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  • Writer's pictureLisa

Infant Sleep: Listening to Your Needs to Nature

It is so intriguing to think about how infant sleep varies across cultures and how it has evolved over time. There are a lot of strong feelings and opinions about infant sleep along with many studies and research. Some believe the safest place for infants to sleep is in their own crib or bassinet in isolation while other cultures may view this practice as a cruel way to deprive the baby of safe and secure attachment. Providers strongly discourage parents from sleeping with the baby in hopes of preventing SIDS. Yet, there is research and evidence emerging regarding our biological need for the mom and baby dyad to sleep closely for safe infant attachment as well as physical wellbeing of both mother and baby.

Our culture is obsessed with materialism and glorifies having this picture-perfect nursery. There is nothing wrong with having a beautiful nursery for the baby that you cherish. But I do feel that this pressure sets new mothers to prepare for a baby’s room filled with all the baby things. It is advised that babies sleep in their own nursery, so the baby will need a crib, a monitor, etc.,without even questioning how do the parents plan to navigate infant sleep?

I have navigated through my own challenges surrounding infant sleep in my motherhood journey. Eight years ago, I was a first-time mom, I had a butterfly themed nursery where Kennedy was to sleep alone. I wanted to make sure she was going to be safe and that she would not have a strong attachment to me for days and weeks that I’d have to be absent due to my military obligation. I had a baby monitor that I was glued to and panicked every five minutes making sure she was breathing. Reflecting now, I still feel raw emotions of guilt. Nights of sleep deprivation, bottle feeding, burping, rocking her to sleep throughout the night, even attempts of letting her ‘cry it out.’ Based on what I was told from the providers or what I had heard from others, I thought this was exactly what I was supposed to do. But I knew my body was telling me otherwise. If my baby was “safe”, why did it feel so wrong? I knew in my heart Kennedy wanted me near and close. But I thought this was the only way. To sleep together was “forbidden.” Ironically, someone broke into our home from her nursery window once. I decided that it felt safer when she slept in a closer proximity to me, so I pulled out the PackNPlay where she slept in the same room with me (co-sleeping) for a few weeks until the fear and stress wore off from the intruder. Things were much easier this way and I felt a sense of peace. But eventually Kennedy was to be back in her own room, and I forever wondered if things would get easier.

When I became pregnant with my second child, Madison, things became more natural to me. We were on a better path with breastfeeding. Their dad was working night shifts and it made most sense to me that she slept in the same bed as me (bed-sharing). For Madison and me, it worked best that I nursed her in the side-lying position, and we just went back to sleep when she was done eating. I was never intoxicated nor am I a smoker so there wasn’t a huge risk that I was worried about. I’m also a very light sleeper and trusted my instincts. We were better able to flow through our rhythm this way. I believe it helped tremendously with the quality of sleep I was getting. Everything felt more right to honor this need to be with my baby, to nurture her, and to make sure she felt secure.

When my youngest daughter was born she didn’t even have a nursery. While we had a rocky start to our breastfeeding journey, we still spent our days and nights close and snuggly. It often makes me wonder what if I had known this sooner. All those sleepless nights with Kennedy, maybe we could have spent together, bonding and making her feel safe.

Every baby is different, every family is different, and each parent will decide what is the best sleeping situation for their family. Some moms and babies sleep better when they are in separate rooms. It is also an important conversation to have as partners how you envision infant sleep ahead of time. Instead of telling mothers not to sleep with their babies, I believe mothers should be educated on how babies can sleep safely with them. Sleeping separately from your baby could be a disruption to your postpartum journey for both you and baby (this could be a biological/physiological need). I hope that you are inspired to tune in with how you desire to approach infant sleep. I believe honoring how we feel and what we desire is most important. But if research or studies are important to you, check out the links in the reference section if you would like to learn more about safe infant sleep (co-sleeping/bed sharing). References: Homepage - Bedsharing and SIDS: The Whole Truth | Evolutionary Parenting | Where History And Science Meet Parenting Safe bedsharing - Nightingale Night Nurses Book: Safe Infant Sleep: Expert Answer to Your Cosleeping Questions

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