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Breastfeeding and Co-sleeping

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The practice of co-sleeping has succeeded throughout human evolution and has continued over the years of our civilization despite controversy and the liability of infant deaths. Over the last couple of decades co-sleeping has become a major debate amongst parents in the United States, but I believe that pediatricians and parent educators should encourage co-sleeping with children. There has been a lot of disagreement between the benefits and risks associated with infant/parent co-sleeping.

Advocates of co-sleeping argue that it benefits both the child and parents by creating a convenient way to manage, respond, and feed their child throughout the night, allowing both the parent and child more time for rest.

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Opponents of co-sleeping argue that the practice is in many ways a danger—one that because of health, developmental, and safety concerns has been and should continue to be abandoned by health professionals and parents (Stein, 2001). I would argue that the benefits of co-sleeping outweigh the risks.

First, breast milk is widely acknowledged as the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a variety of benefits for infant health, growth, immunity, and development.

This unique nutritional source cannot adequately be replaced by any other food, including infant formula. Therefore, a benefit of co-sleeping is the advantage to and promotion of breastfeeding. The proximity to and sensory contact with the mother during sleep facilitates prompt responses to signs of the infant’s readiness to breastfeed and provides psychological comfort and reassurance to the dependent infant as well as the parents (ABM).

Breastfeeding has been found to be the most prominent reason for co-sleeping, which not only supports the ease and convenience of nighttime breastfeeding, but it also may lessen maternal pain or discomfort following birth (Ball, 2002). The majority of women find it more comfortable to breastfeed while lying on their side, opposed to sitting in a chair and cradling the child across their mid-section. Additional benefits to co-sleeping and breastfeeding include longer feeding durations and more sleep for the parent and child.

James McKenna found that infants who routinely co-slept at home breastfed three times longer during the night than did infants who routinely slept separately (McKenna et al, 1997). The longer feeding durations allow the parent and child to get a better nights rest, because the feedings are required less often than they are with shorter feeding durations, which are required more often. Another major benefit of co-sleeping is the protection against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by promoting infant arousal. When babies are unable to arouse themselves from sleep when a difficulty occurs, they are at a higher risk for SIDS.

This is another reason where co-sleeping can become a positive practice. Arousal deficiency is believed to be a mechanism in SIDS, along with impaired cardiorespiratory control, hyperthermia, and the lethal rebreathing of carbon dioxide trapped in bedding. Sarah Mosko’s conclusion in regards to infant arousal states, “Given that arousability is diminished in stage 3-4 sleep (deep sleep), we speculate that, under otherwise safe conditions, the observed changes in stage 3-4 sleep and arousals associated with bed sharing might be protective to infants at risk for SIDS because of a hypothesized arousal deficit.

The responsivity of the mother to infant arousals during bed sharing might also be protective” (Mosko et al, 1997). I believe co-sleeping creates a heightened sense of awareness and gives parents a beneficial advantage for protecting their infants against SIDS by allowing them to easily check on the child throughout the night. There are also some long term benefits associated with co-sleeping. Co-sleeping can promote confidence, self-esteem, and intimacy, possibly by reflecting an attitude of parental acceptance (Crawford, 1994). A more positive behavior and an increased satisfaction with life have also been linked to co-sleeping.

A study was conducted on five different ethnic groups in U. S. cities found that co-sleepers exhibited a general feeling of satisfaction with life (Mosenkis, 1998). These long term benefits strengthen the case for the promotion of co-sleeping and demonstrate the major impact it can have on a person’s development later in life. It is understandable to have a certain level of fear against co-sleeping. Nobody wants to carry the burden of being the cause of their infant’s death. The first and greatest concern that comes to mind with co-sleeping is the fear of infant asphyxiation.

This can be caused by accidental entrapment or in many cases by an overlying adult, but a simple way to describe the cause of such an unfortunate event is by an unsafe environment. I agree that there are some safety concerns regarding co-sleeping, but I believe they can be resolved through education and safe practice, resulting in a safe environment. James McKenna argues that “co-sleeping can be one of several ‘healthy’ choices, especially where parents are provided with supportive education on how to make that choice and how to practice that choice safely” (McKenna, 2005).

After creating a safe environment for the child, parents will have the ability to concentrate on the many benefits of co-sleeping. In conclusion, with the associated risks being manageable through education and preparation, I believe the benefits of co-sleeping are far too great to be ignored. If practiced safely, positive development will not only occur with the parents and children, but the family as well. References McKenna, James (2005). Why babies should never sleep alone: A review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharing and breast feeding. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame. Stein, M. 2001). Cosleeping (bedsharing) among infants and toddlers. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 22(Suppl. ), S67-S71. Mosko, S. S. , Richard, C. A. , McKenna, J. J. (1997). Infant Arousals During Mother-Infant Bed Sharing: Implications for Infant Sleep and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Research. Pediatrics. Morelli, Gilda A. et al (1992). Cultural Variation in Infants’ Sleeping Arrangements: Question of Independence, Developmental Psychology, 28(4) 604-613. Ball, H. L. (2002). Reasons to bed-share: Why parents sleep with their infants. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Pyschology, 20, 207-221.

McKenna, J. J. , Mosko, S. S. & Richard, C. A. (1997). Bedsharing promotes breastfeeding. Perdiatrics, 100, 214-219. Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee (2008). ABM Clinical Protocol #6: Guideline on Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding. Crawford, M. (1994). Parenting practices in the Basque country: Implications of infant and childhood sleeping location for personality development. Ethos, 22(1): 42-82. Mosenkis, J. (1998). The Effects of Childhood Cosleeping On Later Life Development. Master’s Thesis. University of Chicago, Department of Human Development.

Cite this Breastfeeding and Co-sleeping

Breastfeeding and Co-sleeping. (2016, Oct 26). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/breastfeeding-and-co-sleeping/

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