7 Reasons to Rethink Everything You Knew About Co-Sleeping

When my first was born after a grueling 54 hours of labor we were exhausted, and this was the point when the sleepless nights were just about to begin! Five weeks in, I had a reflux baby that screamed inconsolably, breastfeeding issues and I was completely sleep deprived. This baby would only sleep in my arms! I spent hours bouncing, rocking and shushing her and then gently placing her tiny body into the bassinet and trying to ninja my way out from under her, but the moment I stepped away she would sense me gone, open her eyes, scream and the process would start all over again. My postpartum depression was at an all time high and the lack of sleep and stress was causing me to become delusional. I was rapidly going down hill. I remember talking to my midwife on the phone after my husband pleaded that I call and talk to her and she asked how we were sleeping. SLEEP?!?! What the hell is that? I hadn’t gotten more than 45 minutes of consecutive sleep since 3 days before she was born, when I went into labor! She said to me, “Maria, put her in bed with you, she needs to be near you!” I was appalled, put the baby in bed with me? No way, I’ll kill her. I mean that is what society has been telling us for years right? Babies sleep in cribs, not with moms, right? Or was I wrong?

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She knew I was a researcher, someone who liked to read and would trust peer reviewed journal articles and studies, so she started sending them to me. I spent hours that night reading article after article and the consensus was the same. Co-sleeping, when done safely and under certain conditions was perfectly safe, in fact, could be even safer for my baby! I was shocked. Everything I thought I knew was wrong. I remember that first night I brought her into bed with me. We had read and set everything up to sleep safely and I tucked her in with me and eventually I closed my eyes. Five hours later she gently roused to feed. FIVE FREAKIN’ hours I slept! I wept tears of joy, My baby had slept, I had slept and we were ok! She fed quickly and snuggled back in and was up 3 hours later. This was the beginning of me throwing everything I had thought I had previously known about parenting out the window, and starting to follow my instinct and begin to question everything I thought I knew.

Dr. James J. McKenna is recognized as the world’s leading authority on mother-infant co-sleeping, in relationship to breastfeeding and SIDS. In recognition of his work in 2009, he was admitted as a Fellow into the select body of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s most prestigious scientific society. At the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, Department of Neurology his research team pioneered the first studies of the physiology and behavior of mothers and infant sleeping together and apart, using physiological and behavioral recording devices.

McKenna has published over 139 refereed scientific articles in diverse medical and anthropological journals on co-sleeping, breastfeeding, evolutionary medicine and SIDS, and both here and abroad he gives over 20 lectures especially to pediatric groups and parents. Here in the United States he remains one of the primary spokesperson to the media on issues pertaining to sleeping arrangements, nighttime breast feeding and SIDS prevention. Dr. McKenna is currently the Director of the Mother Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at University of Notre Dame.

Below are a few key points that may lead you to question if what you thought you knew about co-sleeping is in fact true.

1. The Academy of Breast Feeding Medicine, the USA Breast Feeding Committee, the Breast Feeding section of the American Academy of Pediatrics, La Leche League International, UNICEF and WHO are all prestigious organizations who support bedsharing and which use the best and latest scientific information on what makes mothers and babies safe and healthy.

2. The terms cosleeping, bedsharing and a well-known dangerous form of cosleeping, couch or sofa cosleeping, are mostly used interchangeably by medical authorities, even though these terms need to be kept separate. It is absolutely wrong to say, for example, that “cosleeping is dangerous” when room-sharing is a form of cosleeping and this form of cosleeping (as at least three epidemiological studies show) reduce an infant’s chances of dying by one half. Bedsharing is another form of cosleeping which can be made either safe or unsafe, but it is not intrinsically one nor the other. Couch or sofa cosleeping is, however, intrinsically dangerous as babies can and do all too easily get pushed against the back of the couch by the adult, or flipped face down in the pillows, to suffocate.
3. Japan not only has one of the lowest infant mortality rates (less than 3 infants per 1000 live births compared with around 7 for the United States), but one of the lowest SIDS rates in the world (between .2 and .3 babies per 1000 live births compared with approximately .5 per 1000 infants for the US). The Japan SIDS Family Organization reported that SIDS rates continue to decline in Japan as maternal smoking approaches practically 0, and exclusive breastfeeding reaches around 70-75 % . In fact, one report shows that as bedsharing and breastfeeding increased and as maternal smoking decreased, SIDS rates decreased. This suggests yet again that it is not necessarily bedsharing, but how it is practiced, that can be dangerous.

4. While co-sleeping, infants breastfeed more frequently and for longer total duration; they have more arousals, many of which are induced by the mother’s movements or sounds, and that the infants spend less time in the deep stage of sleep from which some infants have difficulty arousing (apnea).

5. In addition to providing more nighttime nourishment and greater protection, sleeping with the mother supplies the infant with a steady stream of sensations of the mother’s presence, including touch, smell, movement, and warmth. These stimuli can perhaps even compensate for the human infant’s extreme neurological immaturity at birth.

6. Gaps in breathing are normal during the early months of infancy, and it is likely that the mother’s breathing provides important cues to her infant, reminding him to take a breath following exhalation, preventing a SIDS situation from developing. Even if this reminder system fails, the mother is nearby to help by arousing the infant. A breastfeeding mother and baby tend to have coordinated sleeping and dreaming cycles, making her keenly sensitive to her baby. If she is sleeping close by, she can awaken if her baby is having difficulty. But if the baby is alone, this type of life-saving intervention cannot take place.

7. Co-sleeping is the cultural norm for approximately 90% of the world’s population

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*The above statistics and information and more can be found at http://www.naturalchild.org/

Maria Fuller

I’m a former critical care paramedic with a concentration in Emergency and Disaster Management, an injury on the job led me to retire from that and manage the disaster that is my home these days, I’m lucky I had good training!

I believe in Love at first sight- I met my husband on his 18th birthday and the rest is history

I’m passionate about a women’s right to birth without fear or pressure whether that is at home or in a hospital, I’ve done it in both places.

I have two beautiful girls, Alexa and Arya, 5.5 years apart. I believe each of my daughters was sent to me to remind me of a piece of myself I have lost along the way, it has been exciting journey to rekindle those parts of “ME” again.

We live on a little River in Southbury, CT with our Rotti Beagle mix, a Crazy 1 year old German Shephard and a fat cat that won’t leave the basement, he might be to fat to climb the stairs.

I love a good margarita on the rocks with Salt but ONLY if my husband makes it with hand squeezed lemons, limes and homemade simple syrup, any other margarita sucks.

I listen to “pitbull” in the car with my daughters, they have no idea who Raffi is but Alexa knows most of the words to “Calle Ocho”

I’m the girl who will love you fiercely but is not afraid to “tell you like it is”, if I do, it means I actually care about you!

I love my girls but there are many days I don’t like them or want to be around them. Yep, I just said that, its normal for you to feel that too!

I believe that mothers a given a handbook when their baby is born, its called “intuition” and it will never lead her astray.

I am a photographer who helps women “Celebrate the Courageous journey of motherhood”

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