5 Reasons to Co-Sleep While Breastfeeding April 13, 2013 00:00
The conventional wisdom for a couple expecting their first child is to equip a room with a crib and other furnishings, to buy baby formula, bottle, and diapers, and to prepare to lose sleep. Parents often secretly expect their lives to be changed for the worse. They may cover up these fears with false cheer. Truthfully, these fears are well-founded. This conventional approach to welcoming a new child into the home is in fact artificial and needlessly painful -- it is plainly difficult. There is a much easier approach, in which parents share their bed with the baby, and the baby nurses at will throughout the night. Parents may find this way not only easier, but simpler and more life-giving. Here are five benefits of co-sleeping with your newborn while breastfeeding.
One of the greatest discomforts parents face when they relocate the infant into her own room and crib is a lack of sleep for themselves. A child separated like this may wake at any hour of the night, and cry for food or comfort. Parents are then left with a dilemma: to climb out of bed yet again and feed or hold the child, or to remain in bed and let the child "cry it out". Arguments may occur about who arises to tend to the infant. These difficulties can also occur for parents whose infant sleeps in their bedroom, but in her own bed.
This is barely a problem at all for co-sleeping families. A co-sleeping child, next to her mother and able to nurse at will, is able to rest much more easily. The child need not cry loudly to wake the parents and to draw them near; the parents are already there. All the child need do is grunt and touch the mother, and the breast is there. The mother need not even be fully awake to nurse the child. They can both fall back asleep, naturally. And there will be no arguments between parents over who will rise and feed the baby next
There are many psychologists today who argue that the conventional removal of a newborn to its own room and bed is traumatic to the infant. The argument is that the infant physically and psychologically needs the physical warmth and touch of the mother's skin. Having just come from the total comfort of the womb, she requires a far more gradual separation from the mother, taking years, rather than hours. Moving the infant into its own room so early is traumatic, and shakes her trust in her parents -- and in the world -- deeply and irreparably. Her suffering is multiplied when she is required to "cry it out". Parents may feel guilt over this separation and the suffering of the child.
When co-sleeping while breastfeeding, all this potential trauma simply does not occur. The infant goes straight from the comfort of the womb to the comfort of the parents' embrace. Needless suffering is avoided. The parents don't sever the bond of comfort and trust, so they carry no guilt. They experience greater freedom to love and help the child, and less need to "make up" for their failings.
A mother's milk is the ideal food for an infant. The best formula cannot approach its nutritive benefits. The small body of a newborn results in a fast metabolic cycle. Because an infant gets hungry frequently, often even at night, she needs to nurse frequently -- sometimes several times an hour.
When parents nurse an infant while co-sleeping, that food is always there. Since an infant does most of its growing at night, the necessary nutrients for growth will be readily available in the easily-digestible mother's milk. And the infant need not get to the point of crying or screaming before nursing, when her growing hunger is already unbearable; when nursing while co-sleeping, she can eat as soon as she is hungry. Her nutritional needs are met as soon as they occur.
One fear of expectant parents is the financial strain a new baby will bring. Many of the usual costs don't exist when nursing and co-sleeping. Since all the food comes straight from the mother, the greatest expense there is her own food. There is no need to buy formula. No crib is necessary, either, though parents might invest in a sleeping pad to avoid urine stains in their bed. Freed of the compulsion to buy new things for the home -- things often made of unattractive plastic -- the material simplicity of co-sleeping while breastfeeding contributes to a certain peace of mind. There is less clutter from "baby stuff" in a co-sleeping home -- and more happiness.
A family does not require a new room for the baby when she simply sleeps in bed with the parents. The notion of a nursery is in fact foreign to a co-sleeping family. A co-sleeping family doesn't feel the need to expand their living space. This acceptance of things as they are invites contentment and a lack of stress. With any extra space not "swallowed up" by the baby, the family can use an existing extra room for another purpose -- perhaps for a recreational, family-building purpose. Perhaps the space can be used to develop a personal hobby, or for activities toward fulfilling one's lifelong dreams. All this adds joy and vitality to a young family, rather than the nervous oppression that infects so many young parents.
Co-sleeping while nursing provides significant benefits over the conventional approach to raising an infant. Parents get more sleep, and form a deeper bond with the child. The infant receives better nutrition. Parents save money, and don't need to scramble for more space. All of these benefits, significant in themselves, lead to the greater benefit of more peace and joy in the home.