It seems to me that everything in western civilization is done backwards. In the beginning of life, when infants are the most sensitive and need physical touch and affection, at the point when their wants ARE their needs, parents refuse them this closeness, motivating it by the need to make them independent and for their safety. Then, when the baby is past this dependence stage (in most cases, with already developed sense of “wrongness”) and ready to become independent, parents all of a sudden, start following them around, constantly repeating disturbing messages like “don’t touch this, you going to hurt yourself”, “Don’t touch that, you’re going to break this”, “be careful, you’ going to fall” – basically setting them up for failure and undermining their sense of competency and self-confidence!
The truth of the matter is – holding your baby, breastfeeding your baby, sleeping next to your baby, isn’t just a nice social idea or a new trend. It’s physiological regulation for the baby’s body. It is what baby’s system expects to experience, so its heart rate, its breathing, its body temperature; his hormonal state and immune system will function efficiently.
It is not just an interesting innovation that someone, a middle class, white doctor, thought that the baby should be elsewhere, except where his parents are, but this was an unfortunate belief system that was just a few people’s ideas of what the relationship should be between the parent and the baby at night. But this belief system is completely in odds of what the biology of the infant is all about, and the biology of the mother is all about.
Here are the most popular arguments against bed sharing:
1 .It’s not safe
2. You will spoil them
3. Kids, who bed share with their parents, grow up too dependent.
4. They’ll never want to go to their own bed
5. It will affect unfavorably your intimate life with your husband
6. It’s uncomfortable
I will address every one of them:
- It is safe to bed share with your baby unless the mother is drunk, or on heavy medications, which will affect sleeping patterns, and make a person sleep heavier. Other than that it is safe.
Can you imagine that a pregnant woman would lay on her stomach while asleep, if she’s in sound mind and memory? Of course, not! We can say that a woman, who gave birth, already has an experience of bed sharing with her child. The only difference now – the baby is outside, not inside. Research was done on infant’s deaths from bed sharing, and it showed that all of them had a common feature – they were bottle-fed, not breast-fed. Breastfeeding mother lays her baby upper, close to her breast, so it’s impossible to roll over. Second point – is that breastfeeding mother is more attuned to her baby, and her sensitivity levels are higher, especially when asleep. From my own experience, I can share that even when I was deeply asleep, I’d grab my husband’s shoulder every time he rolled at night! It was so quick and automatic; I would wake up immediately, if my daughter sighed at night.
2.“You will spoil them”. I knew a mother who decided to put her baby in a separate crib in a separate room at three months old. She figured it was time to start incorporating discipline. The baby was screaming and weeping every night, but as she put it she “toughed it out” and he got used to it. She toughed it out… what about the baby, who was left alone screaming his lungs out? Usually this kind of ideas comes to individuals who are hurting, and have wounds from the past. This girl had a history of horrible family relationships, and subconsciously we always want to match our previous experiences with our present reality. You can’t get mad at those people either – the same was done to them, and they don’t know any better.
It is important to understand that at this age baby’s wants are their needs, and they are not trying to manipulate. His crying reflects his state. We all know what it means when the baby is crying, yet we don’t pick them up, because we listen to the “experts” with their parade of theories on how to treat an infant. Instead we should listen to our instincts, which know precisely how to nurture a baby. Every man, woman, boy and girl knows how to take care of the baby. But our instincts are shut down by the Intellect that reasons everything, and attempts to approach and analyze child care with logic.
Babies have certain inborn expectations that match their evolutionary experience and biology. When the expected does not happen they signal us by crying. Every baby cries when we put them down, this way they let us know NOT to put them down. All babies do that, could they possibly be all wrong? No! This is a call of nature, pure and ultimate.
The baby knows what it supposed to get, his skin is crying out for nurturing touch of an adult, caregiver, he wants to be next to a live body, not in a lifeless box, wrapped in a lifeless cloth! When baby’s crying goes unanswered he develops a sense of wrongness, and the whole world becomes horribly wrong. It leads to multiple disorders later in life and turns on compensatory mechanisms that I can talk about for hours, but mainly, this kind of mistreatment causes the loss of natural ability to be happy.
When natural state of happiness is lost, it becomes a goal. Look how many books are written on subjects like – how to be happy, find happiness, etc! We are so used to our own misery, that we consider ourselves lucky if we are not homeless or in pain. And what was once man’s confident expectation on how he’s supposed to be treated, is now shut off, he’s told what he is supposed to have and want. But there is in him a sense of loss, a feeling of being off center, an intuitive longing for something he cannot name. Asked point blank he will seldom deny it. If I can contribute to my child’s happiness by simply responding to his genuine needs, I will take my chances!
3. Forming child’s independence. A child can become independent only after passing a stage of complete dependency from caregiver. Co-sleeping, and bed sharing as a form of co-sleeping, satisfies one of the basic needs of the child – is being close to his mother, being in constant physical contact. Besides hormonal and biological benefits of co-sleeping that ensures efficient development of all baby’s systems and reduces the chances of SIDS, it offers emotional and bonding benefits. Giving this secure base for the child will help him to feel secure within himself. Children who co-slept with their parents are more affectionate; easier self-disclose themselves to others, more trusting and capable of building long-lasting and harmonious relationships with others. Another moment – by leaving a baby to sleep alone, we handle to him a responsibility for his own safety, which he’s not ready to take just yet. They are ready to take responsibility at around three or four years of age.
4. Children who successfully passed the stage of dependency will easily go to their own bed when the time comes. It doesn’t happen overnight, and takes certain steps that you can find here. At first the child goes to his own bed during day naps, and slowly transitions to sleep there at night. There are common sense rules that make this process easy and natural for both – mother and child. For example, mother and father need to take up the most of the bed, not giving priority to a child, this way it gets crowded and not very interesting for him, and eventually he leaves.
5. It won’t really affect your love life, considering the fact that there are plenty of different places, besides the bed. That’s all I have to say about that 😉
6. In fact it is extremely comfortable not to have to get up at night to nurse your baby. Sleeping through the night is not recommended for tiny breastfeeding babies. Dr. Sears explains that whether this is desirable or undesirable depends on parent’s mindset, but the facts state that breastfed babies wake more frequently for good reasons. Breastmilk is digested faster than formula, so breastfed babies get hungry sooner. Also, one of the main milk producing hormones – prolactin – is highest at night hours (usually between 1 and 7 a.m.). Could it be that a mother’s body is designed for night feedings? The focus in the first months of breastfeeding, should not be on getting the baby to sleep through the night, but rather learning to cope with his normal nighttime infant behavior. Besides, night feedings satisfy your baby’s emotional need.
Conclusion: Every family is different, and should find a sleeping arrangement that works for them. At the same time, it is important to remember that infants biology and expectations as well as mother’s biology and expectations should work together to reach optimal health, development and overall well-being.
Bed sharing can be really comfortable if you know how to breastfeed when lying down. I was very uncomfortable at first, and lactation specialist showed me the right position. Since then, night nursings are my favorite! Bed sharing is one form of co-sleeping, some people sidecar a crib next to their bed, so the baby is within arms reach. I hope you find the one that works for you. Happy Motherhood! Always yours, Valeriya Isernia