How Breastsleeping Affects Your Mental Health
It's funny to imagine a parenting decision becoming all the rage, but that's exactly what has happened to breastsleeping. Although the concept is nothing new (it's bed-sharing combined with breastfeeding), it's getting a lot of attention lately as parents hear that it can help them get more sleep, keep their children safe, and help connect them to their child. But how breastsleeping affects your mental health may surprise you as well and make you want to try the sleeping arrangement even more.
Let's break it down here — breastsleeping is beneficial for both you, and your baby. Dr. Cecilia Tomori, anthropologist with postdoctoral training in public health, Research Associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and author of Nighttime Breastfeeding: An American Cultural Dilemma tells Romper that the benefits of breastsleeping for moms are actually what pushes parents to try the arrangement in the first place. She notes that more rest is, "the primary reason why so many parents adopt this practice in the first place, without necessarily intending to do so." Because you're not getting out of bed, getting baby to nurse, soothing baby back to sleep, and going back to your own bed, you're not fully awake during breastsleeping, according to Tomori. This maximizes rest for both you and your baby.
And breastsleeping? It's safer than you may think. When practiced in "the absence of all known hazardous factors", Tomori says breastsleeping can be a safe solution for you and your baby's sleep. In fact, it may even make you more aware of something going wrong with your baby. "Breastfeeding is part of a complex physiological coordination between mothers and babies that includes touch, breathing, temperature regulation, heart rate, sleep cycles, and a whole host of processes that are taking place at the same time," Tomori says. "This proximity played a key role in enabling human infants, who lack the capacity to fully regulate their bodies, to survive. Does this mean that this system ensures that mothers are always able to spot when something is wrong? No, it does not. But it is quite a robust system. In fact, breastfeeding and sleeping next to babies remains very common cross-culturally and in many groups in the U.S. as well, and was the historical norm for most people around the world."
Amazing, right? So how does all of this affect your mental health? It's pretty easy — more sleep and less anxiety about something happening to your baby while they snooze is going to improve your mental health by leaps and bounds.
In fact, all that extra sleep can take care of the anxiety on its own. According to Harvard, a lack of sleep can raise the risk of some psychiatric disorders, and sleep problems are extremely common in people battling anxiety. By getting enough sleep, you can reduce the chances of your thinking being impaired or your brain having trouble regulating emotions.
The National Institute of Mental Health also noted that stress can lead to you feeling overwhelmed and discouraged and that all types of stress can potentially have a negative impact on your mental health. If you're stressed about a bedtime routine, about getting your baby to sleep without you, or about your lack of sleep from nursing throughout the night, breastsleeping can help.
So how does breastsleeping affect your mental health? It saves you from a lack of sleep, stress, and anxiety. In short — it can be one of the best things you do for your mental health. If you and your partner are both on board, give breastsleeping a try to see how it makes you feel.