5 Ways Sleeping Close to Your Baby is Best for Breastfeeding Mothers

You get more sleep

Studies show that although having your baby next to you (within arms reach, not necessarily in your bed) generally means your baby will breastfeed more often, your own sleep will be less disrupted: your baby may arouse more often than a baby in another room but these arousals are often just small transient arousals that don’t wake your baby. They are much shorter than for babies who are sleeping apart from parents. Also, because you and your –co-sleeping, breastfeeding baby tend to get into the same sleep cycles, you will not be woken from a deep sleep to attend to your baby – you can simply reach over and feed your baby, with both of you falling asleep again very quickly. This means you and your breastfeeding baby will most likely get more sleep overall if you sleep within arms reach.

You make more milk

The principal behind a good milk supply is ‘supply equals demand’. This means that the more often you empty your breasts, the more milk your body is signaled to make. At night, prolactin (your milk making hormone) levels are higher, so by being close to your baby so that you are aware of his signals, you will respond to his early feeding cues. And, by breastfeeding overnight (your baby may biologically need night feeds right through the first year), you are stimulating a healthy milk supply.

Also, we know that stress and exhaustion can have a negative impact on oxytocin, the hormone that helps milk flow. Conversely, cuddles, touch (especially skin to skin) and breastfeeding enhance this hormone, so being close to your baby will get you more rest and boost your breastfeeding hormones. This will enhance your milk supply – day and night.

If you have concerns about your milk supply, you can download our FREE ebook “Making More Mummy Milk,Naturally” by Pinky Mckay IBCLC lactation Consultant.

Breastfeeding continues longer

It is devastating to find you have a dwindling milk supply but neither you nor your baby are ready to end this precious relationship. Breastfeeding is about so much more than ‘the milk’. It is a chemical connection between mother and baby and the withdrawal of this complex hormonal cocktail can contribute to depression and mood swings while you are also dealing with the confusion and grief of early weaning.

As mentioned already, the hormonal status that enhances breastfeeding and mother-infant bonding is at its most effective during night-time breastfeeding; continued breastfeeding maintains the release of hormones essential for mother-infant bonding, and breastfeeding is more likely to be successful for a longer duration when mothers and babies share sleep.

Your baby will cry less

Attending to early hunger cues is especially important to support effective breastfeeding: If you wait until your baby cries, it will be more difficult to feed him – his tongue will be on the roof of his mouth as he yells, so latching will be difficult; his suck will be disorganised; and he may be tired from crying so won’t feed so effectively, he may fall sleep before he has had enough to drink and he will wake again very soon. Some crying is inevitable, but please calm your baby before you breastfeed if he is upset and remember that by responding to early hunger signals your baby will feed more effectively and this will support your milk supply.

By keeping your baby close, you will become attuned to his early communication cues and you will know what is a red alert, what is a wriggle that means he is arousing but he may re-settle or whether he is hungry, cold or lonely. By attending quickly, before he cries (remember, crying is a LATE hunger signal) you will help your baby feel secure, his signaling will become more effective without him needing to cry and he will be able to use his energy for growing, not crying.

Your baby is safer

Breastfeeding and sharing a room with your baby are protective factors against SIDS, so creating a safe sleeping environment that is supportive to your breastfeeding relationship, is the best option to ensure your baby’s safety.

According to acclaimed SIDS researcher, James McKenna at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, “the natural physiological mutual regulatory effects that change a breastfeeding mother-infant dyad’s behaviour is unique when breastfeeding occurs.” This means that by breastfeeding and sleeping within proximity of your baby, your baby is stimulated by your presence  – the sounds of your movements and breathing – so experiences more light sleep and will arouse more easily if he experiences breathing pauses, is too hot or cold or has any difficulties that may be potential risk factors. And, because you are close and exquisitely attuned to your baby, you will be able to respond quickly to his signals that he may be having a problem.


Safe co-sleeping Guidelines

The definition of co-sleeping includes sleeping next to your baby on a separate surface, as well as bed-sharing.

For more information about safe co-sleeping check these links:

Dr James McKenna – Safe Cosleeping Guidelines

La Leche League International – Safe Sleep Seven

SIDS & Kids –Sleeping With Baby


Pinky Mckay is an international Board Certified Lactation Consultant and best-selling author of ‘Sleeping Like a Baby’, ‘Parenting by Heart’ and ‘100 Ways to Calm the Crying.’ She is also the creator of Boobie Bikkies, all natural and organic cookies to boost your energy and support a healthy milk supply. Click HERE to download Pinky’s FREE ebook “Making More Mummy Milk,Naturally” .

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Pinky McKay's Breastfeeding Simply eBook

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