Motherhood

Why We Co-Sleep & Bed-Share.

The thing I never thought I would do with my baby.

Go ahead and yell at me now, you wouldn’t be the first person to mom shame me. This heavy topic is something I have been wanting to discuss since Ellis was born. And while I know there are some of you out there who are already shaking your head in dismissal at me, I hope you will stay awhile and listen to my side of the story.

Before my baby girl was born, I NEVER and I mean NEVER thought that I would be a parent who let their baby sleep in their bed. To be honest, I guess I never even knew it was a thing or that people actually did that before I got pregnant. I mean HELLO, SIDS city, or so I thought. It wasn’t until we got home from the hospital, (which remind you, we were at for 5 days due to complications) that our minds completely changed on bed sharing. Our lives were so out of whack from not getting to go home and “start” our family the way we wanted to or had planned. I had the pack-n-play with a bassinet set up right beside our bed, assuming Ellis would sleep in that. I’ll never forget those first couple of days. You are new parents, beyond exhausted, trying to settle into parenthood and you have no idea what the hell you are doing. While I was trying to master that, I also was dealing with extremely high blood pressures, breast-feeding, making numerous ER visits/doctor appointments, wearing holter monitors, taking medicine and monitoring my blood pressures continuously. JEESH, the list was never ending! I was overly exhausted, but Ellis for the most part was amazing. She was eating great, sleeping great, I was the one with the issues. But then one night everything changed. After about a week of her sleeping in her bassinet, she just decided she didn’t want to anymore. When she would wake up to feed, I would feed her, change her, re-swaddle her and put her back in her bassinet and then H. E. double hockey sticks would break loose. Ellis would proceed to wake up and scream and scream until I pulled her in bed with us and let her sleep beside me, which then she would do all. night. long. And so this pattern began. Every night we would put her in her bassinet at bedtime and throughout the night she would end up in our bed. The major concern with co-sleeping that is on everyone’s mind and mine too before I had Ellis, is obviously safety, but it has never felt unsafe to me – it actually just feels very natural. And after A TON of research, trusting my gut instincts and talking to other mommas out there, I am now confident in my parenting decisions and I am okay if you are not haha.

I wanted to take the time to inform everyone of some of the things I’ve learned in my research about co-sleeping and bed-sharing, because I found it VERY interesting. Now, I am not shaming any mother who doesn’t believe in co-sleeping or bed-sharing or if their little ones sleep in a crib or in another room, ect…because if I have learned anything as a new mom, it is that you do what works best for you and your family. As parents we should be supportive of one another, not shaming one another. So let’s start out with the difference between co-sleeping and bed-sharing.

Bed-Sharing vs. Co-Sleeping

The definition of co-sleeping is basically “sharing a sleep environment with your infant or young child.” Co-sleeping basically umbrellas bed-sharing, so you can technically co-sleep without your baby being in your actual bed. This can mean having a crib, bassinet, rock-n-play or pack-n-play in the room you sleep in or safe sleeping in your actual bed. It is the cultural norm for 90% of the world’s population.

Bed-Sharing is just that, actually sharing the same bed. It should NOT occur in unsafe environments, such as couches and waterbeds, or if parents are intoxicated, take sleep medications, or are heavy smokers. These types of dispositions are often included in studies about co-sleeping dangers, which dramatically alter the results. It is also important to know that bed-sharing means not putting a newborn in a bed with an adult other than the mother, who is biologically hardwired for sharing sleep with an infant (research indicates that most dads will change their sleep patterns over the course of a few months to become more aware as well).

While every single bed-sharing death is tragic, it’s important to know that these deaths should not be related to all who bed-share.  Just as the three hundred thousand plus deaths or more of babies in cribs do not mean that crib sleeping is deadly and should be eliminated. It’s important to remember that parents can and should be educated to minimize bed-sharing risks as well as unsafe ways to use cribs. We abide by the The La Leche Leauge International Safe. Sleep. Seven. I will add the diagram below. Their safe sleep seven includes that a mother must be a non-smoker, sober, breastfeeding, that her baby is a healthy full term infant, on their back and is lightly dressed and unswaddled and lastly that they share a safe surface. By doing these seven things, the baby’s risk of SIDS is no greater than in a crib, and any breathing hazards have been hugely reduced.

TOP 5 REASONS WE BED-SHARE

Happiness and Comfort

  • Happier Bedtime: Knowing she will not be alone all night in a big room, but instead have the love and comfort right next to her will create a positive connection to bedtime.
  • Happier Morning: Let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing sweeter than waking up to your baby! Babies that bed-share tend to sleep in later than those in their own room or bed and Ellis totally does! I definitely take advantage of this!
  • Comfort: Hearing a parent’s heart beat helps infants fall asleep faster and calmer. Feeling the nearness of this parent throughout the night also comforts babies and helps them sleep more peacefully.
    • Anxiety: Studies also show that babies experience less anxiety when they are in bed with their mother. And as a mother, I can say that I experience less anxiety when she is in bed with me! 🙂

Health and Safety

  • Health: Studies show that when a baby is sleeping within arms’ reach of another person, it significantly improves his/her heart rate, heart rhythm and blood pressure.
    • Breathing Regulation: When an infant bed-shares, their breathing becomes more regular as it tunes into it mothers breathing patterns.
    • Temperature Regulation: The mother’s body actual acts as a thermostat and heats or cools to meet the baby’s needs, helping to prevent overheating (common in cribs).
    • Respiratory Facilitation: The carbon dioxide exhaled by the mother triggers the infant to breathe. Love this!
  • Safety: The highest rates of bed-sharing worldwide occur alongside the lowest rates of infant mortality, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) rates. (Infants in bed-sharing environments, like babies in cribs, can still die of SIDS, it is just far more rare.)

Bonding

  • Family Bonding: Sleeping together helps establish a strong family foundation, a very tight knit one I might add haha.
  • Daddy Bonding: Dakota would tell you that he absolutely loves sharing a bed with our little girl as he gets plenty of snuggle time!
  • Grown-Up Bonding: This one might be a little TMI (scroll on family), but lets be honest, a marriage/relationship takes a back seat once a baby is thrown in the mix. After polling many bed-sharing families, I feel very confident in saying that those of us sharing a bed with little ones have the best. sex. lives. Bed-sharing forces you to get creative and the entire house becomes a place to adventure out into.  Not to mention seeing your spouse love on your little one can be quite the turn on….at least this is how it works for us!

Breastfeeding Relationship and Laziness

  • Breastfeeding: I exclusively breastfeed, so we like to “dream feed” throughout the night. It is that moment when Ellis begins to move in her sleep, but isn’t awake yet.  This gives me the opportunity to nurse her without fully being awake myself and without even getting out of bed.
    • Longer Breastfeeding Relationship: Bed-sharing is linked to longer nursing relationships, and happier ones!
  • Laziness: I won’t lie, it is so damn nice to not get out of bed to feed.  There is no walking to another room, sitting in a rocker, going to the kitchen to make a bottle or even walking across the room to a crib.

Creating Real Independence

As John Holt put it so eloquently, having feelings of love and safety in early life, far from “spoiling” a child, is like “money in the bank”: a fund of trust, self-esteem and inner security which the child can draw on throughout life’s challenges.

  • Constant love and support harbors self-confidence and independence. This love and support should not end as the sun goes down, leaving a child to comfort and support themselves over night. Allowing your infant to feel this security throughout baby-hood and toddlerhood, until they are ready to sleep independently, will encourage a positive outlook, happier moments, high self-confidence, and a higher sense of independence.

Did You Know

  • In Japan where co-sleeping and breastfeeding (in the absence of maternal smoking) is the cultural norm, rates of the sudden infant death syndrome are the lowest in the world. For breastfeeding mothers, bed-sharing makes breastfeeding much easier to manage and practically doubles the amount of breastfeeding sessions while permitting both mothers and infants to spend more time asleep. The increased exposure to mother’s antibodies which comes with more frequent nighttime breastfeeding can potentially, per any given infant, reduce infant illness. And because co-sleeping in the form of bed-sharing makes breastfeeding easier for mothers, it encourages them to breastfeed for a greater number of months, according to Helen Ball’s studies at the University of Durham, therein potentially reducing the mother’s chances of breast cancer.
  • Human infants are born the most neurologically immature primate of all, with only 25% of their brain volume. This represents a uniquely human characteristic that could only develop biologically alongside mother’s continuous contact and proximity—as mother’s body proves still to be the only environment to which the infant is truly adapted, for which even modern western technology has yet to produce a substitute.

Like I said before, this is what works for our family. It definitely was not our original plan, but you do what you gotta do! I hope this post educated or helped someone out there! If you have any questions or concerns, I would LOVE to hear from you!

x o x o . andrea .  the ranch mama

Resources:
http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-not-and-should-not-sleep-alone/
http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/8506461
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1526054205000230
http://www.llli.org/sweetsleepbook/thesafesleepseven
and many other blogging, co-sleeping, bed-sharing mothers! 

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