When it comes to crib sleeping vs co-sleeping, the argument for and against both methods can be compelling. In recent years within the United States, the medical industry’s collective opinion has generally been in favor of crib sleeping. However, things were not always this way, and many of the changes in public opinion are very new. This huge shift towards crib-sleeping has brought about drastic changes in the way sleeping areas are organized within American households and has also led to conflict between advocates on both sides.
Throughout human history, the most common way for infants to sleep has been in the bed with their mothers. In fact, until recently, it was common for whole families in rural areas to share a bed. It was not until after the Industrial Revolution starting in the 18th century that babies began getting separate beds in European and American cultures. It has since grown into a much more common practice.
Anthropologist John Whiting is famous for his studies into the bedtime habits of infants from all over the world, and he found that well over half of the world’s children sleep with one or both parents. However, studies in the United States have shown links between infant co-sleeping and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Nearly a quarter of SIDS deaths occur in households where co-sleeping is the rule, and a 2013 study showed that as much as 90 percent of SIDS deaths that involved the practice might have been prevented just by crib sleeping.
Within the United States and outside of it, many cultures would see crib sleeping as odd. In developing areas such as with the Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania, having a baby sleep in a crib away from their mother is seen as almost abusive. Easy access to food and warmth that a mother gives is generally considered more important than risk it carries. In many cultures, lack of separate living quarters for different family members also makes co-sleeping more convenient.
Doctors and medical professionals are consistent in their advice against letting an infant to sleep in their parents’ bed. Advocates of co-sleeping, on the other hand, are quick to minimize the importance of statistical data as correlation rather than causation. Due to the strong beliefs held by both groups, no clear consensus has been formed on the argument in support of one or the other in crib sleeping vs co-sleeping.