COSLEEPING AND BREASTFEEDING MAKE A TIRED MUM IMAGE FROM ISTOCKPHOTO
I breastfed my son for three and a half years. It took up lots of my (and his) time, and was really hard to give up. We didn't plan on co-sleeping at first: we had a crib in his room, and he napped there sometimes. The reality of waking up and feeding my tiny boy post-C-section though, meant that he slept in our new queen-sized bed with us. My trusted family doctor fully endorsed co-sleeping and breastfeeding for as long as I wanted.
A recent study based in Chicago from the Institute for Policy Research and School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University analyzed saliva samples from breastfeeding mothers who both slept with their children and without them. This research was presented this week at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting. Stress hormone levels in moms who both co-slept and breastfed long-term were higher.
This, of course, doesn't mean you shouldn't co-sleep or breastfeed. On the contrary. Moms who co-sleep were shown to be more rested if they didn't simultaneously breastfeed (all night long), and moms who breastfed but got their shut-eye were shown to be less stressed out. But while both of these states may be optimal, in reality each is a little harder to achieve unless you're lucky enough to have a lot (or decent amount) of help (and definitely is easier if you don't have a high-needs baby).
I still sleep with my son, who is now seven. Even though we stopped breastfeeding three-and-a-half years ago, he still likes to keep his hands on my cheeks at night. It turns out that breastfeeding him for so long was essential to his health, as he had an undiscovered heart defect until age three that prevented him from eating properly.
As for sleeping together, it's just easier, but we've kind of shot ourselves in the foot, so to speak, on this one. My husband and I have not been able to sleep together for seven years. That's not the end of the world, since he snores and I like having the queen-sized bed.
I also have an autoimmune disease of the eyes that presented itself when my son was 16 months old. Since it's autoimmune, we don't know the cause, but getting enough rest is essential to my wellbeing.
But for me, being a stay-at-home mom almost constantly for the last seven years, co-sleeping, and breastfeeding, has led to a close, fulfilling, and exhausting relationship for me, my son, and his father too.
But are we ready for him to sleep in his own bedroom full-time? Definitely. Maybe once a week he could crawl into our bed. Or all three of us could sleep in our own beds and get the rest that we need.
I'm sure I would be a much nicer person then, lower stress hormones and all.
Chime in: When did you stop co-sleeping with your kids?
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