Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Co-Sleeping/Bed-sharing? -EDITED

Edit: So after writing all of this I found another blogger had written about the same topic but with a new benefit I hadn't found in my earlier search! It just amazes me how much we instinctively know as mothers and yet we don't give ourselves enough credit. Go HERE to read her article as well. And I have to admit that what her article states is absolutely true, at least with me!

I've mentioned on here before that we co-sleep and because there is so much controversy around it I wanted to talk about what it really means and how it works.

Some people define co-sleeping as sleeping within arm's reach of your baby whereas bed-sharing means your baby is actually in your bed. What we do with Zoë is bed-sharing.

She started off sleeping on my chest those first few weeks and has since moved to sleeping in the crook of my arm. Some nights she even sleeps directly on the bed with my arm above her head instead. She sleeps with her face pressed into my breasts as well. I'm sure one of the biggest questions someone could ask me is, "Aren't you afraid of something happening to her?!"

The truth is that I actually am more afraid to put her in the bassinet because she breathes weird when I'm not holding her. You'd think with her sleeping in my breasts she couldn't breathe but she breathes better! I won't sleep when she is in the bassinet. I watch her, I continually turn on the lamp to make sure she is breathing or lay my hand on her body to feel her breathe. Also, I don't move in my sleep without waking first. So I'm definitely not afraid of rolling on her. With her in the crook of my arm it is physically impossible for me to roll over on her. I slept the same way with Elaina for many months when she was a baby.

I decided to do some research because I felt that with her sleeping with me she breathed better and wondered if that was coincidence or normal. Surprisingly every testimonial that I read from other mothers said the same exact thing. Not to mention some medical research showed that babies and mothers actually synchronize their breathing and night-time arousal when they co-sleep or bed-share.

Some doctors speculate that SIDS is caused by a breathing problem with baby. Dr Sears hypothesizes, "I believe that in most cases SIDS is a sleep disorder, primarily a disorder of arousal and breathing control during sleep. All the elements of natural mothering, especially breastfeeding and sharing sleep, benefit the infant's breathing control and increase the mutual awareness between mother and infant so that their arousability is increased and the risk of SIDS decreased."

So wow! Everything I was instinctively thinking has been affirmed by other mothers and even by professionals through actual study. They liken a mother to being a live pacemaker for the baby. Remember, in the womb the baby is given oxygen through the umbilical cord and breathing is new for them once they are born.

This sums up what I'm trying to say perfectly:
"By six months, the baby's cardiopulmonary regulating system has matured enough that the breathing centers in the brain are better able to restart breathing, even in deep sleep. But there is a vulnerable period between one and six months when the sleep is deepening, yet the compensatory mechanisms are not yet mature. During the time baby is at risk, mother fills in. In fact, mother sleeps like a baby until the baby is mature enough to sleep like an adult. That warm body next to baby acts as a breathing pacemaker, sort of reminding baby to breathe, until the baby's self-start mechanisms can handle the job on their own."

We must also realize that pushing independence on our babies before they are ready (such as sleeping on their own, self-soothing and sleeping through the night) is a Western notion. For centuries bed-sharing is how babies have been raised. I know it seems kind of hippie-ish or earthy but the truth is that God has hard-wired us as mothers to help nurture and soothe our babies, most of them time without even thinking about how or why we're doing something. By letting them cry we are going against instinct. How many mothers who try letting their baby "cry it out" stand outside the door wringing her hands or talk about how much it breaks her heart? How many say, "But my baby NEEDS me" when someone tries to argue with them that baby just needs to cry themselves to sleep? It is NOT natural, that's why. Not to mention the physical and mental and emotional issues going on with baby when they "cry it out". You cannot spoil a baby. They don't have the reasoning capabilities to even understand spoiling. But that's a whole other topic.........

Another thing people may wonder is, "Well you must be so tired because you sleep so lightly and/or awaken often to nurse in the night!" The truth is that I feel good. Sure, I do get tired or feel tired when I first wake up. But I don't have to take naps during the day (I choose to though). I can make it through the day as though I didn't have a newborn that awakens in the night.

One thing I found fascinating in the information I found was that mother and baby's breathing becomes so synchronized that they will awaken at the same exact time (it's true; that is how it goes for us!) and that if one shifts in sleep the other will as well. It's incredible... the bond! Which leads me to yet another benefit which is that the parent and child are very connected, even later in life.

Because of all of this baby also sleeps better. Zoë wakes up one time, usually around 4am. And she is still sleeping when Daniel and the girls get up to get ready for the day at 7am. Here's a great quote:

"Put yourself in the sleep pattern of baby. As baby passes from deep sleep into light sleep, he enters a vulnerable period for nightwaking, a transition state that may occur as often as every hour and from which it is difficult for baby to resettle on his own into a deep sleep. You are a familiar attachment person whom baby can touch, smell, and hear. Your presence conveys an "It's OK to go back to sleep" message. Feeling no worry, baby peacefully drifts through this vulnerable period of nightwaking and reenters deep sleep. If baby does awaken, she is sometimes able to resettle herself because you are right there. A familiar touch, perhaps a few minutes' feed, and you comfort baby back into deep sleep without either member of the sleep-sharing pair fully awakening.

Many babies need help going back to sleep because of a developmental quirk called
object or person permanence. When something or someone is out of sight, it is out of mind. Most babies less than a year old do not have the ability to think of mother as existing somewhere else. When babies awaken alone in a crib, they become frightened and often unable to resettle back into deep sleep. Because of this separation anxiety, they learn that sleep is a fearful state to remain in (not one of our goals of nighttime parenting)."

Other benefits include:
- reducing the risk of SIDS as discussed above as babies sleep on their side or back when co-sleeping and bed-sharing rather than on their tummies.
-it is considered contemporary as working mothers will bed-share in order to make up for that lost touch time with their babies.
-babies THRIVE, which means they are found to be more well-rounded emotionally, physically and intellectually (based on studies).

Many people worry about having their child in bed with them for years if they bed-share! The truth is that your child will have to be weaned and just as they are weaned from bottles/breast and binkies they can and will be weaned from your bed. Elaina was in her own room, sleeping through the night, before her first birthday. In fact she moved to a twin bed when she was 19-months-old. I simply listened to her cues and we changed things up when she was ready!

There are also obvious issues with co-sleeping. It is not for everyone and not everyone has a desire to do this. Also, not all babies want to do this! I would've done it with Abigail as well had she wanted to but she thrived by sleeping on her own and through the night. There are safe ways to co-sleep, like using a bassinet or a co-sleeper. And there are safe ways to share the bed. There are also very unsafe ways. So if this is something you desire to do find out how to do it safely.

So none of this is to give anyone Mommy guilt (we give ourselves enough doses of that on our own on a daily basis, don't we?!) but to explain my point of view and why it is working for me. I am a strong believer in attachment parenting and I know that not everyone else is which is perfectly fine! There's no ONE right way to parent. So tell me what works for YOU!

Look for a future post on attachment parenting. You may be one... and not even know it (like me)!

***All quotes taken from THIS website.***

For more information check out another site I found:
Attachment Parenting International


*~Chelsea~* said...

Hey! I think that's wonderful that you sleep with her like that - very cute! :) I think sleeping with a baby is perfectly normal and sweet...the only time I think co-sleeping is inappropriate is if the child is older...then it's time to go to their own room, haha. I have a friend who still sleeps with her 8-year-old son, which is very obviously inappropriate. At that age, it's time to sleep on their would that work for mommy and daddy for 8 years? LOL!

I'm going to have soooo many questions for you when I have a baby because you're the best mom!! :-)

Joy (When Does Daddy Come Home?!) said...

Chelsea I seriously cannot wait for you to have a baby. Speaking of which....... LOL! Any plans for that?

Yes, I agree 8 yrs old is excessive. Child should know better by then and a bad habit has been created. I'm NO expert but I slept in bed with my mom because of FEAR for many years. It was very unhealthy.

just me, dawn said...

veru interesting. i love to read different viewpoints and experiences. I find it strange when people say absolutely no to a particularly parenting technique before they know anything about it. I am reading lots of different books right now, but the ones i find most interesting are all the different ideas of how to many views. I have read the same about reduction of SIDS risk by co-sleeping and bed-sharing.

The Mommy said...

We would have done ANYTHING to have helped Maggie sleep better as a young infant. Through trial and error we found out that she like being alone in her crib! Ellie sleeps better in her own space too, but she also likes to nap in the sling. I think we ha e amazing instincts as mothers, but society has taught us to ignore them. The whole cry it out thing is so against what we want to do.

Amber said...

I really enjoyed reading your point of view on all of that. I have a pretty opposite parenting style... both of my kids slept in the bassinet/crib from the beginning. I couldn't produce enough milk to breast feed, and I did let Ally "cry it out" when nothing else seemed to work after weeks of trying anything. For my kids, it worked. While "crying it out" is unthinkable for me when you are talking about a newborn, I did read something by Dr. Marc Weissbuth that stuck with me. He said that babies are not born with the ability to self-soothe or to fall asleep on their own. That's why they need parents to rock, walk, or sing them to sleep. But once a baby is around 6 weeks of age, it is important to let them "Learn" to self soothe, or fall asleep on their own. That is kind of what happened with our kids. It took some time, but now they are the best sleepers! They both sleep 12-13 hours every night (solid too!) and both of them still nap.

So I guess every family is different, but it's really neat to see how it works on the other end of the spectrum. Thanks for sharing! Sometimes I think about cosleeping with our next little one, but my husband is a mover and roller in his sleep so I don't think we'll try it. :)

Hoping for our own Peanut said...

Thanks for the awesome info. We let Trevor sleep on us during the day if we have the chance. However, were too afraid to do so at night. I may have to try it though, now that I know the benefits!!

*~Chelsea~* said...

Haha, Joysters! I do have plans, but maybe not for a few years..;-)

Susan Sene said...

Thanks for this post. I do agree, and already read your most recent post. You are SO right - every baby is different. I have already stressed myself out about should I let Ri cry or not, when should I feed her, not feed her, playtime, naptime...ugh, it's endless. When I just started to go with the flow better, I felt so much better and I bet she did too. Now she's sleeping until almost 6:00AM. Although I've felt guilty and almost like a failure b/c she's still in a bassinet in our room at almost three months, I gotta remember I can't compare her or me to others. She's her own sweet person and I need to trust the wisdom God gives me for her.

Jewels said...

Sis, I did all this with all 3 girls and I wouldn't have been able to do it differently. Everything you wrote and found is so spot on. Since I nursed all the girls, it was also so much easier having them with me. But they wouldn't sleep in the bassinet at all (what a waste of money!), and they wouldn't sleep in the crib until a certain age. Hannah slept on my chest for the first 5 months of her life---and with being preemie, it was a huge boost for my peace of mind knowing she was safe with me. All I know is, for my girls and I, this method is what worked. Travis hated having the babies in the bed but I'm sure that doesn't surprise you!

Andrea said...

I have been thinking about this subject a lot lately. I never thought that I would co-sleep in any form. I fully intended to make my babies sleep in their own beds. After getting pregnant I decided to keep Evan in the room with us (within arms reach) until he started sleeping through the night. After he started sleeping through the night I decided to keep him there...where he still remains! lol

It's weird because I just posted about crying it out. After I published it I saw your post.

The funny thing is, Evan sleeps through the night and he is right beside me, just in his bassinet instead of in the bed. The only nap of the day that he sleeps the whole time is the one where he sleeps next to me in bed in the morning. I put him in his Boppy next to me and he sleeps the whole time. All his other naps that he takes alone he doesn't sleep the whole time. Very interesting...I'm glad you posted about this!

The Lynchs said...

Oooh - this is very interesting information! When our time comes, I will most definitely have to do some research around it! Great informative post!