You learn something new every day — co-sleeping

Some of you may be familiar with the name Dr. Mercola; he recently had an article on bed-sharing, which included some facts I hadn’t heard before, namely, a small study that showed that mothers who breastfed their infants slept with them differently from mothers who had not breastfed their infants:

“The mother spontaneously adopted a distinctive lateral position facing the infant, with her knees drawn up under the infant’s feet and her upper arm positioned above the infant’s head. This position facilitates the baby’s easy access to mother’s breasts, and babies orient themselves towards their mother’s breasts for most of the night.

It also provides several safety benefits:

  • the baby is flat on the mattress, away from pillows
  • the baby is constrained by the mother’s knees and arm so that it can’t move up or down the bed
  • the mother controls the height of bed covers over the baby
  • it is very difficult for the baby to be rolled on by either parent, as the mother’s elbow and knees are in the way
  • the mother is close enough to monitor the baby’s temperature and breathing continually ·

Bedsharing families who did not breastfeed slept together differently, particularly with respect to the physical orientation to the infant.

Mothers who had never breastfed did not curl up around their infants for sleep and did not, therefore, use their own bodies to make a constrained space in the bed for the baby.

These mothers primarily positioned their infants at face height in the bed, either between or propped up on the parents’ pillows. Mothers also spent a much smaller proportion of the night facing their infants, and although infants were still oriented towards their mothers for the majority of the night, the mother’s position meant there was less face-to-face orientation.

It seems that the mothers who didn’t breastfeed slept with their infants as if they were sleeping with another adult (faces at same height, no protective sleeping position, less persistent orientation towards infant).”

One thing that is interesting, is that with my first baby, although I exclusively breastfed him for his first six months, we were more or less positioned in the “non-breastfeeding” way. I didn’t nurse him lying down — it didn’t feel comfortable to me for some reason, so I would usually sit up to nurse him, then lay him down in the bed. Also, I was afraid of rolling over on him or somehow smothering him while snuggling with him (didn’t really think it would happen, but it’s one of those things you occasionally hear about), so thought that having space between him and me would keep that from happening. I moved him to the crib  (in our bedroom) when he was just a few weeks old, because his wiggling would wake me up, even when he wasn’t waking up. He would start the night in the crib, and then when he would wake up to nurse the first time, I would frequently just lay him down with us; although I gradually transitioned him to total crib sleeping by the time he was a few months old. Reading this article makes me glad I did. My second baby was totally different — I rarely nursed him sitting up, being much more comfortable lying down to nurse [no clue why the difference!], and would usually keep him in bed with me, although occasionally would put him in his bassinet right next to my bed. Our co-sleeping position was like the “breastfeeding mom” described above — he was in the crook of my arm, with me turning in to face him, drawing my knees up below his feet. I chose this position partly consciously, partly unconsciously, because of the lingering fear of my husband rolling over on the baby, or accidentally putting his pillow on the baby’s face. That fear with my first-born led me to put the baby on the edge of the bed (with a bed-rail, of course!), with me in the middle, and my husband on the other side; and also to end up putting him exclusively in the crib. But I felt relaxed with my second baby, in the “typical breastfeeding mom” position, because it felt right and safe to me. I guess it was.


8 Responses

  1. My husband is an extremely heavy sleeper, and I was nervious he would roll over on our little one too, but we both really wanted to co-sleep. So I put the crib in sidecar position with the side up (didn’t have a bed rail otherwise) and slept curled away from my husband with my baby in the crook of my arm, his head on my shoulder, and my arm supported by the rail of the crib. My neck/back didn’t approve, but he was safe and comfy until he was old enough to sleep outside my arm (still between me and the cribrail) and then, around 1 year when he became more able in his sleep, started moving him some between us. He now sleeps mostly independantly between my husband and I at 15 months.

  2. That completely makes sense. I slept/sleep with both my children this way during the night, even though it makes my husband nervous. For naps, I do place her on my husband’s side of the bed, so that I can lay on my stomach, but I’m still close to her with my knee at her feet, my hand on her belly and his pillow is gone.

  3. The position he described is EXACTLY the position I use! Hurray! I’m going to cross-post to your article, as I don’t have time to write my own, but I was amazed that I instinctively took up the position that other women do. I don’t feel comfortable in any other position. When I’m in that position, I “remember” the baby even when I’m sleeping, but when I use any other position, I “forget” that the baby is there while I’m sleeping and then wake up, think “Oh my gosh, where’s the baby?” and panic until I find him. That’s why I exclusively use the described position for co-sleeping.


  4. I have co slept with all 8 of mine and that is exactly how I sleep with them. Never had a doubt I was doing it wrong but nice to know I am doing it right ;).

  5. WOW- I just wrote a post on co-sleeping before I read through my blogroll!!! How crazy it is both on our brains today. I’m going to link to your post if you don’t care!!! This was one benefit I didn’t include in my post and I find it interesting. I sleep with my baby in the crook of my arm and my feet bent up under her legs as well. She sleeps with her face in my breast all night (doesn’t nurse all night through as I do have a shirt on).

  6. Very interesting… Thank you for sharing. My daughter and I have coslept this way since she was a newborn. We still cosleep this way when she visits in the middle of the night, despite the fact she was night-weaned about three months ago. I don’t remember clearly if I planned it or not. But, at this point, it is instinctual. We end up in that position automatically, if you will. It just feels right, safe, comfortable. Also, feeling her near me, her leg on me every now and then, her body against my tummy… It’s the best feeling! I am a snuggle junky!

  7. I only breastfed both of my kids for a few weeks, but I slept this way with both of them. My shoulder might have been sore a few times, but it was the only way I felt safe with the baby.

    My older child slept in our bed longer and after she was bigger, I took up a position where my head was at her chest level, but it was just the two of us in the bed.

    My younger child decided at three months that she was very much like her mother and she wanted her own space and she doesn’t cosleep unless she is not feeling well. Otherwise, she’ll toss and turn and push you away until you put her in the crib.

  8. Interesting. This is exactly how I slept with all of my babies (all breastfed) for about the first year of their lives. It was just instinctive for me, though I never really thought about whether other moms slept in the same position. It’s a pretty uncomfortable way to sleep — hard on the neck and back — but it was just so *obviously right* to me that I never even considered another position.

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