Monday, November 9, 2015

Bed Sharing

One of the most difficult aspects of parenthood for me to discuss with others is our methods on everything from feeding to sleeping. I get super self-conscious about what other people will think about our choices. I often have to remind myself that what works best for us will not work for others and that is 100% OK! So, before you keep reading please understand that these are strictly our own experiences and are not recommendations to others by any means. I believe that each family should do what works best for them because every baby is so different. With that being said, I've done a TON of research in order to feel 100% comfortable with our decisions and love sharing what I've learned. It's easier to be patient and compliant to baby's needs if you understand why they behave the way they do. It's also important to know what will and will not have an impact on the way your little one's behaves later on in life despite what well meaning family members or friends tell you over and over and over again. This post is all about how we sleep in the Dufrene household these days.
sound asleep next to mama.

There are so many little things that you really don't truly and fully think about before baby arrives. Sleeping arrangements was one of those things for me. I thought about it, but always imagined that it would be a breeze to put Eleanor down in her crib for naps and at bedtime. Never EVER did I consider the reality of a baby's sleep patterns and more specifically Eleanor's needs when it came to sleeping soundly. 

"hey ma, what's this thing for?"
When Eleanor was born I knew that I wanted to always keep her close, so we knew she'd room-in throughout our stay in the hospital and that we'd have a bassinet for our room at home. However, I was also so stupid giddy about making her nursery feel complete and magical that we also invested in some really great furniture and bedding. Mistake #1 right there. If I could do it again, I'd definitely wait to get nursery furniture after baby makes their arrival.To this day, Eleanor has probably slept a combined total of 12-24 hours in her crib, maybe! Occasional naps are rare but do happen. But alas, lots of money right out the window. It's a good thing her crib converts into a toddler bed because I don't see her sleeping on her own until toddlerhood or beyond. Which is fine with me, because that time will come way sooner than I can even imagine I'm sure.

For the first 3-4 weeks of her life, Eleanor was nursing every 2-3 hours around the clock and would nurse for anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours from the time she started. This left very little time for her to be awake but also very little time for her to sleep before she was hungry again. So our days and nights both consisted of short periods of sleep for both she and I. Sometimes she'd stay in her bassinet for around 30 minutes but more often than not only slept longer than that if she was in my arms. 

At first, I felt like something wasn't right and that I was doing it all wrong. But in that same breath it felt so natural for me to hold my sweet babe when she'd doze off. I'd try to put her down and she'd almost immediately wake up crying only to fall right back to sleep as soon as she was in my arms. People so often would tell me that I was spoiling her by holding her or picking her up right away and that she needed to learn to self sooth and sleep on her own. Well, after lots and lots of research I learned that that's simply just not true. Babies, after all, are entering into a brand new world and the only comfort they've known is the warm and secure womb of their mothers. So to be thrown into the noise, the lights, the people, and everything else that surrounds us everyday, it's only natural for many (not all) babies to want to be held and feel secure in the next best thing to what they've known for the first few weeks, months, and even years of their life: Mommy's arms. It makes sense right? So, little by little we would let Eleanor sleep on her own but when we knew she needed a really good nap it would be in someone's arms. And at night, she slept in bed with us. Every night, all night. And it has been amazing. 

I've never been a morning person, and I've always enjoyed my sleep. So, when I realized that Eleanor was quite the opposite I knew that co-sleeping and bed sharing would be the only way I'd be able to function on a daily basis. Waking up multiple times a night to Eleanor crying to be nursed, then nursing half asleep, then trying to get her back down just seemed like too much work for this lazy mama. With her in bed all night, I'd simply let her latch on to nurse and I'd promptly fall back to sleep with Eleanor not too far behind to join me in dream land once again as soon as she got her fill of nighttime milk. By the way, the composition of breast milk changes at night with an increased amount of DHA, tryptophan, and other essential nurtrients leading to brain growth and development. Knowing that also helps me to not become frustrated with night wakings. If it's good for my girl, it's fine with me!

 Jesse, being the overly concerned guy he is, worried that either a) Eleanor would never learn to sleep on her own or b) he would roll over her during the night.  So, I did my research on both concerns and assured him that it would be ok. I also told myself that by 6 months we would work on transitioning her to her crib. That quickly turned to 9 months, and now it's sort of just became an arrangement that we'll stick to indefinitely. I quickly learned that despite popular belief co-sleeping and even bed sharing have both been linked to greater independence as a child grows and that, if done safely, both co-sleeping and bed sharing can potentially reduce the probability of SIDS.

happy baby every single morning.
Basically, studies show that by responding to your baby throughout the night (as well as anytime they cry or seek your attention) you are creating a feeling of trust. That feeling of trust and security and the increased comfort and physical affection that comes with keeping your little one close can actually lead to greater independence. I tend to try to find the logic in things, and this personally makes a bit more sense then encouraging a newborn, infant, or toddler to learn to sooth themselves. I feel that soothing Eleanor is my responsibility, as a her mother, after all. That's not to say that I haven't been tempted by sleep training, (Trust me, I HAVE!) but something in my gut always stops me from even attempting. I know that she won't sleep with us forever and, even if other people disagree, I plan to enjoy the snuggles as long as I can. Besides, I really get so much rest because of the way we sleep. If in 10 years she hasn't stopped nursing throughout the night then we'll know I was so very wrong.   ;  )

When it came to the question of safety, I was always sure to follow a few guidelines. No heavy blankets or pillows. No bed sharing if Jesse or I have had any alcoholic drinks or are extremely tired. Like, out of the norm tired where we would sleep so deeply to the point of unsafe. Finally, the only person who bed shares with Eleanor is me. No one wakes up quite like me to Eleanor's movements. Besides all of that, there's this (I've found similar information from various sources but this was the most concise) :

"Co-sleeping helps your baby rouse himself: New research has shown that in most cases, SIDS is caused by a baby's inability to arouse himself from sleep. Normally, when something occurs that threatens your baby's well being, such as difficulty breathing, he will automatically wake up. For reasons that are still unknown, in some babies, this protective mechanism does not go off, and so these babies are more at risk for SIDS.
This is where the positive aspects of co-sleeping come in. Dr. James McKenna, director of the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, has conducted numerous studies of mothers and babies who were co-sleeping and night nursing. His group of researchers found that mom and baby share similar patterns of sleep arousals, what we call "nighttime harmony." They drifted in and out of sleep stages in a similar, but not always identical, pattern. Some SIDS researchers believe that this is a factor in baby's protective arousal mechanism. This harmony may also be related to a psychological synchronicity between co-sleeping mothers and their babies: The co-sleeping mom is more likely to subconsciously sense if her baby's health is in danger and wake up.
Researchers also believe that the carbon dioxide you exhale when you sleep close to your baby may help stimulate her breathing. Plus, co-sleeping infants tend to automatically sleep on their back, in order to have easier access to nighttime feedings. Back sleeping has proved to be one of the top risk-reducers for SIDS. Meanwhile, babies who sleep separately from their moms have been shown to experience a decrease in the amount of REM sleep, the state of sleep in which protective arousal is the most likely to occur."

Again, I'm no expert on babies BY ANY MEANS but I'm just really proud that I've trusted myself to do what works really well for us in terms of sleeping when there is so much information pushing the contrary.To this day, I honestly have never had one of those "OMG, my baby didn't sleep at all last night" type of night. Well, except for like the first two weeks. But that doesn't count! 
good morning, sunshine!
I'm the first to admit that I may very well change my tune once baby #2 comes around. But for those of you who struggle with allowing yourself to co-sleep or bed share because of what others tell you or how "dangerous" it is, know that there are those of us out there who are all for it! Your only responsibility is to live fearlessly, to mother your babe fiercely, and trust your mama instinct no matter what.

I'd love to hear what some of you have to say about how sleeping has changed in your life now that you're a parent! 

all my love,


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