Breastsleeping saved my life. Ok, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but it has helped me get better sleep while trying to keep up with the demands of breastfeeding.
For those mommas who can’t or don’t want to do this AND continue breastfeeding, props to you. That takes a lot of dedication and endurance to keep up with the frequent feeds overnight!
What is breastsleeping?
Breastsleeping is when you breastfeed your baby while you BOTH sleep. It’s a term coined by sleep expert, James McKenna, who works at the University of Notre Dame as an anthropologist. He’s spent the majority of his career studying infant biology and mother-infant sleep and has conducted a number of different studies looking bedsharing, co-sleeping, and human parenting.
Benefits of breastsleeping
It’s really important to continue breastfeeding at night since this is when your prolactin levels are highest. Melatonin is also present in breast milk at night which helps babies sleep better (but that doesn’t mean they feed less!).
helps maintain maternal milk supply.
Improve infant and parental sleep.
Helps your baby connect sleep without fully waking up, which minimizes fussiness and/or crying episodes overnight.
More time spent asleep which helps infant brain growth and development.
Improved social skills.
Sleep consultants will tell you you’re creating a monster by not separating the breast from sleep. Sleep experts, like James McKenna, will tell you it’s advantageous and beneficial to the baby’s physical and psychological growth and development. The more time a baby sleeps and eats, the more energy they can put toward brain growth. Plus, what new mom doesn’t want a bit more shut eye?!
Breastsleeping does require bedsharing- which should be done safely and thoughtfully.
Guidlines for bedsharing:
Term, healthy newborn (born after 37 weeks)
Mother is breastfeeding
No smoking, drug or alcohol use
Infant sleeps on his/her back
Sleeps on firm surface
No swaddling; use only light blanketing
Both parents should know baby is in bed with them
No other children in bed
Long hair should be pulled back
I pulled this direct quote from James McKenna’s guidelines for safe bedsharing as I think it’s an important perspective to take into consideration:
“Finally, it may be important to consider or reflect on whether you would think that you suffocated your baby if, under the most unlikely scenario, your baby died from SIDS while in your bed. Just as babies can die from SIDS in a risk-free solitary sleep environment, it remains possible for a baby to die in a risk-free cosleeping/bedsharing environment. Just make sure, as much as this is possible, that you would not assume that if the baby died, that either you or your spouse would think that bed-sharing contributed to the death, or that one of your really suffocated (by accident) the infant. While this is an unpleasant and uncomfortable topic, it is one that is worth thinking about before you make the choice to cosleep/bedshare with your infant.
Aside from never letting an infant sleep outside the presence of a committed adult, i.e. separate-surface cosleeping which is safe for all infants, I do not recommend to any parents any particular type of sleeping arrangement since I do not know the circumstances within which particular parents live. What I do recommend is to consider all of the possible choices and to become as informed as is possible matching what you learn with what you think can work the best for you and your family.”