Christians, Cribs, & Co-Sleeping (Is it “Heartless” for a Baby to Sleep in a Separate Bed?)

Christians, Cribs, & Co-Sleeping (Is it "Heartless" for a Baby to Sleep in a Separate Bed?) // jessconnell.com

Let me start out by saying this:

IMG_1964I am pretty sure I have done it all. I’ve slept with a baby on my chest or in the crook of my arm– on the first night, in the hospital, in my bed at home after home births, and (accidentally) in a chair when I was trying to stay awake and nurse.

And I’ve put babies down to sleep in:

  • cribs
  • cradles
  • a wicker
    box lined with mosquito netting (that would be child #3– our daughter, born in Thailand!)
  • m-thai-cribRock-n-plays
  • “Moses baskets”
  • on the couch next to me
  • a separate room
  • our room
  • the closet doorway (when I couldn’t quite bear to move baby out of our room, but wanted to have them close enough for my mommy-nerves)
  • a room clear across the house when nothingnothingnothingnothingnothingnotastinkingthingItriedImeannothing would soothe the crying, and we just (pleasepleaseprettypleaseyoureasixmontholdbabyplease?) were desperate for sleep
  • silas-in-da-hoodpack-n-plays
  • bassinettes

I’m not kidding; I’ve done it all. Which is, I guess, what happens when you have 8 babies in various locations and methods all around the world.

So I was intrigued when I saw the headine:

“It’s OK to sleep next to your infant child. In fact, it’s beneficial” (article here)

Even though I’m not a co-sleeper in general, I was mildly enthused to see the headline. That word “OK” drew me in.

Yes! What we need LESS of in America are rigid rules that make mommies neurotic! More of telling moms that “it’s OK” to try/do XYZ… less articles out-ruling every possible mommy practice. Less severe lines in the sand. Phew! Give tired mommies a break!, I thought.

So I opened up the article with a degree of excitement… but then I came to this quote in the middle of the article:

In most of the rest of the world…parents think it’s downright cruel to put a baby in a separate room or even a separate bed. Who would be so heartless?

And my excitement gave way to anger.

Dang it. It IS an article espousing rigid rules. Pretending to be a freeing article, it’s another constraining one instead. Dang it dang it dang it.

Now, I’m not so concerned when it’s the LA Times doing it… but I am concerned when I see and hear this same attitude of judgment coming from Christian sources.

CHRISTIAN MAMAS, LET’S BE WOMEN WHO STOP THE PROLIFERATION OF MOMMY RULES.

We should be women who shut down the isolating, firmly-entrenched, know-it-all-ism prevailing around us.

Modern moms are GROANING under the weight of the rules.

  • Gotta use this strap system on your carseat.
  • No, not that one from 2 years ago. It’s unsafe now. It’s the worst. KIDS ARE DYING!!!!! Do this instead.
  • Can’t feed kids grains.
  • Gotta introduce a foreign language early.
  • All kids develop differently.
  • But you gotta catch speech pathology issues early.
  • Better teach infant-potty-training, infant-reading, infant-sign-language.
  • Wear your baby 24/7.
  • Put that baby down.
  • Can’t vaccinate.
  • Better vaccinate.
  • Stretch out vaccines longer than the suggested schedule.
  • Never spank.
  • Never yell.
  • Never say “no.”
  • But don’t always say “yes.”
  • Be a “yes” mom.
  • “Choose your nos.”
  • And on and on the made-up rules go.

Who among us can keep up with them? Meanwhile, moms grow more neurotic and less confident by the millisecond. Christian moms grow more neurotic and less confident by the millisecond.

THE BIBLICAL TRUTH ABOUT CO-SLEEPING

Christian mama, do you want the biblical truth about co-sleeping?

Here are the places where the Bible has anything that even *seems* to speak with any degree of specificity on this subject:

  • Deuteronomy 6:7, 11:19–as you lie down — it can be implied, perhaps, that people slept in close proximity to their kids (which makes sense, given avg. size of homes at the time)
  • King Solomon & two mothers (who seem to be co-sleepers)–1 Kings 3:16-22– “two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. And the one woman said, “O my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. And on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were [alone] together; no one else was with us in the house, just we two. Now this woman’s son died during the night, because she lay on him [and smothered him]. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from [his place] beside me while your maidservant was asleep, and laid him on her bosom, and laid her dead son on my bosom. When I got up in the morning to nurse my son, behold, he was dead. But when I examined him carefully in the morning, behold, it was not my son, the one whom I had borne.” Then the other woman said, “No! For my son is the one who is living, and your son is the dead one.” But the first woman said, “No! For your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.” [This is how] they were speaking before the king.” — it seems they slept next to, or beneath their newborn/less-than-week-old babies.
  • Mary, mother of Jesus — Luke 2:7– put the newborn Messiah in a separate manger to sleep, by Himself, from day one.
  • Parable about a man whose neighbor is knocking to ask for bread— Luke 11:7– “from inside he answers, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’”

So what the Bible seems to say is….

YES. 

Some people over the course of time have shared a room, modern-Japanese-style, with their kids. Some women have slept with/near their nursing infants. Some mothers in the Bible appear to have placed their infants, from an early age, in a separate place to sleep.

Biblically, there doesn’t seem to be a clear preference or instruction for one of these over another. These situations appear to be factual accounts, rather than prescriptive.

[Note: although Deuteronomy is a prescriptive passage, commanded to Israelites, one could easily argue that talking about the law “as you lie down” does not equal “talk about the law as you lay down to go to sleep in the same bed/bedroom as your children” but, rather, is written in such a way that it gives an indication of a larger picture: “talk to your kids, all day, from dawn to dusk, about these things. Make it the overarching theme of your entire life.”]

CHRISTIAN MOMMIES, WE NEED TO BE CLEAR ON WHAT IS ESSENTIAL

There are too many of us running around with dogmatic views on second- and third-tier mommy topics. And all too often, our verbiage sounds like the quote from the middle of that article–

Sadly, it seems like we’d rather call each other names, and give each other negative labels, rather than call each other SISTER and give each other GRACE.

We need to get clear about what the Bible says. These are the basics:

  • Christian mothers are to LOVE our children.
  • We are to DISCIPLINE our children.
  • We are to TEACH our children.
  • We are to NOT EXASPERATE our children.

THIS should be what we are dogmatic about. THIS should be where our heartbeat is. THIS is what we are commanded to “teach” younger Christian women about.

When we are known more as “the carseat lady” or “the attached mama” or “the sleep-Nazi mama”…. we need to tread carefully. We may not be wrong, but we MIGHT be. We MIGHT be making second- and third- tier issues into main things. We MIGHT be pushing first-tier issues to the side and alienating our Sisters in Christ who do things differently.

  • Is it wrong to have an opinion about co-sleeping? No.
  • Is it wrong to talk with other moms about your opinions about co-sleeping? No.
  • Is it wrong to call names, throw negative labels around, or internally/externally be divided from a Sister in Christ because of your opinions about co-sleeping? Yes.
  • Is it wrong to have an opinion about infant sleep issues? No.
  • Is it wrong to talk with other moms about infant sleep issues? No.
  • Is it wrong to act as if there is only one biblical way to approach infant sleep issues? Yes.

We need to be clear on these things.

We should stand out.

We should stand out, not just because we do XYZ, but because of the gracious and calm and at-peace way we go about doing the XYZ. We should stand out because of the way talk about ABC (even though we’re fans of XYZ). We should stand out because of the way we give grace to moms who do ABC, even while we do XYZ.

As Christian women,

  • we should be at-peace women, who give burden-lifting, life-giving wisdom to younger women.
  • we should be first-tier women, who MAJOR on the major things, and who don’t fling mud around on the less-clear issues.
  • we should be GRACIOUS women who LOVE lavishly, and give LIFE, GRACE, & PEACE to one another in our words and the way we express our thoughts on mothering issues.

Christians, Cribs, & Co-Sleeping // jessconnell.com // "As Christian women, we should be at-peace women, who give burden-lifting, life-giving wisdom to younger women."

Right now, I am praying this– and invite you to join me:

Loving Father, enable me to BE this sort of woman. Help me to study diligently and be clear on what is biblical, and what is personal preference. Modify my words; constrain my impassioned views; help me to be a woman who LOVES and extends GRACE to women around me, no matter the differences in how we mother our children. Amen.

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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9 Responses

  1. Jessica says:

    Amen! I agree. This is very important for young moms to understand as well as seasoned moms. Each living situation, family, baby, mother, father is unique! My first co-slept for the first year because she was a very difficult high needs baby and I found I got the most sleep this way. She cried a lot. My second only co-slept for a few weeks then started sleeping in his own crib happily. He was a content happy baby from day one. My third was a bit more high strung so while I tried to get him to sleep on his own he would cry and cry. I tried co-sleeping but started having horrible back spasms from it. So out of desperation did some sleep training at around 8 weeks old. He ended up sleeping in his crib after working through that. We are due with number four in Feb. and I have no idea how it will all turn out. I will pray about it and seek God’s wisdom and see how the baby is. Most likely it will be a combination of all the above! Seeing what works best for baby. One thing I have learned is that helping baby get on a good healthy schedule in the first few months helps everyone but honestly I am not dogmatic in how I talk to others about it. I just say find what works for your baby, family and own health/sleep needs! :)

  2. Jessica says:

    Amen! I agree. This is very important for young moms to understand as well as seasoned moms. Each living situation, family, baby, mother, father is unique! My first co-slept for the first year because she was a very difficult high needs baby and I found I got the most sleep this way. She cried a lot. My second only co-slept for a few weeks then started sleeping in his own crib happily. He was a content-happy baby from day one! My third was a bit more high strung so while I tried to get him to sleep on his own he would cry and cry. I tried co-sleeping but started having horrible back spasms from it. So out of desperation did some sleep training at around 8 weeks old. He ended up sleeping in his crib after working through that. We are due with number four in Feb. and I have no idea how it will all turn out. I will pray about it and seek God’s wisdom and see how the baby is. Most likely it will be a combination of all the above! Seeing what works best for baby. One thing I have learned is that helping baby get on a good healthy schedule in the first few months helps everyone but honestly I am not dogmatic in how I talk to others about it. I just say find what works for your baby, family and own health/sleep needs! :)

  3. Diana says:

    I’d like to say a big amen to this! It’s a subject that’s been on my mind lately, and I’d considered writing about it myself. The mommy wars are both ridiculous and destructive, and they reduce mamas to quivering messes of nervousness, guilt, and fear. I have seen some horribly ugly things in that scene, and nowadays I steer clear of any and everything that smacks of “You’re a BAD MOM if you….”

    Two quick thoughts on that:

    (1) As many have pointed out, we’ve lost the cultural knowledge-base of parenting how-to, that is traditionally handed down generationally in any given society. I believe that’s why young moms are so vulnerable to this nonsense – because we’re desperate to find out how to do this thing called parenting, and we get on the internet (or go to the bookstore) and fall prey to either psychologists who don’t know what they’re talking about (and have agendas to push), or mommy bloggers who have decided to stake their reason for existence on tiny points of parenting. (As you mentioned, there are actually people out there who base their existence on car seats. Or any number of a thousand different things.)

    (2) I also think we’re more vulnerable because of the reduced family sizes. The newer the mama, the more vulnerable she is to advice. It’s with each successive child that a mama – usually – finds her stride and learns to do what works rather than listening to the million voices telling her what “good moms do.” With so many families intentionally keeping their families super-small, I think that many moms don’t have the time to find their stride. At least that’s the way it was for me! I was pathetically vulnerable to mommy-wars advice/screamfests with my first. With each successive child, I’ve learned to ignore mommy-war debates, or just steer clear of them.

    Even with four-going-on-five, I still feel that I have SO far to go in learning how to parent effectively. I think I’ll need each and every child the Lord gives us before I have my head on straight regarding this mysterious business. :)

    Excellent article, and excellent points.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Great comment!

      This is so, so true:
      The newer the mama, the more vulnerable she is to advice. It’s with each successive child that a mama – usually – finds her stride and learns to do what works rather than listening to the million voices telling her what “good moms do.” With so many families intentionally keeping their families super-small, I think that many moms don’t have the time to find their stride.

      Thanks for weighing in!

  4. Anna says:

    Thank you. I found this article really refreshing! Appreciate your wise words.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Amen! We need more grace and love.

  6. Leanne says:

    Right on! No one is going to care when our kids are adults whether or not they co-slept with their parents, or if they were formula-fed, or how old they were when they were potty-trained, etc. Not to mention those things have no bearing on their relationship with Jesus! Thank you for the reminder to us moms to cut each other a little slack

  1. September 24, 2016

    […] Christians, Cribs, and Co-Sleeping. I’m linking to this not for the discussion about where babies should sleep, but for how she applies truths here to others areas of parenting and faith and practice. There are fundamentals and then there are secondary issues, and on the latter we need to give each other grace to be different. […]

  2. November 10, 2016

    […] issues (co-sleeping, front/back […]

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