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The Real Deal on Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding

Whenever moms are given contradictory information, there is always controversy.  Hopefully, this article will help you understand why lactation consultants and breastfeeding advocates recommend co-sleeping.  In over two decades of helping nursing mothers, my philosophy has always been that the same instincts that keep you from rolling off the bed, keep you from rolling onto the baby.  Having said that, there are precautions that you should take when co-sleeping such as not using a couch that has deep crevices where a baby could have their airway restricted.  The best place for co-sleeping is on a firm mattress.  Scare tactics showing a tombstone headboard on the bed, are just not accurate.  There are times you should not co-sleep however and those are if the mother's natural systems are compromised in any way such as drugs or alcohol.  Using sleep aides or other over-the-counter or prescription medications would also not be advisable when co-sleeping. 

There are many benefits of co-sleeping but the most significant is that co-sleeping promotes breastfeeding and breastfeeding reduces SIDS.  Perhaps it is because that the bed-sharing nursing mother is more aware of her baby's sleep patterns.  Possibly it is because the nutrition on breastmilk decreases illnesses including respiratory illness.  Or it could even be that skin to skin contact regulates heart rate, breathing patterns and temperature.  Whatever the reason, night nursing increases milk supply.  And increased milk supply translates to reduced incidence of early weaning and increased rates of breastfeeding success.

If you are still conflicted regarding bed-sharing with your nursling, there are alternatives. A co-sleeper crib attached to mom's side of the bed is an excellent alternative.  The benefits of these are that you have more room and less separation between you and your husband.  Also, when the baby is ready to sleep through the night, he is already in his own bed.  The Arm's Reach company has a long-standing track record of safe and affordable co-sleeper bassinets.

The mother who feeds on demand whether it is during the day or at night, has a greater chance of breastfeeding success.  Longer breastfeeding rates translate to healthier children even beyond infancy.  Remember, it is much safer to nurse in a familiar environment than for the mom who is trying not to co-sleep to fall asleep on an unsafe piece of furniture such as a couch or recliner. 

Happy Nurturing!


McKenna, James J., and Thomas McDade. "Why babies should never sleep alone: a review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharing and breast feeding." Paediatric respiratory reviews 6.2 (2005): 134-152.


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