Friday, April 20, 2007


Musings about co-sleeping directed to no one in general...

I think it's interesting that co-sleeping was quickly singled out as the possible culprit in my post about Zari's wanting to nurse often at night. I feel that I sleep much better because I co-sleep. (See some interesting research on co-sleeping from Dr. Sears' website.) I can monitor my baby without being fully awake. Sometimes I sleep with my hand on her chest, or holding one of her hands. It's so comforting. I can also nurse her within 5-15 seconds after she starts to stir, all without getting out of bed or out of the covers.

I find it analogous to our medical culture's "support" of breastfeeding?--you know, breast is best but as soon as any breastfeeding difficulties arise, the magical solution is often "supplement!" Poor weight gain? Supplement! Poor latch? Supplement and give your nipples a break!

Breastfeeding interferes with sleeping, because you could have dad formula feed at night. But that is a non-issue at my house.

I did stop co-sleeping last night. With my dog. We all slept much better with our 80-lb dalmatian off the bed. Imagine that!


  1. You asked for comments and help with your conundrum. But then, you got defensive when a poster had an idea you didn't like. So why bother asking for suggestions?

  2. LOL re Zeke! I love co-sleeping too...but I do think that it gave C an early dependence on nursing every time she stirred, because I could respond so quickly. I'm not trying to say that's a good thing or a bad thing - but at some point I had to stop it for MY sake. Now that they're older, I still love snuggling in and sleeping with the girls - and with a very snore-prone husband, I do it frequently still (they're 5 and 3) :) And of course, with baby 3 coming in a couple weeks, we have no crib or alternate sleeping arrangements - (s)he will sleep with us. I can't imagine anything else (until nobody sleeps, and we have to experiment once again...).

  3. And p.s. to anonymous - I don't think Rixa's comments were defensive at all - rather a commentary on the fact that every response to the original post was about co-sleeping, not sickness, growth, etc. And really, I can't help but agree about our culture's "support" of breastfeeding being analogous. Of course, I am guilty of the same thing. Maybe because we are constantly surrounded by and reminded of our choice to co-sleep being "different."

  4. Co-sleeping is one thing, and snuggling and experiencing physical and emotional closeness is another.

    I love bringing my 6 mo old into my bed for her morning feed (around 6-7 am; this is her first feed since 8ish pm). and on those lucky days that i coordinate my 2 1/2 year-old's naps with the baby's (and with all my other errands), i sometimes get a nurse/nap in myself.

    the real question for me is, how does my baby get the best sleep? Rixa's initial post (i thought) was concern that the baby wasn't getting good sleep, but now i realize that i just completely misinterpreted her original concern.

    looking back, I see references to her being tired, and to her not getting enough sleep. so i guess the baby's sleep quality/quantity was never the issue.

    but maybe it should be?

    also, i don't see breastfeeding and co-sleeping being so analogous (possibly because i am so for the first and not seeing any benefit (to the baby!) for the second).

    i want my children to have the best nutrition and the best rest. in my experience with three kids, that is breast and a bed of her own.

  5. I think so much of sleeping or not sleeping at night has to do with personality. I have had three kids and each has had very different sleep styles. I have coslept with them all. My second was sleeping through the night from the first night he was born. My first still struggles with sleep and she is 15. I personally believe that we are designed to cosleep with our babies close to us. The research is very compelling about the differences in babies that sleep close to the mother and those that sleep in another room. I do think that finding what works for each mother-baby pair is important. I find it very common to vent about something (which helps in itself) only to have people firing back solutions to my "problem". I have to do laundry but sometimes I complain about it, no one ever says "oh just quit doing laundry". With breastfeeding and cosleeping it seems that so many are quick to say forget it and do something different. I just don't understand it. I would imagine that kicking the dog out would go a long way to getting everyone to sleep better. :)

  6. In general: newborns should be on or next to their mothers' bodies at all times. This is the shared fundamental principle of both newborn feeding and sleeping.

    I don't know at what stage in infant development feeding and sleeping generally diverges, I imagine it's different for every baby. But I believe that at some point they do. And once they do, we are just talking about two different things, and each needs to be evaluated on its own merit.

    I don't know Zari, so I wouldn't presume to tell Rixa that it's time for them. It sounds like she is sure it isn't. (Besides, EC is a good enough reason to stay near her at night anyway!)

    In my very limited personal experience, while my baby stirred every 45 minutes (one sleep cycle) at night, after about 3 months of age, he wouldn't actually latch and nurse each time, even though I would of course offer my breast (I believed cosleeping was a norm as much as breastfeeding was and that the two go hand in hand.) He often got fussier and woke up completely because of my efforts to calm him. When I put him too far out of reach to instantly react to his sleep patterns, we stopped waking each other so he just drifted back to sleep on his own. I think for this baby, sleep and feeding became to separate issues at this age. I reevaluated the sleep based on what was getting the best results (least waking and crying, most sleep). The breastfeeding continued just the same because it was still working fine at the time.

    I hadn't solicited sleep advice because I wouldn't hear any anti-cosleeping dogma. But I didn't feel disappointed or guilty when I discovered on my own how my little guy preferred to sleep. I am glad that despite my usual stubbornness I tried something new, and even gladder that it worked so well.

    I don't think our story proves cosleeping wrong. But it does show that dogmatism may be counterproductive, whether it is coming from the 'maintstream' or on the 'alternative' camp.

  7. Let's not get our panties all in a bunch here folks (love that phrase, by the way). It was just a post about how I was tired!

    And I admit I do use dramatic effect. Like when we say "I haven't slept for years!" Hey, I'm married to a professional liar (ie, a writer). I can do that.

    Anyway I wrote that first post after a bout of more sleepless nights--it hasn't all been like that, and now it's more back to nursing every 3 hours or so.

    Baby's wanting me...later

  8. LOL "Let's not get our panties all in a bunch"!!!

    Shoot Rixa, when you're kinda tired, that is an ideological issue!!!! You have become a symbol, gal!

    I kinda enjoy controversy, as long as there is no permanent damage to the parties.

    Y'know, my dh is *hooked* on a blog where people got so up close and personal, they started having IRL meetups, even cross-country. Someone flew in from San Francisco to hang out with fellow bloggers in Boston. They had a better gender balance though, not 100% opinionated mama tigers.

  9. "panties in a bunch"

    "a bunch"? what?

    i thought it was a "twist" or "wad" or maybe even a "knot"...

  10. I hate the term "sleep training." In the Jan. Feb. issue of Mothering Peggy O'Mara's "A Quiet Place" was about co-sleeping vs. sleep training.

    For the benefit of those who don't get the co-sleeping 'thing' I offer that article:

    Zoe and I go through the nursing often through the night now and again but it is when either of us is dealing with a bout of something....more often me than her, though her eczema disturbs her from time to time but Ihave learned ot keep her comfrey and calendula salve right at my bedside to administer upon itching. It will pass as things do. Take heart that you are following your instinct, instilling interdependence instead of dependence or independence and doing the best things youcan do for your family and your baby.

    ~Tasha who STILL cannot log into blogger!!! GRRRRRR

  11. let me log in.

  12. Thanks for the article Tasha; it confirmed that I don't need to interpret Zari's sleep schedule as abnormal or needing correction. It's just life!

  13. Mmm, I lurve cosleeping. I wouldn't have it any other way. I found out VERY quickly that taking J out of his bassinette eighty times a night was NOT going to work...and now at nearly 3, he is still in bed with me. :) There's nothing better than going to sleep snuggling your sweet baby, and waking up to do the same thing again. It's wonderful.

    It's bizarre to me that cosleeping is seen as "different." This is how people all over the world sleep. We are one of very few countries that actually put our children into seperate rooms to sleep. True, the rest of the world likely also can't afford seperate bedrooms and they all sleep together to stay warm...but there's so much more to it than that. I think cosleeping should be seen as the norm, and putting baby alone in a crib should be what's "different." I don't get how people can do it, but eh, to each their own.


  14. Way to go! I breastfed my last 2 kids until age 3 and co-slept with them until they were 2. They happily sleep in their own beds now (ages 3 & 5) and that was by their choice :-)

  15. I wanted to respond to Shannon who was talking about wanting her babies to get the "best" rest - and said "and not seeing any benefit (to the baby!)" of co-sleeping.

    It's easy to assume that a baby needs the same sort of sleep we do - as adults, we feel most refreshed if we have uninterrupted sleep, for as long as possible, without waking, and with a cycle that goes through shallow sleep, REM, deep sleep and back to shallow sleep without conscious waking.

    In fact, babies sleep very differently to the way we do. They have much shorter cycles, and need to stir more often - sleeping too deeply is a SIDS risk. One of the reasons that safe co-sleeping (on a firm bed, without gaps for baby to fall down, without a doona/duvet/whatever you Americans call those things with feathers in!) is protective against SIDS is because babies who sleep alone in their own bed sleep more deeply than is natural for a baby. Sleeping next to their mother stimulates them to keep breathing after a natural apnoea, and mum's and baby's sleep cycles synchronise so that baby stirs at the appropriate part of the sleep cycle.

    So far from there being no benefit, baby is sleeping as they are supposed to, and is protected from SIDS. That's a pretty big benefit!

    There's a great video here

  16. first, i almost regret my part in this discussion, because I think that if we were in a room of 100 mothers, I would probably have more in common with the readers of this blog than with many of the others. I hope that doesn't offend anyone. :)

    i don't want to self-promote (don't worry, i'm not selling anything), but i do want to explain myself more completely, and so i invite you (esp. Tasha and Rebekka) to read my post "Parenting: Instinctive or Examined?".

    after a couple rounds of "she said this" "she said that," i get a little confused as to what my main point was, so, i started over.

  17. oh, and I do appreciate the links and the info re: SIDS. i need to do some more research of my own, obviously!

  18. Hi Shannon, your post was very interesting, and I agree with you that claiming something is "instinctive" is not a very good reason for doing anything.

    If we seem to have an instinct to do something, I want to know *why*. But equally, if we have a custom of doing something in our society, I want to know *why* that is, too, and I want to compare it to other cultures and see what they do.

    Co-sleeping is partly instinctive, partly cultural. In tribal cultures where they sleep in hammocks (such as the Hiwi), children are no longer sleeping with their mothers by the age of two. In Japan, where they sleep on futons (and have the lowest rate of SIDS in the developed world - in 2001 the rate in Japan was 0.25 per 1000 live births, in the USA it was 0.56 per 1000 live births), families sleep together until their children are teenagers.

    There's an interesting article here which looks at cross-cultural sleeping arrangements. The practice of putting babies in their own cots is a very recent cultural phenomenon indeed, one that's not shared by most of the world, and one that's worth examining as the factors that led to it are very interesting (although beyond my ability to summarise succinctly in a comment on someone else's blog)

    But there is also definite evidence that there are biological reasons to sleep with our babies - James McKenna sums them up pretty well here

    I'm far from advocating something just because it's "instinctive", and I really would encourage you to have a closer look at the evidence for co-sleeping.

  19. I've been enjoying this discussion and am glad that Shannon shared her perspectives too. Off to read the various links and articles...

  20. It's also important to remember (whether co-sleeping or not) that as babies exit the newborn stage and become a litter older and more aware that she might be waking at night and needing comfort but not necessarily food.

    I've never met a baby who would turn down a breast in the middle of the night, and since that's so easy to do I (especially with my first until I realized this) would breastfeed whenever she awakened because it was easy for me and she liked it. I think it's important as babies get older to let them know that Mama can comfort them without nursing them if they're not really hungry.

    But you're the mom. You'll figure out better than anyone else whether she really needs to eat or whether she just needs a snuggle, and you give her what she needs!


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