Sorry Alicia Silverstone, Bed-Sharing Isn’t Always ‘Kind’ – It Can Be Truly Terrifying

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I’m back on Alicia Silverstone because her parenting manual, The Kind Mama, is chock full of so much advice – it is truly the gift that keeps on giving. It also reeks of so much “this is the best way to do this” that it makes me gag.

This is what her advice reminds me of: You know when you are walking down the street, and a stranger approaches you with a clipboard and says something like, “Do you have ONE minute for needy children?” How can you say “no” to that without feeling like an asshole? Even though you are busy and you don’t want to be accosted by a stranger in the street, you end up talking to this person because this person has posited his point in such a way that you feel like an asshole if you don’t. This is the way Alicia Silverstone’s parenting advice makes me feel in a nutshell. It’s so full of judgment, but disguised with a bunch of words like “kindness” and “soulful” and “yummy.”

Of bed-sharing, she says, “Sharing a bed with baby means you can tune in better to her needs, which in turn builds security and trust.” If you aren’t right next to him in bed, he may cry for a few minutes *gasp* and be prevented from “learning how kind and giving the world is.” Seriously?

After I gave birth to my first child, the hospital pediatrician came around to do the usual well-visit. When she was done, she leaned down, looked me in the eyes and let me know if we slept in the same bed I would surely roll over onto him and smother him to death. Just don’t do it.  Awful things that I won’t even mention could happen. More awful than smothering him to death in his sleep? Okay. I won’t do it.

And I didn’t either – for the first four months, that is. She freaked me out enough that I simply didn’t trust putting his little body next to mine in bed. I would sit up for every feeding – usually spaced an hour and a half apart – totally exhausted. But when he was four months old, something happened that shifted my paranoia. We moved into a brownstone in Brooklyn in the middle of winter that had no heat. Well, there was heat – but it was negligible. It was freezing in that house. My fears of rolling over and smothering him in his sleep were suddenly trumped by my fears of him freezing to death in his crib. He began sharing our bed.

We were already co-sleeping; we had a one bedroom apartment. His crib was right next to the side of my bed. Frankly, that situation was ideal; he was right there when he needed something, and I was able to sleep without the fear of smothering my child. When circumstances forced him into our bed – I simply stopped sleeping soundly. Every time I woke up, my heart would race in a panic; Where’s the baby? Where’s the baby? AM I LAYING ON TOP OF HIM? IS HE ALIVE? This was not a relaxing way to live.

The thing is, I don’t believe that sharing a bed is dangerous if you do it right. But I simply could never get comfortable with it. My second child is now almost 11 months old and she’s fallen asleep next to me in bed only a handful of times. We co-sleep but don’t bed-share with her. She sleeps better than my first child ever did.

So Silverstone thinks bed-sharing is the best thing you can do for your baby. I don’t believe it when anyone claims that there is a one-size-fits-all way of doing anything – and you should be wary of it, too. The majority of the parenting decisions we make are instinctual and circumstantial. You shouldn’t try to share your bed with your child because Alicia Silverstone says it’s “kind.” You should do it because it’s truly what you want and are comfortable with.

(photo: Getty Images)