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Conference Session with Jay Gordon, MD

Reviewed by Carolyn Shannon
St. Charles IL USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 39 No. 4, August-September 2003, p. 89.

"Imagine lying in bed with your five-year-old as he falls asleep on your arm, after telling you all about his first day in kindergarten. I fail to see the problem with this picture."

Comforting words from Dr. Jay Gordon, whose session on the family bed addressed not only the good reasons for having a "family bed," but the guilt frequently associated with having one, as well as some misperceptions about infant sleep.

Given that new moms who breastfeed their babies are three times more likely to share a bed with their baby (according to recent AAP research), the topic of whether, when, and how long to co-sleep is probably familiar to most LLL Leaders. And recent Consumer Product Safety Commission recommendations against co-sleeping make the topic timely.

Dr. Gordon noted that his opinions on the family bed and sleep training may perhaps be a bit more "radical" than those of other recently published books on nighttime parenting. "I did include a section on how to get the baby to sleep longer, but my heart wasn’t in it," he said with a laugh.

Gordon reviewed recent research that indicates infant sleep is very different from that of adults. Infants don’t have long periods of deep sleep, and their overall sleep cycles are shorter. Co-sleeping, he noted, makes it easier for parents to respond to babies’ nighttime needs, including breastfeeding.

He also pointed out research that indicates it may be safer to co-sleep. Some believe it may reduce the risk of SIDS by helping vulnerable infants regulate their breathing, or through being awakened slightly when their mothers move during sleep. Research presented in other sessions at the Conference supports the idea that human infants rely on the closeness of their mothers to help them regulate their breathing and heart rate.

As a co-sleeping mother of two young children, I found his session upbeat and encouraging. He lamented that parents, regardless of how or where their children sleep, don’t get enough support and acknowledgement for the hard work they do. He encouraged parents to make all their child’s transitions as happy as possible. And perhaps most importantly, he reminded us that having a sense of humor about it all doesn’t hurt.

Carolyn Shannon lives in St. Charles, Illinois, USA with her children, David (3) and Louise (4 months), and her husband, Patrick. Carolyn has been a Leader with the Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles Group in Illinois, USA for five months.

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