Gather any group of mothers with young babies together and before long, the topic will always veer towards feedings, schedules, or the inevitable “does he sleep through the night yet?” question.
(I hate that question almost as much as the “Is he a GOOD baby?” one. As if there are BAD and GOOD babies, and we all are holding our breath and “hoping” for a good one.)
Ah, yes. Infants and sleep. (Or maybe the lack thereof, lol.) This is a topic people can get quite passionate about. 🙂
Today, I’m going to share what works for us, and why. Please remember that, like every other blog post on this site, there is NO judgement for those who find success with a different parenting style. 🙂
I co-sleep with my babies. All five of my biological babies have spent at least their first year of life snuggled up close to both Mommy and Daddy. We co-slept with our younger two adopted girls for about a year as well. Contrary to the fearful statements many people will threaten a co-sleeping mama with, all seven of our older children go to sleep when they are told, sleep in their own beds, and wait to get up until the clock says the appropriate wake-up time now. Little Titus (13 months) still spends the majority of the night curled up next to me. 🙂
I absolutely LOVE having my babies close by, all day, and all night. Since I get asked frequently about this practice, I wanted to share with you a couple of the reasons why co-sleeping works so well for our family.
- Co-sleeping promotes and protects the breastfeeding relationship.
Babies were intricately designed by God to have an intense need to breastfeed, immediately after birth, and frequently thereafter. As evidenced by several passages in the Bible and other historical accounts, up until more recently, the breastfeeding relationship was measured in years rather than months. Unrestricted access to mama during both day AND night encourages a healthy milk supply that can last as long as mother and baby desire. Restricting baby’s access to mama signals the mother’s body to make less milk. This is why many mothers who find success in scheduling their babies feeding and sleep patterns during the early weeks do not make enough milk to sustain their baby during the second half of the first year, not to mention the year after that.
This is not a breastfeeding post, so I won’t go into all the science behind successful breastfeeding here. I do want to point out, however, that prolactin (the milk making hormone) levels are HIGHEST at night, leading to the belief that we were designed to feed frequently and even throughout the night. Few mamas desire to actually climb in and out of bed all night for months. (Hence the reason baby sleep training manuals are so popular among sleep-deprived parents!) Co-sleeping eliminates that need.
I would also like to discuss a common phrase that is spoken to mothers: “Your baby is using you as a PACIFIER.” After the birth of our eighth child last year, a well-intentioned nurse said this to me before removing the baby from my arms and placing him in the bassinet across the room. I waited sweetly until she left the room, then promptly picked him up and returned to our comfy snuggly nursing position. 🙂
Allow me to be blunt for a minute:
Your baby is not using YOU as a substitute for a pacifier. She is using the pacifier as a substitute for YOU.
This is not an anti-pacifier rant (I used them with my first two babies). I just find it ridiculous that we are accusing a tiny newborn of somehow abusing you by his instinctive need to suck. 🙂
Keeping baby close and co-sleeping meets the baby’s need for frequent access to breastfeeding AND the mama’s need for rest and sleep at night. Baby doesn’t have to even fully awake nor cry to express his needs, and mama gets to remain warm and comfy in her bed all night long. 🙂
- Co-sleeping also promotes and protects attachment and bonding.
Your baby grew inside of you for almost a year. The first sounds her tiny ears heard were your heartbeat and your soft voice. She was lulled to sleep by your movements and kept calm by your constant presence. From the moment of her birth she could distinguish you in a room full of people. Why then are we so surprised that she is happiest when held close to your heart?
There are a zillion mama-substitutes on the market today. They mimic the sound of your heartbeat, or the motion of your arms. They claim to be “just like mom”! (And sometimes they are wonderful for when mama simply cannot hold baby.) But there is no gadget, no machine, no person on earth that can replace the baby’s need for connection with MAMA.
The idea promoted by some that rocking or nursing a baby to sleep, holding a sleeping baby, responding quickly to baby’s cries, or co-sleeping with baby is HARMFUL to a baby causes a hindrance in mama’s mind to meeting her baby’s needs.
Her fear that she is somehow doing something WRONG (when her instinctual response screams otherwise) causes much frustration. Well-meaning advice from family and friends
and complete strangers at the grocery store can further discourage mama.
Did you know that when your own baby cries, your entire body has an automatic response? Your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, your milk lets down, and you feel an intense need to pick your baby up. I remember literally feeling like I couldn’t think clearly when my babies were very upset.
Your baby is not trying to manipulate you nor control you when he cries, whether at a “convenient” time during the day, or at an “inconvenient” time at night. His need for YOU doesn’t magically end with the setting of the sun each evening. 🙂 Baby needs to be close to you to attach to you, and co-sleeping allows that.
For the ease of the PARENTS, many will recommend teaching baby “independence” at a very early age. Due to our adoption experiences, we have seen first-hand the negative results of this so-called “independence”. Yes, a baby left to cry alone WILL eventually give up, but much can be lost in that process as well. Sweet mama, it is OKAY that your baby needs you. In fact, it is a healthy and GOOD thing. 🙂
For busy mamas, sometimes night-time can be the perfect time to re-connect with baby. I love scooping my little guy up for a nice long nursing/cuddle after a very long day. Holding and watching your baby while he sleeps triggers sweet feelings of attachment in mama as well.
God designed babies to be dependent on their primary caregivers for the first several years, and one of the ways our family fulfills baby’s needs is by co-sleeping.
(Obviously, there are multiple ways to promote attachment between parent and baby. Please understand that I am not in any way saying that co-sleeping is the ONLY way to promote attachment! It is simply one of the ways we have found to be effective.)
Because I know I’m going to get asked, I thought I’d add on a few thoughts here. 🙂
What about time alone for husband and wife? Brent and I enjoy some time together each evening after the children are asleep. When our babies are tiny, they simply sleep nearby until we’re ready for bed, and when they get a little older, we put them to bed with the older children and then bring them to our bed when they awake the first time.
Will they EVER learn to sleep through the night? It’s a myth, really, this “sleeping through the night” thing. How often do you actually fall asleep and sleep the entire night without waking up once? What we’re really hoping for is that baby will learn to not need to be parented back to sleep when they wake up. 🙂 Between 12 and 18 months, we have gently taught each one of our babies to sleep alone. I’m a firm believer that a need met will go away, and have found each one of mine to be great sleepers. I can honestly say that we have never needed to repeatedly get up with a 2, 3, or 4 year old with sleep issues and I attribute that to the fact that they don’t fear sleep.
This is our perspective on co-sleeping. Whatever works for you and YOUR family, I wish you and your little ones sweet snuggles and great sleep. 🙂