Blog Posts 1–5, based on the United States of America Department of the Army Field Manual: Holistic Healing and Fitness, describe what really matters for your child’s sleep. If sleep is an important enough topic for national defense than surely sleep should be considered a serious topic for parenting!
Bed-sharing is discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) because of its association with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. However, bed-sharing is still common in predominately-Caucasian (PC) countries and bed-sharing is very common in predominately Asian (PA) countries.
Comparing children from predominately Caucasian and Asian countries, Professor Jodi Mindell observed later bedtimes, more frequent and longer night wakings, less nighttime and daytime sleep durations, and more sleep problems in Asian countries. But we do not know in PA countries:
a. Whether these are biological differences contributing to these results or if these differences are solely culturally based.
b. Whether children in certain parts of the world actually have a healthy sleep schedule.
c. Whether these sleep differences impact daytime behavior.
d. Whether differences in parental perceptions of sleep problems reflect real differences in problem behaviors.
Based on these gaps in our knowledge, I think that general statements about how bed-sharing may be helpful or harmful are inappropriate for PA countries.
In PC countries, a distinction is made between pro-active bed sharing (making this choice before the baby is born) and reactive bed sharing (using bed-sharing as a response to infant fussy/crying or sleep issues). Bed-sharing is only one variable in ‘Proximal’ care (Blog Posts 163–165) among mother’s behaviors, so we do not know the exact contribution that bed sharing per se is contributing to more frequent night awakenings.
If a parent reports that their child is having a sleep problem and that the sleep problem is affecting the child’s daytime behavior, then it is prudent to examine all the variables that might be contributing to the sleep problem (Blog Post 45). The common issues contributing to sleep problems are bedtimes that are too late, maternal cognitive biases, maternal mental health issues, issues associated with lower social-economic status, paternal lack of support or conflict, and infant colic or a difficult infant temperament. Any of these issues might be associated with bed sharing.
From this perspective, if a parent reports that their child is having a sleep problem and that the sleep problem is affecting the child’s daytime behavior, bed sharing may be a symptom of an underlying problems (reactive bed sharing) or a directly contributing factor (‘Proximal Care’) in the causation of sleep problems within the child or both.
However, if a parent does not report that their child is having a sleep problem and there is no daytime sleepiness in the child, I think that, given our gaps of knowledge, it is unwarranted, to make judgements about bed-sharing in PC countries. However, in the US, because of the AAP’s position, bedsharing is discouraged.
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