My family is more alternative in its childrearing decisions: my mom birthed all three of her children at home, breastfed on demand and into the toddler years, my parents used slings and wraps to carry us as babies, and they co-slept – all more than 30 years ago when these practices were just starting to be revived. My extended family did much of the same, and so I was lucky to have grown up around a circle of women and men who felt this was the norm and to see how it’s done first hand.
Now my hubby is much more traditional in his parenting style and it’s been a journey to find what will work for us. I read a lot about birth and childrearing and the like LONG before I even conceived my son, long before my hubby and I were married. I would talk for hours about what I wanted to do. For the most part, my hubby agreed that it sounded good (whatever it was I was talking about) and that we should try it.
I truly feel that bed sharing has so many benefits and is what we are biologically designed to do. Co-sleeping helps babies go to sleep and stay asleep. A newborn’s sleep cycle is short, maybe 3-4 hours. This is biologically designed to make sure they eat often and will wake easily in case of danger (an example would be if their airway was compromised). Mothers sleep better with baby in close reach.
Most mothers can, rightly, claim some amount of sleep exhaustion. This is due to their own body’s adjustment to having a child as much as it is to the child’s sleep patterns.
Mothers sleep lighter and wake more easily to noises and movements in bed, even those with previous heavy sleep patterns. This is, again, a biological design to allow mothers to wake easily to aid their infants and to feed them often. Breastfeeding is easier too. Many times, if there are supply issues, mothers are urged to take baby to bed and nurse and rest with them to increase supply. Studies have also shown that nap-nursing and nighttime nursing are one of the best ways to boost supply as milk-producing hormones are best secreted while resting. Nighttime nursing helps boost/regulate milk supply by increasing the number of feeding sessions. Many mothers who co-sleep do not fully wake to nurse baby and fall back asleep more easily when finished.
I could not imagine how much more sleep deprived I would felt should I have had to get up out of bed and go into another room to nurse baby, stay awake until they fell asleep enough to put them back in their crib and then stumble back to bed to try and go back to sleep.
Being honest about what we want and what is important to us as a couple, as individuals and as a family is one of the most important things to making it work. We have had to work at that too. Self-sacrifice to the point of martyrdom does no one any good, and you can’t fix something that isn’t working if you aren’t talking about why it isn’t and what you want to change.
We are still trying new styles and adjusting to life as we get ready to bring our third child into the mix. Laying next to a child curled up against my body, nursing to sleep is one of the most blissful parts of parenting to me. I wouldn’t want to miss that for the world.