Hello. My name is Theresa. And I make babies who don’t like to sleep.
Well, sort of. They like to sleep while nursing and if they’re on me … basically anywhere but a crib. But what baby magically sleeps well in a crib from day one? I digress.
Anyway, I’ve been shouting from the mountaintops about bed-sharing lately, because it has been a complete game-changer in my house since baby 2 (Isla) arrived 2 months ago. I did things completely differently with baby 1 (Ava), and I wish someone had told me about bed-sharing then. So here I am to tell all of you. You’re welcome. :-)
What is bed-sharing?
I’m sure you’ve heard the term co-sleeping before. Co-sleeping technically means sleeping with Baby in your room. Baby could be in a side-car, in a bassinet, in a crib, in a shoebox (I don’t endorse babies sleeping in shoeboxes), so long as Baby is in your room. For the purposes of this post, I’ll use the term bed-sharing to refer to Baby sleeping in the same bed with a breastfeeding mom (more on this particular point later).
Why try it?
Why try bed-sharing? Because it’s perfectly safe when done correctly, and because YOU WILL GET MORE SLEEP. Of course I can’t make any promises about either of these points, but I can tell you what I’ve learned and experienced. And I think it’s pretty compelling, if I do say so myself.
My experience: Ava versus Isla
Which looks like more fun to you?
Don’t be fooled by the fake smile in photo 1. Photo 2 Theresa is immensely happier, because she’s sleeping. With Ava I spent so much time on the yoga ball, trying every swaddler under the sun, working desperately to get her to fall asleep and stay asleep “the right way.” Or at least what everyone was telling me was “the right way:” in a crib, by herself, without nursing. I was exhausted, and it never quite worked out.
Fifteen short months later, I’m pregnant, and I’m already afraid of the sleep deprivation to come. I’m a doula, so I have the whole pregnancy and birth thing down, but I wanted to read at least one parenting/baby book the second time around. I picked up Sweet Sleep on a recommendation from a few of my friends at the La Leche League meetings in Montgomery County.
Suffice it to say I’ve never read a parenting book that resonated with me so much. Check it out if you’re planning to breastfeed and hoping to sleep. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Following the advice of this book, plus trusting my maternal instincts more, I’m getting way more sleep than I did with Ava. And Isla nurses just as much, and doesn’t yet “sleep through the night,” or even close to it. No matter how many times I get that question each week.
The bottom line: you can either get up out of bed to nurse your baby as often as she wakes (as I did with Ava) and fight the urge to fall asleep in the rocking chair. Or you can stay in bed, pop a boob in Baby’s mouth, and both drift back to sleep. And it is just that simple. The hormones released during breastfeeding help lull mom and baby to sleep. No getting out of bed, no fully rousing from sleep … just brief wake-ups when baby needs some food/comfort/love.
According to the Sweet Sleep book (based on their research), a safe bed-sharing environment looks like this:
If a mother is: 1. A non-smoker 2. Sober 3. Breastfeeding
And her baby is: 4. Healthy 5. On his back 6. Lightly dressed and unswaddled
And they: 7. share a safe surface
Then the baby’s risk of SIDS is no greater than in a crib, and any breathing hazards have been hugely reduced.
“But Theresa, everyone tells me it’s dangerous to have my baby in bed with me.”
Yup. I know. Doctors, nurses, nosey neighbors … everyone told me this too. And I foolishly believed it. But it looks like even the AAP is reviewing their stance on bed-sharing. Because under the right conditions, bed-sharing can be better for mom and baby, and help women meet their breastfeeding goals.
I’m a believer. I’m a bed-sharing evangelist. Check out the links I’ve posted above, and see what you think. Here’s to more sleep for all of us.
What do you think of bed-sharing? Have you tried it? Does something else work for you? Let me know in the comments.
A blog about babies, birth, and the pursuit of happiness.