Several years ago I had a beautiful red headed friend named Miriam. She had a sweet husband and an adorable 1 1/2 year old daughter. I loved to be around them. I could feel they had a special family bond which I didn’t see too often. One day Miriam told me that her daughter slept in the same bed with her and her husband. I was surprised and thought the same thing most Americans who are uninformed about co-sleeping think. I thought that she should probably make her daughter sleep in her own bed or she would spoil her (actually, I thought she had already spoiled her) and never have private time with her husband again. I am telling you, every time I have ever made a strong judgment about anything, life has shown me the other side of the story. Flash forward to now. I have my own little man who turns one on Tuesday and has slept snuggled next to me in our bed every night since his birth. Well, technically he has been sleeping in our bed before his birth since he was with me in utero The benefits of co-sleeping are many. Here are just a few reasons I choose to co-sleep:
David at one month
1. Co-Sleeping Fulfills A Baby’s Continuum: According to The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff, a baby needs to be in the midst of life (as opposed to separated from it in a lonely room) and next to his/her mother, especially during his/her most vulnerable period (while sleeping). This is important for his/her full developmental potential.
2. Co-Sleeping Gives A Baby Full Access To Nourishment When He/She Needs It Most: A baby’s brain grows the most at night and a woman produces the most prolactin (breastfeeding hormone) at night.
3. Co-Sleeping Creates A Safe Association With Sleep: Babies who have co-slept tend to have fewer sleep problems, night waking, nightmares, and night terrors as they grow up. In their subconscious they feel safe and they know their needs will be met. Co-sleeping also eliminates a parent’s ability to use the “crying it out” or “ignoring your child’s signal for help and comfort” method. Sometimes David will wake up during the night or from a nap and call out my name. Once he sees or feels me near he goes back to sleep peacefully. When children are young they really do need extra assurance of our presence and protection.
4. Co-Sleeping Helps Regulate A Baby’s Breathing, Temperature, and Heartbeat: When a mother is skin to skin with her newborn, her body temperature will rise or fall according to her baby’s need. Her baby’s breathing and heart rate also tend to sync up with hers. This is especially important in the first 3 months when a baby may have difficulty doing this on his/her own. Contrary to popular myth, co-sleeping significantly reduces the risk of SIDS. In countries where co-sleeping is the norm, there isn’t even a concept or word for SIDS because the mom is always there, able to help her baby at the first signs of danger.
David, five months, and I napping in our bed
5. Co-Sleeping Promotes Breastfeeding Ease: A mom and baby who sleep together share sleep cycles. When her baby wakes up to breastfeed, his/her mother will be entering a light sleep too. Then all she requires to do is roll to her side and give her baby milk. They both usually fall back asleep together and begin another sleep cycle. A mother who co-sleeps doesn’t have to stand up, produce adrenaline, go into another room, feed her baby, set him/her down quietly, and try to go back to sleep. She is able to fully complete her sleep cycles. A well rested mommy is a happy mommy.
Of course, there are many warnings about co-sleeping out there. “It will spoil your child.” (How? By giving him what he requires? Or by giving him too many cuddles and kisses? You can’t spoil a baby) “It is dangerous, you could crush him.” (um, I have never rolled onto or crushed my husband and I have never rolled onto or crushed my baby. Unless drugged up, we are always semi-aware of our surroundings while sleeping.) “It will ruin your sex life.” (actually, co-sleeping has brought Bryan and I even more snuggles and loving caresses. Plus, it’s fun to find creative ways to be together. Kinda like being a teenager). This article is a good one to read to clear up any misconceptions about co-sleeping. After re-reading The Continuum Concept(I first read it in 2007) and the article linked above, I firmly made up my mind. I was going to do it!! While still pregnant I “practiced” co-sleeping by placing a teddy bear between me and Bryan while we slept to get a feel for what it would be like to have a little person in between us at night. Needless to say, this didn’t even come close to the real thing. It’s so much more fun with an actual baby!
Chunky David at almost three months
In my opinion, co-sleeping is one of the biggest joys and most rewarding parts of early parenthood. I LOVE snuggling together at night as a family, especially when it’s cold outside, feeling yummy warm baby breath on my skin, sleeping well, waking up to groggy smiles and giggles, and enjoying a few more moments of family snuggling before beginning our day. 90% of the time, co-sleeping has been PURE BLISS for me. The other 10% consists of events which impede on my sleep, such as a random kick or punch, teething, growth spurts, and anything else which causes excess sucking, fussing, and squirming in David.
For example, last night, around 3 am, David started to nurse. After 20 minutes of sucking and squirming I began to feel annoyed. (I am spoiled because I am used to him sucking for 5 minutes or less and going back to sleep). I unlatched him (because I choose to feed him only positive emotion) and he started to cry. Bryan took over and bounced him to sleep. Within 2 minutes he woke up fussing again. We decided he might need to pee so we took him to the toilet. He went pee and started breastfeeding again. All in all we were up for 45 minutes to an hour, but David made up for it by sleeping in until 8:30 am
David, eight months, and I taking an afternoon nap
When David finally unlatched, he started talking, “na na (ma ma), na na (ma ma), daddy, daddy, dant oo (thank you), dant oo (thank you), dant oo (thank you), lu oo (love you).” And then he went to sleep. Now he may have just been practicing his words, but in my heart I know he meant it. “Thank you Mommy and Daddy for keeping me safe at night, for giving me extra skin to skin so my dendrites can develop, for giving me free access to milk so I can reach my full physical and mental growth potential, for comforting me when I cry so I have an easier time comforting myself when I grow older, for showing me I can get my needs met in life and I always have help nearby, and for including me in your bed and encircling me with your love.” You are welcome my son. You are so worth it! I love you too!
P.S. To learn more advanced parenting techniques click here for books and information on how to raise a super being.