To co-sleep or not to co-sleep, that is the question.
As I have stated in previous articles, I breastfed both of my babies. I also co-slept with both of my babies. For me, breastfeeding and co-sleeping went hand-in-hand.
I started out with my first born sleeping in a bassinet for the first week or so, but it was extremely hard to get up and down with my cesarean wound. Getting adequate sleep was also a factor. It is very likely that I would have given up breastfeeding without co-sleeping. It was just too hard.
Despite the fact that I felt very comfortable co-sleeping and that it allowed me to overcome some of the difficulties that I was experiencing as a new mother, I felt down right scared to reveal that my baby and I were co-sleeping.
The stigma in our culture around co-sleeping was like a weight around my neck. I felt like everywhere I turned, someone was wagging their finger at co-sleeping parents, siting false information about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The truth about co-sleeping is that research around it reveals a much different story. According to “Why babies should never sleepalone: A review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharingand breast feeding,” an article published by James J. McKenna and Thomas McDade in the Paediatric Respiratory Reviews, “mother–infant co-sleeping represents the most biologically appropriate sleeping arrangement for humans and is both ancient and ubiquitous simply because breast feeding is not possible, nor as easily managed, without it.”
The article goes on to point out that in the time frame when co-sleeping fell out of favor with the masses, the 1950s, doctors were recommending cow’s milk over human breast milk. Something which we would consider crazy today.
Not to mention, the original reason for recommending against co-sleeping was to help resume a healthy sex life between married couples. Male doctors, telling new mothers that co-sleeping was bad for their marriage.
McKenna and McDade point out the obvious fact that, “while recent cultural implements such as cribs, mattresses and bedding did not evolve to protect and feed infants throughout the night, protective maternal behaviours including bodily contact between the mother and infant during co-sleeping most certainly did.”
While I don’t think that co-sleeping is right for everyone, for me it is. My maternal instinct doesn’t allow me to sleep without my baby being near me. I need to feel her close to me, to know that she is safe, and to attend to her needs as quickly as possible. Just like I did for her very independent big brother.
The decision about whether to co-sleep or not is for you, the parents to make. If you are a heavy sleeper, if you take medication or drugs that inhibit your ability to easily wake up, if you sleep with 25 pillows and 5 blankets, guess what, co-sleeping is probably not for you.
However, if you are an exhausted breastfeeding mother who falls asleep while laying with her baby, don’t fret. Mothers have been doing this since the beginning, and for some of us, it is the best way to support our babies as they transition into independent toddlers.