Attachment Parenting and Sexuality: Does Co-Sleeping Mean No Sex?

If you’ve been following my recent posts, you know that I’ve gotten a bit baby-obsessed as of late. No, it’s not the realization that my biological clock is ticking (though it definitely is), but in fact my new-found interest in parenting has stemmed from spending 18 hours a week at a baby boutique. Working in Western Massachusetts, I hear a lot about baby-wearing, green parenting, and, of course, co-sleeping.

Image courtesy of sfgate.com

Co-sleeping, one of the three tenets of attachment parenting, is the practice of sleeping in the same bed as your child. Co-sleeping has tons of benefits, the most important of which is feeling close to your child. However, many public health organizations have launched campaigns bashing co-sleeping, claiming that it is extremely unsafe. According to Dr. Sears, the pioneer of attachment parenting, co-sleeping is not, in fact, dangerous. I found these facts on his website:

  • “Cultures who traditionally practice safe co-sleeping, such as Asians, enjoy the lowest incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Trusted research by Dr. James McKenna, Director of the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory of the University of Notre Dame, showed that mothers and babies who sleep close to each other enjoy similar protective sleep patterns.  Mothers enjoy a heightened awareness of their baby’s presence, what I call a “nighttime sleep harmony,” that protects baby.  The co-sleeping mother is more aware if her baby’s well-being is in danger.
  • Babies who sleep close to their mothers enjoy “protective arousal,” a state of sleep that enables them to more easily awaken if their health is in danger, such as breathing difficulties.
  • Co-sleeping makes breastfeeding easier, which provides many health benefits for mother and baby.
  • More infant deaths occur in unsafe cribs than in parents’ bed.
  • Co-sleeping tragedies that have occurred have nearly always been associated with dangerous practices, such as unsafe beds, or parents under the influence of substances that dampen their awareness of baby.
  • Research shows that co-sleeping infants cry less during the night, compared to solo sleepers who startle repeatedly throughout the night and spend four times the number of minutes crying. Startling and crying releases adrenaline, which can interfere with restful sleep and leads to long term sleep anxiety.
  • Infants who sleep near to parents have more stable temperatures, regular heart rhythms, and fewer long pauses in breathing compared to babies who sleep alone.  This means baby sleeps physiologically safer.
  • A recent large study concluded that bed sharing did NOT increase the risk of SIDS, unless the mom was a smoker or abused alcohol.”                   (Dr. Bill and Martha Sears)

Now, as someone who doesn’t have a child and therefore hasn’t practiced co-sleeping, I can’t help but wonder about the effects that the practice has on the parents’ sex life. I mean, there’s nothing sexier than a baby spitting up next to you when you’re about to get down and dirty, right? So, I did my research, and it turns out I’m not the only one who has thought about this (big surprise). I found several articles outlining each side of the co-sleeping/sex-life conversation.

Heidi Raykeil discusses the stresses that co-sleeping has on a marriage. “The first time we tried having sex after the baby was born, I got one of those horrible, gut-wrenching feelings that come with the possibility that one’s own mother is right. There we were, awkward and stiff, stuffed into the far corner of the bed, afraid to move, afraid to move the baby and have her wake and make the whole thing moot. We built a stack of pillows just tall enough to separate us from her, as if we could just do our business like she wasn’t there.” So what was the solution? Sex everywhere but the bed. That’s right…Raykeil decided to take this relationship hurdle and turn it into a reason to spice up her sex life. If you can’t have sex in the bed, may as well do in the guest room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the car…you get the picture.

My conclusion is that if you are into co-sleeping, do your research on how to do it safely and go for it! You’ll find ways to make it work, and maybe even get to switch up your sexy-time routine.

About Michaela

Michaela

Michaela is a recent Seven Sisters graduate with a self-designed degree in Sexuality Studies. When she's not blogging, you'll find her teaching Health and Wellness and A Cappella to high school students, helping women find properly fitting bras, and working as an editor on a documentary. She hopes to continue her education one day with a PhD in Feminist Anthropology.

  • http://bloketoys.co.uk/ Mens Sex Toys

    It’s remarkable that so many “specialists” seem to think they know better than thousands of years of evolution because they read a book once. If we think back a few thousand years it was normal for mothers to sleep cradling their child, for protection if nothing else. Yet some seem to think this is wrong suddenly, they forget that we are animals, they think that we’ve evolved so far as to make such a basic instinct irrelevant. They are, of course, arrogant ass-hats who probably only managed an on-line degree of some kind and have next to no common sense.

    As for sexual relations, again we are animals. The idea that sex should be confined to a sanctuary of duvets and pillows is a modern concept and should really be ignored. Do it where you like! Within reason of course ;)

  • Michaela

     Couldn’t agree more! :)