Co-sleeping with a baby: Tips for a breastfeeding mom

New mothers may have several questions on their mind about how to deal with a newborn or infant. One of these questions could be about co-sleeping – whether or not it is okay for breastfeeding moms to share the bed with the baby.

What is co-sleeping?

Co-sleeping refers to the infant sleeping in close social and physical contact with parents or committed caregiver.

The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommends that the mothers and infants sleep in proximity to each other to facilitate breastfeeding.

Bedsharing promotes breastfeeding initiation, duration and exclusivity. Parents should be educated about the risk and benefits of co-sleeping and unsafe co-sleeping practices and make their own informed decision. Existing evidence does not support the conclusion that bed sharing among breastfeeding infant causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in the absence of known hazards. Accidental suffocation death is extremely rare among co-sleeping breastfeeding infants.

Breastfeeding mothers comprise the largest group of co-sleeping. Sleep contact between mother and infant facilitate night feeds more. Multiple studies state that co-sleeping is associated with more frequent night feeds and that promote milk production. Although bed-sharing breastfeeding mothers wake frequently to feed, they are awake for shorter periods and fall back to sleep more rapidly. Thus, they achieve greater sleep duration than non-co-sleeping mothers.

breastfeeding tips
You’re recommended to breastfeed a newborn for at least six months. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Benefits of co-sleeping with baby

* It provides physical protection for the infant against cold and extends the duration of breastfeeding.
* Increased sensory contact and close proximity with the mother have potential for behavioral and physiological changes in the infant
* Bed-sharing mothers have heightened sensitivity and responsiveness to their infants
* It increases interactions and arousal, face-to face body orientations, increased chances of exclusive breastfeeding, increased heart rate, increased infant body temperature, increased movement and awakening and less deep sleep

Risks of co-sleeping

Bed-sharing safety requires a safe environment. Potentially unsafe practices related to bed-sharing or co-sleeping increases the risk of SIDS and fatal sleeping accidents. Some of the risk factors are:

* Environmental smoke exposure and maternal smoking
* Sharing sofas, couches with infant
* Sharing waterbeds or use of soft bedding materials
* Sharing bed with adjacent spaces that could trap an infant
* Prone position of infant in sleeping can be harmful
* Use of alcohol by parents can be harmful
* Use of some drug which is mind-altering by parents can be dangerous.

Smoking and breastfeeding
Smoking can be injurious to you and your baby! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Safe sleep environments for a baby are

* Baby should be in supine position
* Use firm, flat surface
* Avoid waterbeds, couches, sofas, pillows, very soft bed, loose bedding
* Use only thin blanket to cover the infant
* Ensure head should not be covered
* Avoid use of quilts, comforters and stuffed animals in infants sleep environment.
* Don’t make an infant sleep on a pillow or next to a pillow.
* Avoid leaving an infant alone on an adult bed
* Ensure that there are no space between the mattress and headboard, walls and other surfaces, which may entrap the infant and lead to suffocation,
* Placement of a firm mattress directly on the floor away from walls may be a safe alternative.
* Adoption of the C-Position (“cuddle curl”) with the infant’s head across from the adult breast, adult’s leg and arm curled around the infant.

Co-sleeping and SIDS

Feeding of formula milk is associated with a markedly increased risk of SIDS. This may be due to lower infant arousal. Formula milk is not easy to digest compared to breastmilk. So, baby sometimes goes to deep sleep and this can be more dangerous specially with newborn.

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