Q. We like to co-sleep with the kids, but our families object and keep bringing it up. What should we say to them?
A. First of all, you don’t have to say anything at all excet, “Well, we have researched this extensively, it is our family, and this is what we’ve decided. I don’t feel like this is a productive conversation to continue having. Oh- change of subject here, but I have been meaning to ask you how you make such divine gravy? It’s the best I’ve ever had….”
But if you feel that you want to say more than that… You can ask them first what their concerns are- Respectfully, of course. Maybe they have concerns that are easily addressed (no, we don’t have sex in front of the baby.)
Many of you have not been parents long enough to remember when *every* head doctor around insisted that sleeping with your child caused serious emotional and psychological damage. Many studies found that a common factor in emotionally disturbed children and adults was that they slept with their parents as infants and young children. Of course, other common factors were the fact that all of them ate, all had parents, all went to school, etc. For years nobody thought to do a study of *normal* families’ sleeping habits. When it finally occurred to somebody to do this, it took careful research to find out the truth, because many normal families were afraid to admit they did this, given all the hype about how bad it was for the kidlets.
I remember my shock, when pregnant with my first, 29 years ago, at reading an article discussing the change in attitude in the mental health community
That’s where I read for the first time that the professionals telling us all how damaging it was to sleep with the kids had *never* compared results of normal, healthy families. I just assumed that they would, after all, that’s required in good research, right? Yes, I was naive.
More recently the medical community has continued to push the no co-sleeping agenda, but they have changed the reason (this is always a sign that there something flawed about their agenda)- now it’s because ‘studies show’ that babies die. Well- not when you really tease out the studies and realize that they do not differentiate between parents who have given birth (and thus have some raging hormones that really do make a difference); parents on drugs; parents who are drunk; parents who are morbidly obese (and thus tend to have sleep apnea problems), and average parents who are not drunk, on drugs, or suffering from sleep disorders. It makes a huge difference, of course.
Your parents and other relatives may not be aware of the problems with past or current studies in this area, they only know what they hear on the news, but you have to do a lot of research and sharing of resources to fix this, and you have to be prepared for the fact that when you hand them studies, you are opening the door for further argument about your parenting choices and a sort of dueling research game which can last for years and cover all of your parenting choices.
Personally, over time I learned it was simpler to listen, think about what they said and where it was coming from, and then just go my own way and change the subject a lot.