In 1978 our adventures of sleeping with our babies began. Prior to that year, our first three children were easy sleepers and we were part of the crib-and-cradle set. Then came our fourth child, Hayden, whose birth changed our parenting night life forever. As we had with our previous children, we customarily placed Hayden in her crib in the early weeks, but she awoke frequently, as if experiencing a sort of nighttime anxiety. One night my exhausted wife, Martha, said, "I don't care what the books say. I've got to get some sleep..." She welcomed Hayden into our bed, the nursing pair slept peacefully, and the rest is beautiful history.
We coslept with our next four infants - one at a time - until weaning. As a young pediatrician with no medical training in where babies should sleep I was fascinated by the restful synchrony that I saw between the nursing pair. Martha would partially awaken just before Hayden would. Martha would nurse or comfort her back to sleep and neither member of the nursing pair completely awakened. Wow! Something good is happening here, I thought. If only I could wire up mother and baby and scientifically prove that something healthful is going on between them when they share a bed, then I could quiet the separate sleeping crowd who warned us of the "bad habit," saying "she'll never get out of your bed," and the unwarranted fears of terminal dependency. The prevailing nighttime mindset of the time was fostering selfsoothing and early independence.
Then, in 1981, I met Dr. McKenna whose interest and passion was to scientifically study mothers and babies in various sleeping arrangements and to document the physiological differences between cosleepers and separate sleepers. I still remember at our lunch meeting saying, "Jim, I'm going to follow your studies very carefully, since I'm certain a lot of good things occur while mother and baby sleep close to each other, I just can't prove it." My medical motto has always been "show me the science." Childrearing is too valuable to be left to opinions alone. Besides, I was then dubbed, "The daring doctor who recommends mothers sleep with their babies."
Twenty-five years and many scientific articles later, Dr. McKenna has proved what intuitive parents have long suspected: something healthful happens to mother and baby when they cosleep. In this book, Dr. McKenna shows us the science. Readers can trust that Dr. McKenna's sleep laboratory monitoring sleep-sharing pairs, and he relates his observations in easy-to-read language and captivating conclusions.
In nighttime parenting our eight children, we learned a valuable lesson in deciding where babies should sleep: get behind the eyes of your baby and ask yourself, "If I were my baby, where would I want to sleep?" Would your baby want to sleep alone in a separate room, behind bars, with a high risk of experiencing nighttime anxiety, or would your baby rather be nestled next to their favorite person in the whole wide world and enjoy nighttime restfulness?
In this book you will find trusted advice from the world's authority on sleeping with your baby.
-William Sears, M.D.