In his earliest days, my son wouldn't sleep anywhere but on me. Not even just near me, but right on my chest. Other folks called him clingy, but apparently he's just well-versed in the latest research on breastfeeding and infant sleep. In insisting on breastfeeding often, including while bed-sharing with me at night, he was showing how breastfeeding and infant sleep — “breastsleeping” — are linked. I'm thankful, too, because in my opinion, breastsleeping is the best part of breastfeeding.
Strictly speaking, breastsleeping isn't part of breastfeeding, it is breastfeeding. Researchers coined the term breastsleeping in order to better represent what they know about the biology of infant eating and sleeping. Because our society tends to separate those things, and think of breastfeeding solely in terms of nutrition, they wanted a term that reflected how human babies evolved to rely on their mothers’ bodies not only for nourishment, but to regulate their sleep patterns, breathing, and more. They also wanted to make that connection to challenge the thinking behind blanket recommendations against bed-sharing, which don't distinguish between breastsleeping families engaging in safe bed-sharing practices and bed-sharing between non-breastfed infants and parents with known risk factors.
All jargon aside, for us it’s just a matter of making our lives easier by doing what feels most comfortable to us. Letting my son nurse on demand and nurse to fall and stay asleep at night is way less complicated than all the things we have to do to get him to sleep otherwise, and he sleeps longer and better with me than he does under any other circumstance. I'm not saying it's all sunshine and daisies, of course — especially now that he's a toddler, it's a little more crowded in our bed than it was when he was an infant. I'm definitely not saying that everyone must or even can do it. However, I will say that it's made motherhood significantly easier on me, so if it's an option for someone's family, I’d say go for it.
It Makes Infant Sleep Simpler
Until my son was a 10-month-old — when my partner and I decided we wanted our son to spend the first part of the night in his own room — my son’s bedtime routine consisted of laying down with me and nursing until he conked out. No tears, no stalling, no drama. Amazing.
It Cuts Way Down On How Much Crying You Have To Endure
Hungry babies go through stages before they start crying. When you're super close by with the thing they're most likely to want in the middle of the night — boobs — they don't have to scream to get your attention so they can get what they need. Win-win.
You Get More Sleep
Babies have tiny tummies and need to eat often. So, for a lot parents that translates into a lot of waking up, getting the baby, getting a bottle, feeding the baby, getting the baby back to sleep, then getting themselves back to sleep.
For us, night feeding means latching and unlatching as needed, with neither of us having to fully wake up during the process. That's huge for me, as someone who takes hours to get back to sleep once I'm fully awakened. Even if my husband were to handle all the night feeds, I'd still lose a lot of sleep after hearing my son's crying. Breastsleeping is pretty much the only reason I get any rest at all, since becoming a mom.
Nobody Has To Wake Up In The Middle Of The Night To Make/Give Bottles
Speaking of night feeds, not having to wake up and prep bottles, or wash and sterilize bottles during the rest of the day, is as convenient as convenient gets.
It's A Great Reason To Do Fewer Chores…
Especially during growth spurts. Breastsleeping is physically demanding for sure, and breastfeeding accounts for around 30 percent of a nursing mom’s resting energy. That’s why it's only right and practical that partners and other family do some of the chores that mom would ordinarily do when she's not, you know, keeping a whole other person alive. If she just so happens to prefer nursing to washing dishes, all the better for her, you know? Anyone can clean the house; only she can nurse the baby.
...And To Have Family Visit You In The Infant Days, Instead Of You Visiting Them
“Oh, you only have a couch for us to sleep on? That's not a safe sleep surface. Of course, you're always welcome to come and visit us!” said every breastsleeping mom who's super glad to not be spending hundreds of dollars on Amtrak tickets or airfare.
So Much Baby Cuddling
Babies eating and sleeping on you all day = cuddling a baby basically all day. Awwww.
Watching A Baby Fall Asleep Nursing Is Just The Sweetest
Seeing my baby go from hungry and agitated, to relaxed and contentedly nursing, to shutting his little eyes and drifting off to sleep, is easily in my top three favorite things about being a mom. So stinking cute. Gets me every time.
*Once you get the hang of it, of course!
Breastfeeding is undoubtedly tricky in the beginning, but for me breastsleeping was the major payoff that made slogging through those painful early days totally worth it.
I find that it was such a relief to put my pajamas on and then relax in bed while nursing my son to sleep. It's much more relaxing to settle in and rest together, than to do a bedtime routine that requires me as the parent to stay fully awake while trying to settle him down. They both have their place and their respective advantages, no doubt, but nursing to sleep is much simpler and less energy-intensive.
Mornings Are Much Easier
Waking up to see a wriggly, smiling baby is hands-down the best alarm clock. At the very least, it's way better than crying or an actual alarm clock (a horrible, sometimes necessary evil that I would happily banish from existence if I could.)
I know it's not for everybody but, for me, breastsleeping has been a really great experience, overall.