Sleeping between mother and baby (especially at night) together with breastfeeding at the request of the baby is one of the basic principles of natural parenting. Sleep (especially infant sleep) is a very broad area for numerous and varied studies, from simple physiology to the human psyche. Among young parents and those who are preparing to become them, today the idea of infant sleep as something problematic is widespread. How many books, articles and even videos can we find on the topic “How to quickly put a child to bed?” or “How can I get my baby to sleep all night without waking up?” and so on. However, to be frank, young parents are not at all worried about these issues. More often than not, moms (and to some extent dads) are concerned about another question: how to get enough sleep at night by themselves. And among the heap of information on this topic, almost no one mentions that your child does not have any problems with sleep and sleeps in the same way as all children in the world have been sleeping for a long time. And such questions stem from a misunderstanding of the obvious: the needs of children are different from those of adults.
We have already said that among mammals only the human cub is born “deeply premature”, that is, at an earlier stage of development. A baby’s brain size at birth is only a quarter of that of an adult. This is due to the necessity of physiology: the head of the child must be of such a size that it naturally passes through the mother’s pelvic ring. At the same time, the baby must have a minimum physiological and mental basis in order to exist outside, in the mother’s arms. It is on the mother’s body that all the systems of his body ripen. Your baby’s brain continues to grow and develop through frequent breastfeeding. Tactile stimulation and breast milk promote the development of neural connections in the brain (a strong argument for breastfeeding). The baby is growing and the number of breastfeeding sessions naturally decreases. At the same time, the duration of his sleep gradually develops to that of an adult. Therefore, intermittent sleep (both during the day and at night) is completely normal for a newborn, and joint sleep with mom at night satisfies all the baby’s needs at different levels.
As we talked about in the previous chapter, in the 20th century in the USSR (and many European countries), pediatricians opposed both sleeping with a child and night feedings (my mother worked hard during the day to raise the country’s economy and had to rest at night). However, let us first turn to the simplest physiology and anatomy: what will happen if the baby is taken from the mother? In the section on childbirth, we mentioned that in nature, a mother does not receive a child immediately after childbirth only if the woman or child did not survive after childbirth. The same mechanism is involved here as well. When the child does not feel his mother nearby (her heartbeat, smell, voice), on an instinctive level he concludes that the mother is no longer there and will have to survive on his own. So, nature provides a mechanism for maximum energy saving in a baby: body temperature becomes unstable, heartbeat, breathing, the growth and development of all body systems are greatly slowed down. Physically, a child is able to exist for some time without a mother, but at the same time he experiences despair and severe stress. This “energy-saving mode” of an infant is one of the most common causes of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), as it plunges the baby into a deep sleep unusual for newborns.
SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, “death in the crib”) is the sudden and unreasonable death of a child from a week to a year. The origin of the syndrome is not fully understood, but most doctors consider it to be the result of apnea (respiratory arrest) and heart rhythm disturbances. According to the WHO, SIDS is one of the three main causes of death in children in the first year of life (along with congenital anomalies and perinatal conditions).
Interestingly, most cases of SIDS were recorded in countries where it is not customary to sleep with children. Where parents regularly sleep with their children (where there is less “civilization”), the statistics of “death in bed” are much lower. The most dangerous is the sleep of parents and young children in different rooms. Since the highest risk zones are at night or in the early morning hours, sleeping together at night relieves the child of unnecessary stress and provides him with a calm, even sleep, during which the body grows and all its systems “ripen”.
According to statistics, the likelihood of SIDS in children who are fed artificial milk replacers is much higher than in infants. Breastfed babies wake up at night to feed, the likelihood of them falling into deep sleep is practically reduced to zero. On the other hand, “artificial” people are fed for future use: the milk mixture is heavy and is absorbed much worse than breast milk. Many babies on formula do not even wake up in the middle of the night by 4-5 months, their sleep lasts until the morning. And no matter how attractive this state of affairs may seem for mom, her uninterrupted night’s sleep is doomed to be restless and very superficial. Intuitively, she begins to worry about the baby when she does not receive signals from him for a long time. In addition, it is quite difficult for a baby to get out of such a deep sleep in the event of a threat of suffocation,
Thus, breastfeeding and sleeping together are closely related. The sleep of the mother together with the baby ensures successful lactation, night breastfeeding is the key to the health, growth and safety of the baby during sleep. According to studies, if one group of babies is put to sleep in the same bed with their mother, the second group is placed in a special crib adjacent to the parent’s bed, and the third is placed separately, then babies from the third group will most likely stop breastfeeding by the age of four months. Babies who sleep in a side crib are fed longer than those sleeping separately, but much less babies who sleep next to their mother in the same bed. This is due to the difference in the frequency of applications. Even if separately sleeping babies are breastfed, they are much less likely to breastfeed during the night.
When sleeping together, the position of the mother is also greatly facilitated. She can feed while lying half asleep. Many mothers, whose children sleep with them, practically stop waking up at night over time. After all, the baby, being next to the breast, learns to attach itself and fall asleep again after feeding. Mom does not need to get up every time, feed and then carry the baby to his crib (there is a high risk that the baby will wake up again without mother’s hugs and worry). So, mothers sleeping with their children get much better sleep, although they feed more.
Mom’s quality rest ensures well-being and the joy of motherhood. The level of oxytocin in the blood rises, the “love hormone” responsible for separating milk so that the baby can suck it out of the breast. The tandem of prolactin and oxytocin ensures long-term breastfeeding, which means healthy growth and immunity of your baby. 98% of women always have enough milk to feed their baby on their own. But the volume of the breast (the amount of milk available to the child in one attachment) is different for each mother. So, one woman may have a large breast volume, and her baby will be full at one time. Others may have less breast volume, so the child needs more attachments. Hence the so-called “hanging on the breast” problem arises, when the baby often asks for breast and sucks for a long time. This is how the misconceptions of moms spread about that the child may not have enough milk or milk is not fat enough. We remind you that according to medical research, only 2% of women are at risk of a real milk shortage (most often this is due to crisis situations of stress). And the fat composition of milk in the absence of signs of malnutrition (for example, poor weight gain) is generally incorrect to question, since it is produced from a woman’s blood. So it’s like questioning the quality of your blood. poor weight gain) is generally incorrect to question, since it is produced from a woman’s blood. So it’s like questioning the quality of your blood. poor weight gain) is generally incorrect to question, since it is produced from a woman’s blood. So it’s like questioning the quality of your blood.
Unfortunately, not all pediatricians today remember the elementary anatomy of the female breast and are often advised to introduce supplementary feeding with mixtures. Then a joint sleep (both during the day and especially at night) can significantly solve the problem of a “non-dairy mother”. After all, skipping even 1-2 feeds at night for some mothers means that their babies will not receive enough milk for growth.
It is important to note that it is not natural for a mother to sleep separately from her newborn cub. Yes, and in the human mind, the phenomenon of separate sleep arose quite recently. This happened when the baby products industry entered the market and started advertising cribs as the safest place for a toddler. During the Soviet era, sleeping mother and child together was criticized as a rustic and old-fashioned practice. People tried their best to get hold of these “achievements of modern civilization.” It is not surprising that lactation in most cases faded by 2–4 months of age. However, the recent resurgence of interest in breastfeeding has spawned the practice of sleeping together again (the “family bed” phenomenon). But why, in most cases, today is a joint sleep, despite the naturalness of this process, considered unsafe? What are the basic rules to follow when sleeping with a child?
To some extent, we owe history to the emergence of a stereotype about the unsafe sleep of a mother and a child (supposedly a mother can strangle or crush a baby in her sleep). Over the past 500 years, many poor women in Paris, Brussels, Munich and other cities have confessed in confession to Catholic priests that they strangled their babies in their sleep in order to somehow control the size of the family. Thus, a whole campaign was carried out under the leadership of priests who threatened excommunication, fines and imprisonment. As a result, parents were forbidden to take their children to their bed. This prohibition has evolved, adjusted to modern civilization with its hyperactive development of the principle of personal inviolability and turned into an idea of the danger of sleeping together for a child.
In reality, the mother’s sleep is extremely aggravated next to the baby. Sensitivity reaches the point that many women wake up a few moments before the child begins to stir in a dream. For the safety of sleeping together, it is enough to know and follow a few basic rules:
- The safety of a child in a “family bed” is directly related to how he is fed. Formula mothers tend to place the baby higher, too close to the pillow, which increases the risk of suffocation. In addition, such mothers can sleep with their backs to the child and crush him in a dream. Breastfeeding mothers always sleep facing the baby, enclosing him in a kind of protective cocoon from their legs and arms. “Researchers in infant sleep refer to mom as the child’s“ sleep architect ”. She gives the baby a healthy and not too deep sleep rhythm, which gradually changes towards the rhythms of adult sleep. ” Sleeping together assumes that mom and baby sleep on the same surface (the harder the better) close enough to touch each other during sleep. In this situation, the baby’s head is at the mother’s breast, not the pillow.
- It is strictly forbidden to put a child in the same bed with a smoking parent. In general, smoking from any of the relatives who live with your baby increases the risk of SIDS. That is why it is so important to deal with bad habits before conception not only for the expectant mother, but at least for her partner.
- Obviously, you cannot put a baby in the parent’s bed if one of the adults is under the influence of substances that dull consciousness (alcohol, drugs, potent drugs).
- It is better to lay the baby from the mother’s side so that the mother is between the child and the father. Most often, men are afraid to hurt or crush the baby in a dream due to less sensitivity than the mother’s.
Sleeping together is one of the most important subtle moments in establishing a bond and trusting relationship between a mother and a baby.