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