Co-sleeping and Breastfeeding to Function

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about nighttime parenting and nursing. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!


At Peanut’s 12 month check-up, the Pediatrician asked how often she wakes up at night. My honest answer? I don’t know.

That’s the beauty of co-sleeping while breastfeeding, isn’t it? She stirs, I “wake up” (which is totally not waking up at all), plop her on, and go back to sleep. I don’t even remember this “waking up” the next day.

I’ve always been big on sleep. Like, I’m one of those people who can sleep 12 hours and still feel tired. I am one of those people who can not live on 5 hours of sleep. There is no amount of coffee that can cure my tiredness when I don’t get enough sleep.

I’ve also dealt with insomnia my whole life—at times being bad enough that I’ve had to resort to a certain prescription that people basically black out if they take it and try to stay awake and it still didn’t make me go to sleep. I’m fine with staying asleep once I’m there, but if I’m awake, getting to sleep is nearly impossible.

I was convinced I wouldn’t co-sleep with Peanut. I bought a crib and tried on multiple occasions to put her to sleep in it, but me staying awake through the nursing and getting her deeply enough asleep that she wouldn’t wake up when I set her down just ended up with her sleeping in the crib next to me, me lying awake for an hour, then her waking up a half hour after I finally fall asleep to eat again.

Yes, she woke up every 90 minutes all night long—for the first six months or so of her life. She nursed every 90ish minutes 24 hours a day until she sat upright and started solid foods. Even after that, it was every 2-3 hours. She had really bad reflux and the few times she slept longer than that, she would wake up screaming in pain. There was an adjustment period where my body got used to waking up and going back to sleep so often, but when I look back at those days now, I have a sneaking suspicion that I was much more rested than other moms of newborns.

16 months later, we’re still co-sleeping. Even now, I do not think I could function without co-sleeping and breastfeeding.

 


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Why Do We Co-sleep?

Of all of the “crazy” things we do (a.k.a. attachment parenting things), co-sleeping seems to be the the one people take issue with most often. I’m always amazed when yet another person disagrees with Peanut sleeping in our bed when at least 70% of people bring their baby to their bed at some point.

Why do we co-sleep?

Safety

Of course, there are certain things you need to do to make your sleeping area appropriate for an infant (read this fantastic article by PHD in Parenting for info on co-sleeping safety), but that’s not what I’m talking about.

Babies sleeping on a safe surface with sober, nonsmoking parents respond to their parents, and the parents respond to them. The chance of SIDS occurring in this situation is as close to zero as we can measure. For better or worse, most babies have never sneezed in their parents’ beds without their parents knowing it. How could they possibly stop breathing without our immediately being aware of the problem and quickly stimulating them back to a regular, safe respiratory pattern?… Newborn babies breathe in irregular rhythms and even stop breathing for a few seconds at a time. To put it simply, they are not designed to sleep alone. — Dr. Jay Gordon

Everything in this article just makes sense. Why do we spend so much of our days fighting our intuition? What feels right about taking this beautiful, perfect baby that was living in my belly for 9 months and put her across the house from me for at least 1/3 of the day? Would I do that in any other situation?

I truly believe that co-sleeping—when done safely—lowers the risk of SIDS. No, there’s no specific research that I can find that says this is true, but it just makes sense to me.

Convenience

I’ve said this many, many times—I think I would be insane right now if I weren’t co-sleeping. This is beyond true. I know many people who have gotten less sleep while co-sleeping, but for me it’s the only way I can get a decent amount. When I was pregnant, I was convinced I wouldn’t co-sleep. I was sure I would roll over on my baby (which is so ridiculous in retrospect. Do you roll off of your bed? No. That’s because you know there’s the edge there even when you’re sleeping. You know the baby is there even when you’re sleeping.) so I bought a crib. I even genuinely tried to get her to sleep in it (in the same room as me) a few times.

I would force myself to sit up and stay awake while I fed her, I would oh so carefully lay her in the crib so she wouldn’t wake (which she still did most of the time), then I would lay awake in my bed cursing myself for not being able to fall asleep. I’ve always had issues with insomnia and forcing myself to stay awake just told my body “Okay then, you’re awake!” and I couldn’t sleep at all. Next thing I knew, I was awake again a half hour after finally falling asleep to do the whole process again.

Along with not being able to fall asleep easily, I’m also a person who needs to get a significant amount of sleep to function. The recommendation is 7-9 hours of sleep, but it’s really a bell curve. The majority of people need that much sleep, but (as I’m sure you know) there are some people who need a lot less and some people who need a lot more. I’m one of those people who need a lot more. There are days when I get a 10 hours and am still yawning and in desperate need of caffeine.

I love it.

Yes, this sounds selfish. It is selfish.

Remember this baby that was inside of me for 9 months? Of course I want to be close to her! Why would I turn down the chance to cuddle my Peanut all night?

Having a very, very active baby means we don’t get many chances to just sit around and cuddle. Even with the fact that she likes to be held frequently, she is still playing the majority of the time I hold her. Even with how exhausting it is to have an active toddler (yes, I consider her a toddler now), I still enjoy it. That said, I also enjoy being able to cuddle my little Peanut and when she’s sleeping or eating (when she’s not doing breastfeeding acrobatics) are the only times I get to do that.

Bottom line: co-sleeping is what works for us. I don’t judge you for your decisions about raising your children, so why do you get to judge me?