What is “breastsleeping”?
“Breastsleeping” is a term use to describe the combination of breastfeeding and co-sleeping. When a baby is born, their sleep is fragmented. They sleep A LOT (up to 18 hours!), but their bouts of sleep are more frequent in a 24 hour cycle.
And, they need to eat a lot as well. In the first three months of life, babies will wake up several times throughout the night to feed. Of course, this means that mom wakes up several times as well.
Experts cite that moms lose more sleep going back and forth between rooms to breast feed. These specialists say that by “breastsleeping” mom can keep baby close by and simply feed quickly and go back to sleep. Sounds pretty convenient, right?
But, is it safe?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep on a firm surface, without blankets, pillows, etc. that can cause suffocation. Bed sharing is not recommended by the AAP.
As a sleep consultant, of course, this is of great concern for me. However, I do not recommend bed sharing/co-sleeping simply because it often leads to babies learning that the ONLY way they can fall asleep is with mom or dad there with them.
While some parents sing the praises of sharing their bed, I have spoken to enough families who realize that they have created “a monster” and are ready to reclaim their beds and night times.
Why it Might Not Work
By breastsleeping, baby will not only treat mom and/or dad as a “sleep prop”, but it can also create a very strong association with sleeping and eating as well. Imagine the only way you could fall asleep each night is eating multiple times. Doesn’t sound very restful, does it?
Sleep happens in cycles, and after each cycle we wake up briefly. For those of us who sleep well, we can get ourselves right back to sleep and don’t even remember waking up. However, if you fell asleep with your pillow and blanket in your bed and then woke up later to find them gone, you probably wouldn’t roll over and get right back to sleep.
Same thing can happen with breast feeding and co-sleeping: if baby falls asleep eating and with mom, goes to sleep and then wake up without those things there, this can be startling to them!
Some babies may grow out of this habit, but in most cases this dependency lasts a long time. These poor habits can greatly affect sleep quality and consolidation of sleep cycles as your infant gets older.
So, as tempting as breastsleeping sounds during the first few weeks of your infant’s life, it can create long term issues down the line. Yes, it does mean that mom will be woken up and her sleep is going to be affected.
But, keep in mind that a baby starts to sleep in longer and longer stretches after 12 weeks. By giving your baby a little space to self soothe, these sleepless nights will be fewer for mom and your baby will have much better quality sleep in the long term.