Finding Peace in Your Decision to Co-Sleep
You did not take the decision to co-sleep lightly, because it is often the co-sleeping family that does the heaviest research and asks the most questions. You are an informed, educated parent, but even after all the questions are answered, there can be lingering fears.
The mainstream media has filled us with these fears for decades and only recently has the backlash against these false, misinformed campaigns gained momentum. Parents are finding their voices and taking a stand for their families in their decision to co-sleep—a good thing given the SIDS rate in this country being so alarmingly high.
You know that the science has been done and it’s hard to dispute. Being within touching distance of your baby in the night hours promotes healthy bonding. Babies are able to gently rouse awake, breastfeed more frequently (boosting their immune systems) and even their breathing, heartbeat and temperature are regulated better when baby is near you.
Even the mothers who don’t initially intend to co-sleep with their babies will find themselves waking up to a little one nestled next to them in the morning. These mothers discover that they get more sleep; their babies are more content and feel more secure, increasing the success of the mother/baby pair.
If co-sleeping is the ideal way for a mom and baby to sleep, how can you become more confident in your choice to co-sleep?
Of all the adjustments we go through as new parents, night time parenting is probably one of the hardest adjustments to make. There is no one to help in those wee-hours, it’s just you and your little baby. It can potentially feel very overwhelming and isolating at first, especially if things aren’t going well or if you are apprehensive of your sleeping arrangement; however, night time parenting and co-sleeping are integral parts of the bonding process, so investing time during this transition to a good sleep routine will pay off immensely in the success of your new family. This is the time to empower yourself, to discover just how wonderful sleeping near your baby can be.
How can you find peace in your choice to co-sleep?
- If you have decided to co-sleep, assure yourself that you have made a good decision.
- Review the key guidelines for co-sleeping, including:
- Baby should be laid flat on their back
- There should be no gaps between the mattress and wall or night stand
- Adult pillows should be kept away from baby along with heavy comforters.
- There should be no other small children lying next to the infant.
- Remind yourself of the benefits to the family
- Mom will get more sleep and will be more capable to tackle the day
- Her milk supply will be better regulated
- She will feel more attached and in tune with her new baby.
- More confident in his role when the mom/baby pair are in sync.
- Attaches easier with baby, especially if he is away during the day.
- Will form healthier sleep patterns
- Will nurse more frequently
- Boosts their immune system
- Regulates their heartbeat, breathing and temperature
- Will feel more secure which is better for healthy brain development.
The benefits go on and on, and it’s important to shower yourself with these affirming messages.
Seek out resources
Now is the easiest time in history to seek support from like-minded professionals and mamas. There are so many supportive, educational resources out there for parents in regards to co sleeping. Here are a few:
- PathwaystoFamilyWellness.org| A website, blog and magazine filled with holistic resources from trusted birth professionals.
- SimplyBeingAMama.com| A blog that focuses on co-sleeping, organic living and responsive parenting
- Mother-Baby Sleep Institute| Dr. James McKenna
- Infant Sleep Information Source| Dr. Helen Ball
- KellyMom Breastfeeding & Parenting
Whomever you choose, be certain they are well trusted, dynamic and caring sources for information on sleeping and on parenting in general. As you know, not all are created equal.
It is important for you to not feel alone and to receive encouragement if need be. It’s also important for you to connect and hear both the trials and successes of veteran parents who have already traveled down the path you are just beginning. This could be in the form of books, websites, documentaries or even other professionals specializing in sleep.
Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.
There is nothing more needed than praise, support and a smile in the first few weeks postpartum, especially in the areas of sleep and breastfeeding. Only allow people around you who will build you up and offer supportive advice and help. A few kind words when you’re blurry eyed and raw with emotion can make all the difference to you as a new parent.
And if you are having difficulties, it’s best not to wait it out. Seek advice or counsel from your midwife, doctor or doula. As a freshly postpartum mama, you might not recognize your feelings. You may just chalk it up to needing time to adjust and not see that you needs support until it becomes too much. The same goes for daddy. He needs time to understand how to support his new family. So many times dad sees there is a need, but doesn’t know what to do. Other times, he doesn’t see it and needs to be gently told in a supportive way. Make sure he knows how to reach out to you and your birth support system.
If necessary, invest in a night doula
Night doulas can be a much needed gift. Night doulas are trained to help support a recovering mother and baby postpartum and to help establish healthy breastfeeding routines and healthy sleep schedules. Ideally, a family will only need a small amount of support while they get their traction and a lot of parents are fully capable of handling the postpartum period on their own. But in special cases, maybe where the mother or baby has had a more difficult birth experience or some other special circumstance, a night doula can be just the answer. I would use this option sparingly; however, as you will want to try and allow the time and space to fall into your own patterns.
Invest in a co-sleeping aid
If you are brand-new to co-sleeping, it can sometimes be a bit tricky getting used to sleeping near a brand new little baby. There are a many aids that can fit alongside your bed and some that can go within the bed. Here are a few things to look for when deciding.
- How easy is it to use? Some bedside and in-bed sleepers are really bulky and do not work well with a recovery new mama. If you need to get out of bed to use it, or it takes too much effort to get baby out of the sleeper, consider another option. You will want something very easy to work with in the wee-hours of the night.
- Is it a quality made product with quality materials? On a scale of 1 to 10, having non-toxic sleeping items for baby is about an 11. The chemicals that are put into common sleep items are dangerous for a growing body and brain and have also been linked to SIDS. Invest in organic options whenever possible.
- Is it portable? One thing mamas need as they recover from birth is portability. It is hard to get around the house with baby. Find something that can work in bed, but could also be moved around the house, giving baby a consistent sleeping environment throughout the day.
- Is it a safe and trusted product? What do other mamas have to say about using the product? How long have they been around? All of these things matter deeply in choosing a co-sleeping aid. It’s worth taking the time to investigate.
Co sleeping with your new little one is one of the most rewarding parts of your new parenting journey. Love every minute! Good night mamas!