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Breastsleeping is the Best Sleeping

Take it from this mom to almost 5 little ones… Nothing beats ‘breastsleeping.’

I almost choked on my midnight bowl of cheerios the other night when a friend brought this topic up through a facebook message. I instantly laughed out loud because I feel like we live in a time where no one can just do what is natural and instead must be told by some crazy rhyming-word slogan what is best for them.

Breastsleeping is not new. It was not new when it was known as ‘dream feeding’ years ago when I gave birth to my first baby. It was not new 100 years ago. Mothers have been nursing their babies in their sleep for centuries; it is called human nature and (in my opinion) is a great survival tactic.

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How else could I possibly be able to function with little ones all day long? My youngest still nurses all night, and we are about to add another nursling to the bed. I need sleep. We all do.

But in light of the new viral sharing of all things ‘breastsleeping,’ I guess it’s time we talk about what it entails. Just in case your natural mothering instincts haven’t already told you! Actually, I can’t fault any new mothers out there. Our society is so backwards in its thinking and researching these days that anything we instinctually believe to be true is somehow wrong. So, I feel you mamas. Those of you just starting this crazy parenthood journey. But heed these words “You Do You.” You hear me? Your breastfeeding journey is yours, so make it work in whatever way your gut tells you to because YOU are the mother.

Ok, off my soapbox. Back to breastsleeping.

Dr. James McKenna (A GREAT doctor – go look him up and read it all!!), director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at University of Notre Dame has argued, alongside fellow anthropologist Dr. Lee Gettler,  that there is no such thing as infant sleep and there is no such thing as breastfeeding — there is only breastsleeping. They suggest that co-sleeping, when the mother is sober and on the same surface as her baby (which is free of all hazards) and breastfeeding, she is doing the best for her baby in terms of sleep and nutrition. This study even suggests that breastsleeping drastically lowers the risk of SIDS occurring because it increases the number of times an infant is nursed throughout the night, and breastfeeding is linked to reducing SIDS risk.

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Basically, this is combining the words breastfeeding and co-sleeping into one word that may make mothers feel better about what they are doing with their little ones. Too many families bring a baby home and plant them in a bed (or bedroom) away from Mom. We have been told that babies need space to gain independence, that they need to start self-soothing by 2, 4, or 6 months old. We are told that only horrible mothers who want to roll on top of (and suffocate) their babies are the ones who share a bed. But OH! how wrong our society is.

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It turns out that the research is overwhelmingly positive in favor of co-sleeping (when done properly). The research for breastfeeding also speaks for itself. Combined? Of course, this is a great idea. A sleep-deprived mother does not benefit any one. A child who awakens due to hunger in the night will not self-soothe, but instead learn that his needs may or may not be met on demand. When a mother and infant share a sleep space, there is nothing more than a mother’s sixth sense that awakens her just enough to feel her baby begin to stir. Neither fully awaken, or even really shift positions much. The mother instinctually nurses her baby as both are in a dream state. This allows the body to remain rested and relaxed. It also grants the baby the ability to trust that needs are met and sleep is a time of peace.

Go ahead and grab that tiny baby tonight… snuggle him up in your bed. You’ll both sleep a whole lot better!

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