In my experience, the practice of co-sleeping is a way for breastfeeding mothers to gain those extra hours of sleep that we so desperately need.
There is much controversy over the practice of co-sleeping. In the United States, most medical professionals warn against it. However, some do advocate the practice, and it is widely practiced in the non-Western world.
When done correctly, it is yet another reason to be happy that you are breastfeeding- no getting out of bed in the middle of the night to mix formula, warm bottles, and feed baby!
Below are some of my tips for successful co-sleeping with a newborn:
1. Regulate temperature without fluffy blankets. The biggest danger of co-sleeping is having fluffy blankets and pillows suffocate little baby. Get around this by getting rid of those blankets! Although this seems impossible, it's not. We've gone through freezing Minnesota winters and still kept warm.
Dress baby and yourself in warm pajamas, reducing the need for those down quilts. If necessary, cover the lower half of baby with a receiving blanket. You can keep those heavy quilts on your bottom half, if you would like.
2. Get rid of extra pillows and stuffed animals. Keep the area around your head and chest as uncluttered as possible.
3. Wear nursing tops or bras to bed, or go to bed topless. This makes it easy to offer the breast quickly and easily.
4. Switch sides that you sleep on every night. This makes sure that you are not only feeding off the same breast every night. Nobody wants to be lopsided!
5. Everybody in the bed must be sober. Very important! If your partner has been drinking or has taken sleeping pills, make them sleep on the couch. This could lessen their ability to sense the baby and raise the risk of them rolling onto baby.
6. Trust in your instincts. As a breastfeeding mother, you are connected to your baby. You will sense where she is in your bed. You will sense when she is hungry.
7. Develop a thick skin. Most likely, you will hear comments and warnings from everyone around you. The most popular will be Now you'll never get her to sleep in her own bed!, or something of that nature. Learn to let the comments roll right off of you.
8. Invest in a co-sleeper if your bed feels too crowded. A co-sleeper attaches to the bed, giving baby her own space but still allowing you easy access. We haven't used one, but I have many friends who have used them and loved it.
9. Enjoy your time together! Sleeping with my baby has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Feeling her heat and mass next to me. Waking up to that angelic face. Watching her wake up, see me, and smile. Feeling her little hands caress me in my sleep. Knowing that I am there to fulfill her needs when she wakes up and needs me! Listening to her little hungry gulps in the middle of the night.
Most importantly- enjoy those extra hours of sleep, mama! You need them.
Further reading: Click here for a great article on breastfeeding from Dr. Sears.
Any other tips from breastfeeding, co-sleeping mamas?