In the preface to this book, attachment parenting guru William Sears, MD, author of The Baby Sleep Book: The Complete Guide to a Good Night's Rest for the Whole Family (Sears Parenting Library), identifies James J. McKenna, PhD, as the leading authority on co-sleeping -- and for good reason. Through his work as the director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame and through countless studies published in collaboration with researchers around the world, McKenna has established a highly specialized niche, mastering the knowledge of the science and anthropology of co-sleeping.
Back when I was writing my own sleep book a year ago -- Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler and Preschooler: The Ultimate No-Worry Approach for Each Age and Stage (Mother of All Solutions) -- I noted that what co-sleeping parents really needed was some sort of guide to safe -- or safer -- co-sleeping: a book that summarized all the best evidence on safe sleeping (as applied to various co-sleeping arrangments) and presented this information in a clear and practical way. In writing Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent's Guide to Cosleeping, McKenna has written just such a book.
Providing photos that clearly illustrate the dangers of entrapment and that caution parents against other situations that would make bedsharing a poor choice (e.g., if one or both parents is significantly obese, if the parents smoke or if the mother smoked during pregnancy, if one or both parents have consumed alcohol, if the sleeping surface is not suitable for bedsharing, if pets or older children share the bed, etc.), McKenna clearly maps out the do's and don'ts of cosleeping. He also explains that there's a difference between bedsharing (sharing a bed) and cosleeping (sleeping with your baby in close proximity to you). He stresses that it's important to specify the nature of the cosleeping arrangement when we're talking about cosleeping so that we don't muddy the waters further on this already controversial issue. "There is no one right way to cosleep, nor does cosleeping occur in one correct configuration. While some ways of cosleeping are safer than other ways, some are not safe at all," he notes.
Common myths about cosleeping are also addressed (e.g., cosleeping always means bedsharing, you won't sleep well if you're cosleeping, forget about romance if you're cosleeping, that baby will never leave your bed if you're cosleeping).
Appendices provide details about other helpful products that may be of interest to parents who choose to cosleep. There are also exhaustive references, for anyone who wishes to do further research into cosleeping.
Another noteworthy feature is the book's introduction -- written by Meredith Small, author of Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent. Small writes: "The accepted norm in Western culture is singular sleep for babies; this is what the pediatricians recommend and what the grandparents expect. And so cosleeping has become a revolutionary act. But parents who choose to cosleep with their babies don't feel like revolutionaries, they just want to stay close to their babies. Thank goodness we have Jim to reassure cosleeping families that their choice is normal and natural, no matter what the culture says."
The book is easy to read and it is respectful of parents every step of the way. If you're thinking of cosleeping -- or if you suspect that you could end up carring your baby back to bed on occasion in a desperate quest for sleep, even if your baby will be sleeping someplace else most of the time -- you should read this book.