Many of us want permission to do what we feel is best for our families...
Many of us want permission to do what we feel is best for our families. But the hope is that we eventually get to a place where our choices come out of our convictions, rather than popular opinion. A 2018 study on cosleeping illustrates the importance of not basing parenting decisions on what others think.

The Penn State University study, released earlier this year, continues to make waves - such as this latest article urging parents to reconsider cosleeping. But the original news release from Penn State was much more inclusive towards all parents, whether they choose to cosleep or not.

The study found higher rates of depression among mothers who chose to room-share or bedshare with their infants past six months postpartum. They worried about their babies' sleep and felt that they were being judged for their decision to cosleep.

"In other parts of the world, co-sleeping is considered normal, while here in the U.S., it tends to be frowned upon," said study author Douglas Teti, head and professor of Penn State's Department of Human Development and Family Studies, in a press release. "Cosleeping, as long as its done safely, is fine as long as both parents are on board with it. If it's working for everyone, and everyone is okay with it, then cosleeping is a perfectly acceptable option."

Related: Researchers Believe Benefits Of Co-Sleeping Not Appreciated

Researchers found that most parents who bedshare or room-share with their newborns have transitioned their babies to their own rooms by six months old.

"We definitely saw that the persistent co-sleepers, the moms that were still co-sleeping after six months, were the ones who seemed to get the most criticism," Teti said. "Additionally, they also reported greater levels of worry about their baby's sleep, which makes sense when you're getting criticized about something that people are saying you shouldn't be doing, that raises self-doubt. That's not good for anyone."

The point of this study wasn't to "prove" how right or wrong co-sleeping may be, but rather to reveal the effect of social pressure to not co-sleep long-term on how mothers feel about themselves and their choice to continue room-sharing or bed-sharing. More importantly may be what we learn when reading between the lines - of how seemingly under-confident mothers are about their parenting approach, whatever it may be, and how tied their choices appear to be to peer pressure.

Related: Study Finds Co-Sleeping May Help Women Achieve Breastfeeding Goals

Yet, raising children who are confident in who they are and carry the family values we hope to pass down to them means that we each have to be willing to step beyond the parameters of what society says is acceptable to weigh for ourselves exactly what we want out of parenting. Hopefully, we all are able to step out of the matrix of simply parenting as our neighbor does and into the free space that allows us to parent as we feel is best for our families.

I came to the idea of co-sleeping when my firstborn was 9 months old. It was a completely new, intriguing concept. I loved the bonding effects and didn't have any trouble with sleeping or depression with any of my babies. Then again, I had excellent support - seeking out online and in-person mothers groups to seek reassurance and validation for attachment parenting.

Because humans are social creatures, we are prone to criticism or the appearance of social judgment. So this study also points to probably the even more critical importance that mothers find social support for their decisions. And this appears to be especially true for mothers who choose to co-sleep beyond what society perceives as "normal."

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