When I left the hospital after giving birth to my first baby, a doctor told me to make sure that the baby does not sleep in my bed with me. "Okay," I thought. We had a bassinet next to our bed. I'm sure she'll be cool with that. I had no idea about the heated cosleeping debate that exists all over the world amongst mothers, babies, dads, and healthcare professionals. I was about to be thrown into the worry or not to worry frenzy.
My little girl turned out to be pretty cool with her bassinet. She woke up every couple of hours and nursed back to sleep. That's what newborns do at the beginning, right?
Then, once I fell asleep nursing her in the night. We were in the bed.. (gasp!)
And my little newborn and I slept together for.... hours. I don't remember how many but it was way more than two. I woke up feeling refreshed.
I did a little reading to search for why anyone would not want to sleep with their baby and avoid getting up out of bed in the middle of the night. It seemed like a no brainer to me. Was this dangerous in some way? Maybe some babies really do sleep better by themselves. But mine did not. She wanted me and I wanted her, so what is the big problem, I thought.
I read The Baby Book by the Searses (2013). Based on their experiences in raising 8 children, they focus very much on the positives of cosleeping. I enjoyed reading about a little mini sleep experiment that they did. They measured brain activity, breathing, and heart rate in the sleeping mother and baby. They did this for two nights. Once while they slept the night together and once while apart. When they were sleeping together, their systems became synchronized. Cool!
Now, what new mother hasn't shivered over the thought of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state on their website that in 2013, 1500 babies less than one year old died suddenly from unknown causes. These babies just stopped breathing or their heart stopped beating or something just stopped. And no one knows why. A chill runs down my spine as I think of this.
So if it's possible that the beating of my heart gets my baby's heart in rhythm, and my baby's sleep wake cycle synchronizes with mine, maybe I'm actually keeping her safer by sleeping with her.
The CDC is very clear SIDS is not suffocation on a bed, which has a different name (ASSB). But on their Safe to Sleep Campaign page, the title is, Known Risk Factors for SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Causes of Infant Death.
Wait, I thought that SIDS was a death that "could not be explained." Here it's referred to as "sleep-related?"
I decided to take note of the CDC's recommendations to make sure that there is not too much bedding, that the baby does not get too hot, that the mattress is firm with no crevices that the baby could roll into. I shouldn't smoke or be under the influence of alcohol. (Again, though, these all seem to me to have to do with ASSB, not SIDS).
After learning this information, I felt decidedly more at ease feeling my baby's heart beat next to mine. And her breath on my cheek.
I totally understand that cosleeping is not for everyone, but for us, it worked. Even my husband was into the Sunday morning family cuddles.
I thought that I had it all figured out but then....
The next day the pediatrician came to our house for a first check up. I opened the door smiling, still completely in awe of the fact that a PERSON had just come out of me, and I was perfectly happy with the way things were going. My mom was visiting, and we were all just sort of googly eyes over this first grandchild.
My mom was lying on the couch, and the baby was sleeping on her chest. It was so precious.
In comes the pediatrician and says, "Signora! Babies need their own personal space. I don't recommend that she sleep on you like that. It is not a good habit."
I was dumbfounded. I didn't say anything because I was so surprised.
The pediatrician didn't recommend that the baby sleep alone for health reasons, like the CDC or the doctor in the hospital seemed to do. He said it was a bad habit. Was he telling me how to behave in my own house? Maybe I should have kindly asked him to leave. Wasn't it his job to just check and see if my baby was healthy?
Looking back now, I know I should have simply followed by gut. I was informed, and I had figured it out. But the mama bear inside me was roaring, and I needed more information in case I was faced with more opposition.
I really enjoyed reading about sleeping across cultures. In this post by J.C. Niala, she beautifully illustrates the African perspective. In Kenya, not co-sleeping is considered dangerous. In Japan, bedsharing is widely accepted, and they have one of the lowest SIDS rates in the world, according to the National Center for Education in Maternal Health and Child Health at Georgetown University.
So I took a sigh of relief... But then I saw this (yikes!).
But then, thankfully, I saw this.
Okay, so here's the low down from my point of view. We have options when it comes to raising our children. No one should tell me what I must do in order to raise happy, healthy children because no one can really know except me. All babies are different. All mothers are different. All families are different. This is a CHOICE. If you want to sleep with your baby, go for it. If squirmy little legs make you squirmy, too, try a side car bed or a bassinet or a crib. There are literally millions of options.
As with all hugs, kisses, caresses, and "I love you's," you and your loves decide where and when and how and who.
For further reading and research, check out Evolutionary Parenting with Tracy Cassels, PhD. She a mother and a scientist, and is very dedicated to delving into the research on a deep level.
Do you like sleeping with your baby? Why or why not?