ScienceSleep

Bad News for Critical Thinkers

The headline in my newsfeed blared: Bad news for dads: Babies ‘should share mother’s bed until age three’ because  it’s good for their hearts

Now, it turns out, in true click-bait headline OMG MUST SHARE THIS fashion, this piece is from 2011, so it’s totally possible that the underlying research – which is conveniently not actually cited in the article – has been debunked. But I’m not really concerned about that aspect. My youngest is 3 so we’ve already messed her up to the extent that she could be by not co-sleeping with mom past 9 months when I finally got tired of bruises up and down my ribs. Co-sleep, don’t co-sleep, do your research and do what’s right for your family. That’s my last word on that one. I’ll leave it to other people to make impassioned arguments one way or another there. As an aside, though, I’ve noticed that a lot of people do a little of everything to the extent that it works, a parenting reality that I am quite familiar with myself. But I digress.

I’m more concerned with the underlying assumptions of the article as a whole, which remain sadly relevant 3 years later.

First off, fuck the Daily Fail and the salacious sexist “bad news for dad’s” crap, because clearly it’s all about the peen not having easy access to hot-sexy-times[tm] that we should care about here. Not only does this trigger my “what about the men” meter, but it propagates the assumption that mothers are a) always the primary caregiver and b) always part of a family to begin with. It also implies a relatively simple answer – the kid’s in the way – to a very nuanced question – how do sex lives change when a kid enters a relationship? In reality, as we all know as parents, this is a highly multivariate issue. Co-sleeping might factor in, as might having a kid who doesn’t sleep well in the “family bed”, but who is nevertheless a poor sleeper generally. Exhaustion, guilt, depression, stress, hormones, body image, changing sense of self – these are all things that can contribute to a diminished sex life, if couples even report a change, and some don’t. In light of that, “the kid’s in the way” is a much easier answer.

My second big issue with this article is about the so-called “evidence” itself, and I quote:
“Babies should sleep in their mother’s bed until they are at least three years old, it was claimed last night.

The controversial advice comes from a paediatrician who found that two-day-old babies who were placed in cots slept less well than those who dozed on their mother’s chest.”

Er, so we’re going to extrapolate from 2 days to the following 1,000 or so? Because clearly no changes take place during the first 36 months of life and the needs of a 48 hour old are obviously identical to a roughly 26,000 hour old. Interestingly, the abstract for the actual published article, says nothing about 3 year olds, or non-2 day olds, even. Nor does Dr Nils Bergman, the source referenced in the Daily Mail article, say anything about older children in his own summary.

Which brings me to my final point, which is fuck mommy guilt in the ear. Sleep with your kid, don’t sleep with your kid, respond to their needs, feed them, cuddle them and read to them and play with them however works best for you and your kids and your life as a while. Not to mention the assumption that our kids are even with us in their earliest days. No matter what we do, someone, somewhere will find fault and pull up some “research” to prove that you’ve irrevocably messed up your kids. To hell with that. Life is not played on the optimal setting, even if we could actually find that cheat code.

Featured image via flickr user AlmazUK

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Emily Sexton

Emily Sexton

Writer of incomplete novels, entertainment lawyer, mom of two with a wide age spread, blogger here and elsewhere, wannabe vocalist and v/o actress, atheist, weirdo. That last bit went without saying. Find Em on twitter @emandink and maybe she'll use it more.

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