If you follow any of breastfeeding boards or pages, you've likely come across the term "breastsleeping." For the uninitiated, the term describes bed-sharing while breastfeeding. It can be a real lifesaver for sleep-deprived nursing mothers, but it is by no means a "must." So, yes, there are more than few reasons why it's perfectly OK if you don't want to breastsleep. No judgment for moms who choose to do so (how you feed your baby is your business), but if you're looking for some support in opting out, it turns out there are some pretty solid reasons to do so.
I was committed to breastfeeding, although nursing didn't exactly pan out the way I'd imagined. Still, it was really important to me to give my child that immunity boost and specially-designed nutrition that comes with breast milk, so I made it work. When it came to bed-sharing, however, my partner and I had concerns about safety. Personally, I need a lot of sleep, and I guard it jealously, so sharing my bed with a small human wasn't exactly on my most-wanted list, either. I'm not saying it was easy to get up with the baby every time she wanted to feed in the night, but we had her in a bassinet by our bed and there was a rocking chair in our room, so it wasn't terrible.
Breastsleeping was out of the question for me, but that didn't mean I couldn't nurse. Like most things, as I've discovered, it's not an all or nothing proposition. You'll have lots of decisions to make as a new mom, so if you're weighing breastsleeping, you may want to consider the following:
Because You Sleep Better On Your Own
Some people just sleep better by themselves. I can tolerate my husband as long as he's not touching me. I need to be on my side with my shoulders covered, and I can't have any noise or ambient light. So a baby in bed is definitely harshing my sleeping mellow. Call me selfish, but I'm a better mother when I'm rested.
One of the major benefits of breastsleeping is that, for many moms, it actually promotes sleep. If it doesn't have that effect on you, however, then it might not be worth the sacrifices to your mental health. I mean, if something isn't good for mom, it can't be good for baby.
Because You Don't Want To Become A Sleep Prop
If you ever plan to reclaim your bed, you may find that breastsleeping causes some unfortunate associations, primarily between food and sleep. If eating is the only way your baby knows how to go to sleep, that can create problems when they're older.
Sleep training isn't for every family, so if you're against it, you can move right along. If, however, you suspect that cry-it-out might be in your future, you might want to think twice about letting your baby use you as a human pacifier throughout the night.
Because You Have Safety Concerns
Let me be clear: breastsleeping can be done safely. It's important to note, however, that even the experts on breastsleeping say that it must only be practiced in the absence of all known hazardous factors. You must ensure a safe sleeping space, and that means a firm mattress, no heavy blankets or extra pillows, room to safely roll over, a sibling and pet-free bed, and sober, non-smoking parents.
The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) actually doesn't recommend bed sharing for any baby, but rather only bringing baby into the bed for feeding or comfort and then returning them to their own safe sleeping space. The AAP guidelines are designed to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), so they're absolutely worth your consideration.
Because You're Going To Spend All Night Worrying
When you see words like "suffocation" and "strangulation" as risk factors for breastsleeping, it can be enough to keep you up at night. If you're scared that you'll roll onto your baby or that they'll fall off the bed, you're not going to have a restful night's sleep.
If, like me, you can't fall asleep unless you know your baby is in a safe space, then it's perfectly acceptable to have them in a bassinet or crib by your bed. The AAP recommends that babies sleep in the same room as their parents for the first six months of life.
Because You Take Medications That Make You Drowsy
I take a daily anti-depressant, and one of the side effects is sleepiness. It's one of those "don't operate until you know how it affects you" drugs. In the case of these medications, it's not just OK if you don't want to breastsleep, it's the responsible thing to do. (Of course, you'll also check that the drug doesn't affect your breast milk.)
The same thing goes for smoking, drinking, or recreational drug use. If you engage in any of those activities, you can't breastsleep. They can impair your ability to rouse and respond to your child's needs, putting them at risk for injury or even death. Don't do it.
Because You Have A Premie
In this situation, it's not a matter of preference. According to the AAP, bed-sharing is even more dangerous for a prematurely born baby. Even breastsleeping guru, Dr. James McKenna, says that breastsleeping with a premie is a categorical "no."
Because It's Not The Only Way To Keep Your Baby Close
Dr. McKenna, anthropologist and infant sleep expert, argues in his Acta Paediatrica article that we cannot separate infant sleep and breastfeeding. Rather, the two are inextricably linked. "There is only breastsleeping."
I call bullsh*t. OK, so I'm not a researcher. But I'm not arguing the fact that breastsleeping is normal, natural, and beneficial for moms and babies. Hell, I'm even on board with the idea that there's a biological imperative to do it.
What I won't agree with is that it's the only way to go. You can breastfeed and follow the AAP guidelines for infant sleep, and it won't ruin your kid. And, honestly, your reasoning shouldn't matter to anyone who isn't you.
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