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I feel like I've been keeping a secret for how I've gotten so much more sleep, even as a new mom. I've gotten 275 extra hours of sleep during the first year of motherhood by getting an extra 45 minutes of sleep PER NIGHT. So, I'll let you in on my secret about how I get more sleep as a new mom… BED SHARING!
I've been super hesitant to post this because it's pretty controversial. You'll either think “YAS GIRL” or you'll immediately think “NOPE, never in my life”. Lets be honest, we don't do much normal, we ditched sleep training and she sleeps on a floor bed instead of a crib for naps and at the start of the night. We also do things pretty naturally otherwise as well, doing Elimination Communication (or infant potty training), and 80/20 cloth diapering!
Bed sharing. A lot of people also refer to it as co-sleeping and I used to too, but apparently, that's different. Co-sleeping means the baby is in the room with you and bed sharing is when the baby's actually in the bed with you.
Let me start with, YOU decide what is best for your family. Bed sharing is something we do, but every family is different and has its own unique set of circumstances. Only you know what is best for your family and your baby.
In this blog, I'll talk about our experience with bed sharing and getting more sleep as a new mom, some tips to bed share SAFELY, and I'll share some great resources if you want to dive deeper.
Let's talk about bed sharing so we can do it safely!
First of all, La Leche League International is like the gurus of breastfeeding and go-to resource. I did a lot of research on their website about breastfeeding and bed sharing. What I found was sometimes, as new moms (and dads), end up bed sharing in the early hours to get more sleep because thats simply the only place baby wil sleep! And by not talking about it, we end up doing it in ways that are less safe. So, I wanted to share more about how to bedshare safely so if you do find yourself wanting to (or dog tired with a baby who doesn't want to sleep in a bassinet) you know how to do it safely.
Some incredible things happen when you bed share
Sleep Cycle Sync. Breastfeeding & bed sharing Moms are innately in tune with their babies. If you are doing both, at night while you sleep you and your baby's sleep cycles sync! You guys go into deep REM sleep and light sleep together so you often find that when your baby wakes up, you're somewhat awake as well. Then you're able to latch baby and you both get to sleep. The alternative is hearing your baby cry, getting up, going to their bassinet, nursing them half awake, and then trying to put them back down to sleep.
When you sit up like this it wakes you up more and tells your brain you are up, if you are able to stay laying you get more restful sleep!
If you ask a bed sharing mom how many times her baby wakes up in the night, often she won't know. And likely she wakes up at least twice a night! When we latch our babe back on hormones release in both the mom and the baby to relax and fall back to sleep! THAT is why they say we get an extra 45 minutes of sleep per night when we bed share.
In other countries, bed sharing is the norm…
Bed sharing is a totally normal practice in most of the world. As a former full-time traveler, I find it fascinating to learn about other cultural norms and to challenge my own. I read *listen* to a lot of books about this, here is my list of books that I've read and what I will read. Hunt, Gather, Parent is one of my favorites!
For example, some countries view cribs as “cages”! In the U.S. we view them as a safe place for our babies to be. But what happens when our babies don't like to sleep in their crib? However, many tired parents find their baby sleeps best with them. In the U.S. we're only taught not to bed share, instead of how to do it safely. This leads to a potentially more hazardous environment as new moms, who need more sleep resort to bed sharing without knowing how to do it safely. I decided if I talk about it and share safe ways to bed share parents can make informed and safe sleep decisions (See ‘The Safe Sleep Seven' below).
The best sleep position for bed sharing with your baby
Cuddle Curl. You're basically in the fetal position facing baby. Baby stays at breast height while their nursing and then falls asleep and stays around that area. Your top arm rests above their head preventing them from getting into the pillow. Your bent knees beneath them prevent you from rolling over. This also creates a little cove that your partner or any pets can't roll into. You do, however, have to watch out for your partner. They do not have the same instincts that you do as breastfeeding, bed sharing mom.
Bed Sharing with a Crawling Baby
Crawling Babe? I was most concerned about bed sharing when she became mobile. I kept thinking she's going to wake up and crawl off the bed. When she started rolling I just made sure she was in the middle of the bed and had pillows near the edge of the bed. Now, when she wakes up, she's just looking for the boob. Also, I'm either watching her on the monitor, or I wake up when she does that…you're just in tune.
The “Safe Sleep Seven” for bed sharing and getting more sleep as a new mom
1. Non-smoker (you and your partner)
Smoking and second-hand smoke in the house, in general, can increase SIDS. CDC says “Chemicals in secondhand smoke appear to affect the brain in ways that interfere with its regulation of infants' breathing” This goes for you and or if you have a smoking partner in your bed.
2. Sober (Alcohol and sleeping aids)
You want to be sober. Of course, you don't want to be drinking alcohol because that can impair your ability to wake up, we're also talking about sleeping pills or sleep aids, and the same goes for your partner.
For bed sharing, you want to be a breastfeeding mom because you have that innate sense with your baby. La Leche League says this keeps baby at breast where they are safe with the cuddle curl. If they don't have this instinct you risk them coming up by your head and pillows.
4. Your baby is healthy and full term to bed share
La Leche Leauge says premature babies and babies with serious illness have an increased risk for SIDS and may not do as well in the same environments full term babies can be in.
5. Back sleep
Your baby should sleep on their back. This typically happens when you're bed sharing and breastfeeding because they'll be on their side nursing and when they fall asleep they rollback (the only available space) on their back.
6. Not swaddled, not overheated
Do not swaddle a bed sharing baby so they can move around if they need to. And keep them lightly dressed. They'll have your added body heat and overheating can increase SIDS.
7. Safe Surface
This means, not on the sofa, not on a recliner, not on a super soft surface like a water bed or super plush pillow top. A lot of articles said that people will try to avoid having their baby in their bed and will sit and fall asleep with them on the sofa or a recliner instead. But this is so much more dangerous than the bed because there are so many places they can fall into and may not be able to get out.
You do not want your bed against a wall if possible, another place they can get stuck.
Nothing dangly on the wall like cords they can get tangled in.
Lastly, the most difficult thing is that you don't want a super heavy comforter. You really just want a light sheet and you want to keep it beneath them.
How I get more sleep as a new mom and bed share
When our daughter goes to sleep at night, we put her to bed on her floor bed around 6:30-7 pm. She typically wakes up at about 10-11 pm. Around that time I decide it's a good time for me to go to bed too. So I grab her and we go into our bed and fall asleep.
Typically, she'll wake up a couple times during the night and I'll just feed her and we all fall back asleep.
We do it because I feel like I get WAY more sleep and it's just a sweet way to connect with her. Like in the morning, she goes over to dada to give him a kiss. And I love it. But Seth was on board and he still is. If your partner's not on board, then you'll have to figure out what will work for you.
Oh, and the fact that I'm obsessed with our mattress helps me get more sleep too. It was expensive but it's organic and fully non-toxic (which was sooo important for me especially when we have our daughter in bed with us) AND it's fully adjustable which makes it so comfortable.
But seriously, I feel SO lucky we have decided to do this and that it has worked for us. It has made sleep so much better for all of us.
So, that is how I get 45 extra minutes of sleep every night. If you're looking for more information, La Leche League International is such a great resource specifically for breastfeeding but they have great bedsharing information as well!