I believe that this shame is due to two elements:
1)Ignorance of facts regarding bedsharing
and 2) cultural bias in favor of independent sleep.
We, as a general rule, don't bedshare in America. When I tell people that we have a family bed, they try hard to hide the judgemental look but I see it. I know that most people think our family is weird. But I am convinced of the benefits of bedsharing so I don't really care what they think. I love bed-sharing.
The cultural expectation is that you would place your newborn in a bassinet until they are about 3 months of age and then once they are sleeping through the night, they will be transferred to an infant crib in their own room. While I am glad to have a nursery just for Amelia, and all her junk, she has never slept a night alone.
For us, the biggest benefit is that she sleeps longer, better, and spends less time awake for feedings. We aren't strung out and sleep deprived like people expect of new parents. I get plenty of sleep. This works because we are breastfeeding (also not a strong cultural norm) and so feedings are simplified by being in bed together already. I don't need to get up,prepare a bottle, walk to her room, give the bottle, burp her, rock her back to sleep, then climb into bed an hour or more later. I just roll over and lift my shirt. Easy. I also not concerned about making her sleep through the night since she currently has 2 night feedings and they aren't intrusive or disruptive. I find that I'm less stressed about her sleeping habits than my solo-sleeping counterparts.
To be quite honest, like most of my parenting choices, I stood on the opposite side before I became pregnant. Through research, I've found that the facts supported bedsharing. Unfortunately, the AAP and many government health departments are ignorant of these facts. The official recommendation from the AAP (which good moms take as the gospel truth and equate to parenting law) is to room-share but not bed-share for a full year.
Bedsharing has been under attack by several ads released as a part of Milwaukee's Safe Sleep campaign. The picture to the left is one such ad. Bellies and Babies Blog has a level-headed response to the ludicrous ads distributed by Milwaukee's Dept. of Health.
Read more at this link--> Bellies and Babies: Sensationalism and Sleeping Arrangements
The implication is that babies can't be safe in an adult bed. This is untrue. Not only is this ad provocative, it is highly inaccurate. The truth is that unsafe sleep environments can exist in cribs, pack-n-plays, swings, carseats, bassinets, beds, sofas, and just about any other place you put a baby. The important information that should be distributed instead of these images, is how to safely bed-share if that is the sleeping arrangement you choose. Also the benefits of each sleeping environment according to research rather than anecdotal evidence. Saying "I knew a girl who slept in bed with her parents till she was seven" doesn't help anyone make an informed decision on whether it is a good fit for their family. This personal decision should be made with a full understanding of the facts and not just the culturally biased opinion of the public, or in this case, public officials.
In this news report, mention is made of a similar ad to the ones from the blog above. This (now Emmy winning) reporter does a fine job of fairly representing the facts and I especially appreciate his distinction between SIDS deaths and sleep-environment-related deaths.
My final point is this:
Parents should make informed choices about their parenting. With a fully educated decision, there is no shame. I stand by the choices I make for our family and don't feel the need to make apologies to anyone for them. I don't feel ashamed that I'm doing what I feel is best in consideration of all expert opinion, relevant details, and current research studies. It is my wish that more parents get the information they need to parent without shame.
That is all.