'Big Bang Theory' star courts controversy with new book
Published Monday, March 19, 2012 9:35PM EDT
Actress Mayim Bialik may be beloved for her role on the hit TV comedy, The Big Bang Theory, but she's earning plenty of controversy for a new book she's written on parenting.
In "Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way, "Bialik endorses a style of parenting founded by pediatrician Dr. William Sears called "attachment parenting."
It's a form of parenting that encourages natural birth, breastfeeding, child-led weaning, wearing your baby in a sling, and "gentle discipline" with no spanking, yelling or time-outs.
But the chapter on sleeping is the one that has Bialik in hot water. The book advocates co-sleeping with children -- a practice that many doctors and child safety experts say can put babies at risk of death.
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Public Health Agency of Canada recommend that parents not sleep in the same bed with infants. They say the practice risks suffocation from soft bedding, strangulation with sheets, and entrapment if the parent rolls over onto the child.
Bialik says she's slept with her two boys since the day they were born. Even now, with her boys aged six and three years old, she and her husband still bed down with them on a pair of futons laid side-by-side on the bedroom floor.
"Safe co-sleeping is not dangerous," she told CTV's Canada AM Monday from Los Angeles.
"For all of human history, people have slept with their children. The notion that it's easy to roll over onto a child is simply not true."
Bilaik says she believes that co-sleeping can be made safer by having mattresses close to the floor, using an extender on a bed, not having extra blankets and pillows, and by ensuring that parents are not using any medication that makes it difficult to wake.
"It's very safe to sleep with your newborn and child, and I feel like a lot of the publicity and hysteria about it is, honestly, not founded in research and it's coming from a fear-based, let's-err-on-the-side-of-caution approach, which I understand," Bialik said.
"I would never recommend that anyone do anything unsafe. But for the thousands of years of history and the thousands of people who aren't this way, it's very normal and natural and safe."
Bialik is a graduate of UCLA with a PhD in neuroscience. Her research focused on the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls the secretion of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which are critical to the mother-child bond.
It was that research that Bialik says helped cement her belief in attachment parenting, a parenting style that affects all aspects of her life. She and her husband have never used daycares or nannies, and her husband stays home to home-school the children, so she can work.
She says while it's meant some sacrifices to their social life, the benefits have been "completely worth it." This form of parenting works well for her family and she believes it can work well for others.
"Attachment parenting is not only for home-schoolers and stay-at-home parents. You can still believe in the importance of a child's voice and a child's needs even if you're a working parent," Bilaik says.