New parents will need to make an informed choice that considers their baby’s current needs, the needs of the parents, family goals, and their nurturing and infant care preferences. While most new parents feel less anxious when their newborns sleep very nearby, it also has a biological function that facilitates many positive clinical changes including more infant sleep and keeps babies happier.
The low calorie composition of breast milk is exquisitely perfect for the baby’s undeveloped gut and requires frequent nighttime feeding. Most mothers find breastfeeding is easier when baby sleeps very near to the mother at night. Babies have neurologically-based responses to their mothers’ smells, movements and touch that reduce infant crying while positively regulating infant breathing, body temperature, immune status, absorption of calories, stress hormone levels, and oxygenation. Human infants are born the most neurologically immature primate of all, with only 25% of their brain volume. This represents a uniquely human characteristic that could only develop biologically alongside mother’s continuous contact and proximity—as mothers body proves to be the only environment to which the infant is truly adapted. Studies have shown that co-sleeping with a breastfeeding baby promotes bonding, regulates the mom’s and baby’s sleep patterns, plays a role in helping the mother to become more responsive to her baby’s cues, gives both the baby and mom more sleep, and assists in the continuation of breastfeeding on demand, an important step in maintaining the breast milk supply. Bedsharing makes breastfeeding much easier to manage and practically doubles the amount of breastfeeding sessions, while at the same time, permitting both to spend more time asleep. The increased exposure to mother’s antibodies which comes with more frequent nighttime breastfeeding can reduce infant illness. When the mother sleeps within close enough proximity to her infant, each can respond to each other’s sensory signals and cues.
Having the baby in the same room at night is always considered safe and always considered protective. At least three epidemiological studies show this to reduce an infant’s chances of dying by one half. In Japan where co-sleeping and breastfeeding is the cultural norm, rates of the sudden infant death syndrome are the lowest in the world. The highest rates of bedsharing worldwide occur alongside the lowest rates of infant mortality, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) rates.
Your postpartum doula can show you the safest ways to share your room or your bed with your newborn assuring your baby’s optimal health and development, while giving everyone in the family more sleep.