Revisited: For The Love Of Cosleeping

This post is included in the Safe Cosleeping Blog Carnival hosted by Monkey Butt Junction . Our bloggers have written on so many different aspects of cosleeping. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about bed sharing recently, as we plan to do so again when Squidgy is born. It’ll be interesting, sharing not only a room, but a bed with two children.  We’ve considered our options – putting a single bed next to ours for Ameli, moving her and daddy into her room for a few months, or simply all squeezing into our bed. I don’t know yet, how we’re going to do it and am  half hoping that the baby’s frequent wakings will drive Ameli into her own room, but somehow I’m not sure. I’m just not sure what’s going to happen, or how you bedshare with two children. Read more: Revisited: For The Love Of Cosleeping

Friday Favourites – Dealing With Sleep Issues

If you follow me on Facebook, this won’t really be news to you, but we’ve had a lot of chatter this week around infant sleep. It all started with an article from the Australian Telepgraph, from back in March, Forget the cot, sleep with your baby according to SIDS researcher Doctor James McKenna.
Read more: Friday Favourites – Dealing With Sleep Issues

Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding

A reader asked me to write about co-sleeping and breastfeeding. Although this is something we’ve been doing since around one and a half hours after Ameli’s birth – she was born at 4.40am, we were asleep in our bed by six – it’s still a hard topic to write about because I’ve never really thought about it. We’ve simply just ‘done’ it.

Governments will tell us not to co-sleep, or bed share, as they claim that it reduces the risk of SIDS, yet they acknowledge that it is done in most homes at some point – yet they choose not to talk about doing so safely.

Research has shown various things, and at times all conflicting, but even so the human race has co-slept for most of its existence. It has also breastfed, wet nursed and so on for most of that time.

A study done at the University of Notre Dame, summarises their work thus:

We hope that the studies and data described in this paper, which show that co-sleeping at least in the form of roomsharing especially with an actively breast feeding mother saves lives, is a powerful reason why the simplistic, scientifically inaccurate and misleading statement ‘never sleep with your baby’ needs to be rescinded, wherever and whenever it is published.

According to JJ McKenna1, breastfeeding mothers are more than three times as likely to bed-share.

image: from Atom Egoyan's Sweet HereafterSomething I read, and I can’t for the life of me find it now, when I had just started co-sleeping and breastfeeding was that researchers had found that mothers who co-sleep with their infants were almost unanimously sleeping in the exact same position – with the infant cradled in the nook of the arm, which is protectively around the outside of the baby, and knees drawn up to prevent the baby from shimmying down into the bed. This really fascinated me as I was sleeping like that without anyone ever having told me to.

The Notre Dame study confirms the instinctively safer approach to bed-sharing, saying Our studies have shown that without instruction, the routinely bed-sharing breast feeding mothers almost always placed their infants in the safe supine infant sleep position, probably because it is difficult, if not impossible, to breast feed a prone sleeping infant.

For the babies, bed-sharing meant more regular feeds, and “the nightly durations of breast feeding and to shorten the average intervals between the breast feeding sessions” therein. (Which, as an aside, led to the mothers fertility being regulated.)

Nicky Heskin, in an article about cosleeping and breastfeeding, makes a very valid point too, especially for working mums:

Cosleeping is a great way to fulfill your baby’s physical need for attachment if mommy is not the primary caregiver during the day. Several of my friends who need or choose to work cosleep at night and tell me they don’t feel like they “never see their baby” as some of their colleagues report. Cosleeping also provides the opportunity for increased night nursing (note that cosleeping does not cause increased night nursing: it just means you won’t have to get out of bed for it!). Increased night nursing can help reduce baby’s daytime breastmilk needs and keep milk supply well-stimulated to extend the amount of time working moms are able to be successful at exclusive breastfeeding through pumping.

Cosleeping and breastfeeding as a combination also helps with sleep deprivation. Mothers who learn to breastfeed in the side lying position especially will find themselves feeding without getting up, which makes sleep a lot less disturbed. Later, once babies are able to move a bit more freely, you’ll often find you often don’t even wake up during nursing: I once told my husband that I thought Ameli had slept through, and he actually laughed at me, as he had awoken to the sound of her nursing a few times during the night. At least one of us woke up really refreshed that morning!

early days cosleepingAs always, the ‘rules’ of co-sleeping need to be followed: never co-sleep when you’ve been drinking, never co-sleep if you take drugs, including those that make you drowsy, such as antihistamines, and don’t co-sleep if one of you is a smoker. Also, don’t let the nanny, aunt or grandparent co-sleep with an infant as they do not have the same instincts as a parent and never underestimate those instincts either. One night when Ameli was a few months old I in my sleep reached over and grabbed her as she was about to plunge off the bed. My husband woke me up to tell me what I had just done.

There is a word of warning too though: in the early weeks, until Ameli coulds move, I sat up to breastfeed. One night, side lying, I fell asleep. Instinct kicked in and I woke up and found that my (rather large) breast was over Ameli’s face and she wasn’t able to breathe. Although it hadn’t been going on long enough that she gulped air or was in any distress, I realised the importance of being alert enough – what the Notre Dame study refers to as level 1 and 2 sleep – and avoiding anything that could interfere with your instincts – such as alcohol or extreme exhaustion. (edit: I sat up, because I had been frightened by the experience, since Ameli had not struggled at all [or if she had, it might have been what woke me, but I wasn’t aware of it] , but I must admit that I had ginormous breasts at that stage. It may be safer to side-lie as at least you won’t drop the baby if you fall asleep, but you’ll have to find what works for you.)

Breastfeeding and cosleeping go hand in hand and have done for centuries. In traditional African culture, mothers cosleep with their offspring till four or five years of age. So do they in many Asian cultures.

I’m only an expert on how we have done it, but if you have any questions, or would like to contribute anything, please leave a comment below.

1 McKenna JJ, Mosko S, Richard C. Bed sharing promotes breastfeeding.Pediatrics 1997; 100: 214–219.

We have a baby crusher in our midst

I am blow-me-out-the-water exhausted today. I’m not really sure why, because I had relatively good sleep last night, with just two brief wake ups to latch Ameli on for feeding. The benefits of cosleeping (YES, I said the “C” word!) seriously outweigh the one negative, in my opinion.

So looking at that one negative, potential death, I’ll admit that it’s a pretty big one. A few weeks ago there was this big raucous in the media about the evils of cosleeping, warning mothers again not to do it. Fortunately UNICEF countered with a statement of their own, which has been very useful when dealing with health visitors etc.

According to the statement, cosleeping on the sofa, or when extremely exhausted, or taking drugs (including I’d imagine flu medication and sleeping pills) or after drinking is dangerous. This makes sense. But if you’re following those basic common sense rules, there really should be no problem!

sleeping on the sofa

So this is sleeping on the sofa, but supervised!

The day Ameli was born, we finally managed to get in to bed at 6am, and my mom put Ameli in the bed between us. Martin was really conscious of her being there. She was so tiny and we were so tired. So I moved her to my side, so I was between my husband and my daughter. I was worried too, that I might roll on to her, or smother her, or knock her off the bed or something equally as awful. My mom put her Moses Basket flush with the bed so that should she be knocked off, she’d ‘fall’ in to the basket, and assured me that I would not crush my baby. We went to sleep and woke up about six hours later, Ameli still happily sleeping, curled up in bed next to her mommy. I slept really well, but I was so aware of her at the same time.

As the month has progressed, we have finally found ourselves in some sort of sleep routine. Ameli goes to sleep in her Moses Basket in our room, then when I go to bed I either feed her and then put her back in her crib and wait for her next feed before I bring her in, or if I’m ready to sleep, I just take her in to the bed straight away. I have a lovely 5-foot pillow which sleeps next to me, with Ameli on top, propped in the nook of my arm. That way there’s no way my breast is going to block her nose, and there’s no chance of me rolling on to her. When she’s finished feeding, she takes herself off the breast and sleeps there next to her mommy.

Nature is a fantastic thing, if you’ve not interfered with it by getting drunk or taking drugs. I have learned in just one month, in my sleep to differentiate between niggles and concerns. Concerns, like hunger or a dirty nappy, normally wake me, especially if I choose to ignore them as they then escalate to tears! But Ameli is a noisy sleeper and I am now able to distinguish between what should wake me and what should not.

The problem I find with just latching her on and letting her determine when the feed is over is that she snack feeds, so feeds enough for about an hour or two, then wakes up for more, but that’s not a huge problem, as I’m still awake for less than an hour during the night. The main problem with this system is that I am not awake to wind her after her feeds, and find that she can become quite uncomfortable and although she keeps her eyes closed, she will lie squirming in bed, creaking like an old man! If it weren’t the middle of the night, it would be really funny to observe! If I then burp her, she normally goes happily back to sleep. From about 4am she sleeps straight through to sometimes as late as mid day!

Cosleeping has also affected Martin. As he is building his own business now sleep is imperative for him, so some nights he’ll sleep with us, some nights he’ll sleep in the nursery and other nights he’ll start with us, then move to the nursery when she becomes noisy. This is obviously not ideal, but isn’t that big a deal for me, since he has pretty much always stayed up later than I do. So long as he joins us in bed in the mornings for a while, there’s no huge difference. Well, I say that, but truth is I do miss him when I wake in the nights, just knowing he’s there would be great, but I know it’s only for a limited time. Once Ameli sleeps through the night, I’m happy for her to go in to her own room. We shall see.

Today I had an almost return to life pre-Ameli. By this I mean I managed to clean the kitchen, do three loads of washing, make lunch (even though it turned out to be toast – there’s another story there!) and go to the mom&baby group, but I’m exhausted tonight, and ready for bed.

I know cosleeping is not for everyone, just as homebirths and breastfeeding aren’t and that’s fine, but as for me… my name is Luschka and I’m a co-sleeper.

P.S. Japan has lowest cases of SIDS in the world, and there cosleeping in non smoking mothers is encouraged