clear – she didn’t want the child to get confused between who is her mother – so she rather be on this break while her daughter gets old enough to understand that mummy needs to go to work. And I knew what she was saying.

“Maa toh Maa hoti hain!!” – It’s not for nothing that this has been such a famous Hindi phrase.

With the current lot of mothers – the problem is that they are reading a lot of stuff online or in books or in magazines – especially from West – and simply putting it to practise without giving it a second thought. ‘Sleep training’ and especially ‘self-soothing’ are such highly debated concepts there; but I know a lot of people who are just aping the global trends without understanding the harms it will cause the child in the longer run. When people ask me if I “believe” in ‘co-sleeping’, I actually don’t have an answer. What is the meaning of “believing” in co-sleeping? For me, the funda is very clear – where else will the baby sleep? Why in a different room? Why in a different cot? Why not on my bed? What will he or she gain? Or what will I lose if we all sleep together? We all have grown up like that. My nieces, one ten years old and the other twelve, still hug their mother and go off to sleep. Once they are asleep, she slides out of that bed and goes to sleep next to her husband. They live in a joint family and have only one room for themselves which they share with the girls. And they find nothing wrong in it! And nor do I.

But another friend of mine, a so called intellectual, makes her 1 year old son sleep with the nanny in a separate room. One night, a male friend of mine, who was visiting them – saw their son hugging the nanny and sleeping. He, in spite of being a guy, having nothing to do with motherhood concepts –  felt the pain of the child. (The pain that the child won’t feel now, but maybe when he is much older and lonelier) Basically, a child needs the warmth of a hug, the assurance that my people are around me – and who better than parents to have around you? Why can’t you also hug your kids and sleep? For how long are you going to follow theories and experiment so carelessly? Maximum two years, they will follow your instructions and sleep wherever. Soon they will be older, they will come knocking to your door for various reasons – wet pants to scary dreams to lost sleep to feeling lonely to anything. What will you do then? Shove them away? They will slowly squeeze into the bed with you anyways? For a simple reason – They need their parents’ warmth!

What is it that you will gain if they don’t sleep with you I want to ask?

May be more sleep? Actually not too sure. If you hear the baby wailing in the other room, aren’t you going to wake up? Or if something goes wrong and the nanny comes to you, aren’t you going to wake up? So then, why not just let them be with you.

And if it is for the sake of intimacy with your husband – count the days when it really matters – do the math and you will know! And for all those special nights – there are always ways to manage. Recollect all your sneaking out behind your parents’ backs to make out – weren’t those more adventurous days? So same situation now! Just replace the parents with the children – so adventure levels also maintained and nurturing levels also maintained.

I know these things are very subjective and parenting shouldn’t be generalised because each child is different. So as a mother, you know what’s best for your child. Follow your heart. I just write what I feel like – not necessarily the final word on all matters! Share your views and experiences – we will all learn together.


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