Over the past few weeks, I have been sharing details about our decision to bring our baby to bed with us. Last week, I shared that my biggest concern in making this decision revolved around the safety of my baby and several of the steps we have taken to make our sleeping conditions safe for him.
As I have stated before, I initially had a hard time finding information about sleeping with your baby online (Although there is actually quite a lot of information, I was not yet familiar with the terms “co-sleeping,” “bed-sharing,” and/or “the family bed” so I didn’t know how to find it…if you search for “how to get my baby to sleep OTHER THAN letting him cry it out,” google just sees “baby + sleeping + cry it out”…how do you search for something if you don’t know what it is yet?)
Anyway, some of the most useful information about sleeping with our baby that I discovered early on in my research came from websites advocating breastfeeding. I’ll admit, breastfeeding was a “duh” thing for me: all I really needed to know was that it is free, natural (read: part of God’s design), and the healthiest thing you can feed your baby. I know the process does not come as naturally or easily for every mother, but I do think it is something very worth pursuing. The disclaimer message found on every single can of formula is pretty persuasive:
–––Should it really be that surprising that God has this milk thing mastered better than any human ever will? Not only is it good for the baby’s nutrition and also for establishing healthy attachments/bonds–it is good for the mom, too: helping with weightloss, bringing your body/uterus back to normal after childbirth, and I guess it has been proven to prevent breast cancer. But because this is a post about sleeping, not breastfeeding, I won’t go into anymore details about that. The reason I bring it up now is because I feel that the fact that I breastfed my baby was one of the most significant factors in making our sleeping arrangement safe.
As I mentioned in my post about our “sleep story,” Josiah’s night-time feeding schedule instantly synced itself with our sleeping pattern at night. When it was time to eat, I found myself in a very light stage of sleep–not quite fully awake but not fully sleeping either. He would stir also and indicate that it was time to eat (not by crying, mind you, it was much more natural and gentler). Without either of us needing to fully wake, he would eat and we’d both fall back into deeper stages of sleep together. Even in these deeper stages of sleep, I felt very aware of his presence beside me. It is difficult to explain and if you have never tried it and will never have the opportunity in the future: you will just have to take my word for it.
I am convinced that the physical position that breastfeeding imposes upon both the mother and the baby is just a natural built-in safety mechanism which was designed by the hand of God. As I mentioned in my last post, it would be completely unnatural to breastfeed a baby on his tummy: he lies on his back or slightly turned in to his mom. Because of the way he breaths through his nose, he won’t be completely turned sideways…he’ll always be on his back…proven to be the safest position for a baby to sleep in. The safety of the position that breastfeeding imposes upon the mother is just as beautifully designed. While feeding, I laid on my side with my bottom arm curled up under my head or extending straight out at shoulder level or higher. This is the only place for it to be that it is not in the way. My legs were bent: sort of curled up under Josiah and my top arm draped over him. This created sort of a cradle for him. Can you picture it? Unfortunately I have no photos, and can’t take one now as my pregnant belly is in the way and my baby is much bigger…so this little sketch will have to do:
The position of my bottom arm extended or bent up under my head would have made it impossible for me to roll over onto my baby. Try it. The only way to roll that direction would be to first bring your arm down. If you try to do so, the baby’s head would be in the way…effectively preventing your arm from being folded in and therefore from you rolling over onto him. You can still roll onto your back naturally and comfortably…but rolling in this direction poses no threat to the baby. I also feel that pregnancy prepares a mother’s body for this. It is impossible–or at least extremely uncomfortable–to sleep on your stomach when pregnant, so we get used to sleeping in other positions and not moving around as much.
As an added benefit, I feel that the position I slept in, and the sort of cradle it created also provided added protection from my husband rolling over into our baby. I have read just recently that the safest place for an infant in his or her parents bed is actually not in the middle but on the other side of a breastfeeding mother because of the heightened awareness that a breastfeeding mother has for her child which is not fully extended to the father. Our son slept in the middle or to one side of me depending on which side had the most milk (and we often switched during the night). My husband felt and shared that he felt very aware of Josiah’s presence next to him when he was in the middle. He likened it to the same instinct that prevents him from rolling off the bed at night: just as he knew where the edge of the bed was even while sleeping, he knew where our son was and not to roll there.
As soon as we tried it, and the longer we persisted in sleeping with our baby, the more convinced I became that this was God’s design. No, it is not the only way to do things, but it turned out to be just what my Josiah needed and the perfect arrangement for our family.
The decision to breastfeed our baby combined with the safety precautions we have taken have helped to create a safe sleeping environment for our baby. Depending on which sources you cite, it appears that the number of infant deaths attributed to co-sleeping/suffocation in an adult bed is somewhere between 10 and 60 deaths per year in the United States. Recorded statistics for the number of infant deaths attributed to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) range from 3,000 to 7,000 deaths per year in the United States. As I looked into safe sleeping practices for my baby, it became very apparent that–in addition to all the precautions mentioned in my last post regarding bed-sharing–we also wanted to take any precautions we could to avoid SIDS. And we’ll talk about that next week.
If you are new to my “How I Got My Baby to Sleep Through the Night” Series, I would suggest that you START HERE.
You can also click here to read our “Sleep Story.”
Click here to read last weeks post…also on Safety and Suffocation.
In the weeks to come, I’ll be sharing our thoughts and findings about other common concerns and questions including SIDS, Self-Soothing, Sleep Training, and Sex.
So stay tuned 🙂
This post is linked up to: