Posted by: webbhouston | April 15, 2009

The science… or art of sleep in children: Part 1 Cosleeping

One of the more contreversial things that parents disagree on is child sleep habits. Every month or so there is a new article reminding parents about how whatever they are doing is wrong and how whatever they are doing is putting their child at risk for SIDS, or not letting them develop their own internal clock, or insert random thing here. Sleep is important for all human beings… but it is very important for babies and for lactating women. If you dont sleep well it can affect your supply and affect your nursing relationship.

Times have changed in the past few years and with more women working and fathers taking on more of the responsbility of caring for the children this had compounded.  WIth both parents working outside of the home the need for sleep is even bigger because one parent cant be made to sacrifice their sleep for the other with the hopes of napping during the day… they are both working fulltime jobs.

Well meaning family members often say that a baby needs to cry so that their lungs open up, that your child needs to find its own way to cope, and that if you baby a child too long they will never sleep through the night and they will never leave your bed and you will have a clingy needy child.  That holding a baby so that they go to sleep is just dooming them and you for suffering in the future… you know the story.  Children’s lungs are fully developed at birth for most children who are born full term …if they needed to “open up” as they say the baby would have been rushed to the NICU and not permitted to go home until they were fine …so this makes no sense, and lungs get plenty of “exercise” with that whole breathing several times a minute thing… so that again makes no sense.  I also perscribe to the idea that it is normal for babies to want to be held and that holding your baby is beneficial for both parent and child… hence why I am an avid babywearer.

So who do you trust when deciding how to help your child sleep? Where do you turn to for help? Those hazy 2 am mornings where your child wants to do nothing but play, or eat, or cry… what resources does an exhausted parent have?

To begin with I will say that I am a huge advocate of co-sleeping. We have a family bed.  I breastfeed my children exclusively and cosleeping makes night feeding easier on all of us. The baby wakes up, starts making noises.. roots around.. by this time I am awake and I have a boob placed firmly in their face and they start suckling away.  Getting comfort and nourishment. I dont have to get up and I dont even have to truly wake up… I go back to sleep and the baby keeps nursing in their sleep. The baby is done and pops off, many times I dont even know when this happens because I am asleep.  Cosleeping can actually help women with supply issues because they will nurse more often and get more rest.    Cosleeping has saved my sanity, I am quite sure of it.

When I was pregnant with Kate I really did not give it much thought honestly… I knew what it was and I knew that this was quite common in my culture and I thought it was something that I would do… but I didnt really know why at the time.  It just felt right.  Mike wasnt as conviced but he went along. After Kate was born she was one of those babies that would not sleep anywhere except on someone’s chest. This was the way it was for roughly 8 weeks. We sleep on our back and took turns with her on our chest.  It was eight long and exhausting weeks. We thought they would never end and we were sure that there was something wrong with us as parents because of this. Since then I have found that this is normal and have been able to convice other parents in similar situations that it doesnt last forever. You want have a 12 year old on your chest to sleep and that it is perfectly safe to sleep in the same bed as your newborn.  We were not given the choice with her on whether we wanted to cosleep or not, she made sure we knew that it was going to happen… and even now she is still our child that needs the most comfort.

Calvin was born and he almost instantly was able to soothe himself and sleep on his own better. We still cosleep with him and he nurses at night and he looks for us… but his world doesnt come crashing down if we are not there when his eyes are opened.  He never had to sleep on our chest and he will routinely push me away if I am too close at night for his liking. On the other hand Kate would cry if she woke up and we were not there next to her until she was 2 years old, and still now if she is in bed with us she is so close to us that we are breathing the same air. That is how she is and that is fine. We have accepted it and I quite honestly love cuddling with her.  She sometimes crawls into bed with us at 2 am from her own little bed and I can feel her burying her face in mine and going “mommmyyyyy” in a slow and quiet voice. I acknowledge her prescence and hug her. She smiles lightly and drifts back to sleep peacefully.

Some nights are hard. Sometimes she cries saying that she wants milk and she still uses milk as her comfort… I dont really see much wrong with that because I know that I still use things to comfort me. Other times (especially when she is sick) she still wants you to hold her upright in a chair… so her wonderful father takes her into the living room and they sit there and sleep together sitting upright… we have learned that this helps her sleep and breathe better when she is congested and even our pediatrician recommended this for her.  Teething nights are awful because we have a baby who is whiny and in pain and who really cant tell you know is wrong but he hurts and wants it to go away. Growth spurts are awful because all Calvin does is nurse nurse nurse nurse nuse all night long. They are especially bad the first couple of months after your milk comes in because there are a lot of growth spurts that seem to blend into one HUGE one. They can be exhausting… but again.. they do end.

Do all parents cosleep?

No. Of course not.. but I will tell you something. Parents lie. Especially parents of older kids (and your own parents, sorry to break that to ya). People have selective memory when it comes to having kids I believe. Most parents of older kids will tell you that their kids never cried in public. They were all potty trained by a year. and of course.. they never coslept. Even parents of younger kids will say that their kids are sleeping through the night at 6 weeks in their own crib. While for some it may be true I have found that parenting is like a weird competition for some parents… and they just outright lie to save face.  Co sleeping is a huge thing people lie about, it is like a dirty little secret almost.

Is cosleeping safe?

Yes it is. Of course you have to make sure that you are doing it safely… like dont let a toddler and an infant sleep next to each other and dont go to bed under the influence of anything that hampers your judgement and reflexes…and there are a few things that you have to make sure of.. most of them common sense. But yes, it is safe.  It has even shown to lower the cases of SIDS vs babies who sleep on their own.

Every once in a while an article comes out against cosleeping and mentions how it kills babies… some states like New york have a campaign against it…this article is a good example of this… but even this article that is supposed to be about how babies are dying from cosleepnig mentions how it is safe and the flaws in the New York campaign.

There is no real one size fits all for how to get babies to sleep but cosleeping should be seen as an option. It works for many parents and it is beneficial for families.



  1. […] bookmarks tagged on the night you were born The science… or art of sleep in children: Part 1… saved by 2 others     theregulatorsblog bookmarked on 04/15/09 | […]

  2. Thank you for sharing your cosleeping story — this was really great to read.
    I too am an avid breastfeeding/babywearing cosleeper!

  3. @ desiree
    Im glad you enjoyed reading it. I am also glad to see others who are so happy to be breastfeeding and sleeping with their babies. The way that nature truly intended.

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