Wasting our lives and glorifying God

Wasting our lives and glorifying God
Notice God's unutterable waste of saints, according to the judgment of the world. God plants His saints in the most useless places. We say - God intends me to be here because I am so useful. Jesus never estimated His life along the line of the greatest use. God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is. ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, August 10

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nighttime Parenting

When I first had Meg I read books about letting your baby cry it out and sleep in her own crib.  It was supposed to be "better" and make my life "easier."  Instead, it made me a nervous wreck.  The more I learned about my baby as an individual the more I felt uncomfortable with training her that way.  At that point I don't think I had ever heard the term "attachment parenting" and I had never read a book on it.  I just prayed and started following my own instincts.  Which meant that Meg spent most nights in our bed.

Little-by-little my parenting style evolved to full-blown co-sleeping, baby-wearing, extended-nursing earthy-crunchy momma.  You can call it old-school and primitive or you can call it progressive.  To me, though, it has been what has come naturally.

If I paid attention to all the experts I'd have to change my parenting style every other week.  There is always some new study, new author, new PhD that has the answer to all parenting woes.  Some new gadget or method is supposed to make us happier or smarter or better adjusted.  What I find amazing is that we think that as a society we are so much more evolved than the rest of the world.  We think that modern research trumps ancient wisdom.  But, that is not always the case.

At the moment a battle is raging in Milwaukee over bed sharing.  The city is on a campaign to raise awareness about how dangerous it is.  The county medical examiner is considering supporting legislation making bed-sharing illegal.  Apparently, Milwaukee has an extremely high rate of bed-sharing deaths.  So, to fight it they've developed the following propaganda marketing campaigns.

What these posters don't tell you is that in every single bed-sharing death reported the babies were not breastfed, but formula fed, something that co-sleeping and bed-sharing advocates have long pointed to as a factor when it comes to SIDS.  The difference is not that formula feeding mothers are inferior to breastfeeding mothers.  The difference is that the hormones released during nursing and the psychological bonding that occurs makes it nearly impossible for a mother to be unaware of her baby thereby rolling on her.  Breastfeeding is a component of safe sleep-sharing.

What these ads also don't tell you is that in most, if not all, of the cases in Milwaukee, drugs and/or alcohol were involved.  So, is it sleeping with a child that is dangerous or is it going to bed with a baby while you are drunk that is the problem?

Co-sleeping or bed-sharing, has shown in study after study to reduce the incidence of SIDS.  To try to pin SIDS on co-sleeping or bed-sharing is very short-sighted.  Remember that we used to call SIDS "crib death"?  Babies have suffered from SIDS when sleeping on their own in their own cribs.

Besides being a protective factor against SIDS, co-sleeping and bed-sharing is practically universal.  In almost all cultures, including ours, parents sleep with their babies.  It seems to me that the city of Milwaukee and others who decry the dangers of bed-sharing have not really thought this thing through.  Do we really want to vilify and make illegal something that is so common and natural rather than educating people about safe co-sleeping practices?  It would seem that this campaign puts a lot of good parents in opposition to the law.

The Mayor of Milwaukee defends these ads by making comparison to Third World countries.

"Some ZIP codes in Milwaukee have infant mortality rates higher than Third World countries. That’s unacceptable.  If the ads make some people uncomfortable, I guarantee it’s a lot less uncomfortable than having another baby die from co-sleeping,” a cause of death that is “so preventable."
The health commissioner, Bevan Baker, uses the same logic saying, “Is it shocking? Is it provocative? Yes.  But what is even more shocking and provocative is that 30 developed and underdeveloped countries have better [infant death] rates than Milwaukee.”
What is so ridiculous about this logic is that in so-called underdeveloped Third World countries parents, and even whole families, bed-share.  There isn't room in the house/apartment/yurt/hut for a crib.  Neither is there money for baby furniture.  If these places have lower SIDS rates than we do than clearly co-sleeping isn't the problem.

Nighttime Parenting
Me and Luc

When it all comes down, all of our "advancements" have in some ways robbed us of our instincts and common sense.  Nature points us to breastfeeding, not formula feeding.  (No offense to those who must formula feed for health, medical or personal reasons.)  Nature shows us that mothers who sleep with a baby have increased awareness of their surroundings and of their babies.  

Nursing while co-sleeping is an important facet of nighttime parenting.

Babies' sleep cycles (between "light" or REM sleep and deep sleep) are shorter than adults.  They startle themselves awake quite easily.  And unlike grown-ups, they can't just turn themselves over and go back to sleep.  They can't get up for a drink or water or a trip to the bathroom.  Babies often need to be parented back to sleep.  

Me and Belgee
If you train your child to sleep through the night thereby encouraging long deep sleep cycles you may, without knowing it, be stunting his or her brain development.  During REM sleep the brain is very active and blood flow greatly increases.  This is when the brain is actually LEARNING!  The brain is creating the nerve proteins that actually build the brain and the brain is processing everything seen and experienced during awake time.  During deep sleep, however, the brain does less and operates at a lower level--less blood flow, less growth.  Babies' brains grow to nearly 70% of their adult volume during the first two years of life.  So, these are ideal years for having shorter sleep cycles, awakening more often and "light" sleep.

Me and Captain
Also, by training your baby to sleep through the night you encourage longer periods of deep sleep, which may be great for mom and dad, but not so good for baby.  Babies' breathing is irregular and there are sometimes pauses.  However, babies startle easily and go in and out of REM sleep frequently.  If they enter into a deep sleep for too long it can increase their risk of SIDS.  Dr. Sears writes, "I believe that training babies to sleep too deeply, too long, too soon, while convenient to parents, is not in a baby's best biological interest. Sleep- training done before their cardiopulmonary control mechanisms are mature enough to handle prolonged deep sleep could be risky. Training a baby to fall asleep and stay asleep alone in his own room in his own crib may be the "modern" way, but for some infants sleeping lighter and for shorter stretches may be the safer way."

Imagine being cradled in a warm, safe and secure environment where there is constant soothing noises.  You're never hungry, never thirsty, and never alone.  That's a baby's life before birth.  Imagine suddenly being born--an emotional event in itself!--and then being put in a crib alone, in a room separate from your mother's sight, smell, touch.  It could be very disconcerting.  The nighttime could be a very long and lonely period.  Co-sleeping reduces infant anxiety.

When a mother and child sleep together, their breathing synchronizes.  Without perhaps knowing it, they touch each other in the night, adjust to one another and bring one another in and out of sleep patterns.

Co-sleeping also helps foster the breastfeeding relationship.  Baby has easy access to nursing, reducing the incidence of mom becoming engorged from too long a period without nursing or poor milk supply from not frequent enough nursing.  (Milk supply is basic economics--supply and demand.)

In addition to these benefits to baby, there are some real benefits for parents who co-sleep.  

First of all, you'll be much less sleep deprived.  I sleep quite well most nights, even with a six week old baby.  When we snuggle down for the night I know River will be waking up in a few hours.  I do not have to get up to retrieve him from another room or another bed.  I simply direct him to the breast if he needs help, (but once nursing is established babies rarely need help.  They have radar.  They know where mom and boob are.)  I drift right back to sleep.  And unless the baby is being particular fussy because of something like teething, Gana never has to wake up.  So, he's never dragging himself to work sleep deprived.

Being able to parent my child in the night, without having him cry himself to sleep reduces my anxiety, too.  Co-sleeping fosters harmony between mother and child.

Also, when a mother nurses a child to sleep and falls asleep herself, her body releases extra prolactin--keeping her in a positive emotional state and suppressing ovulation.   Nighttime parenting is an important part of ecological breastfeeding or natural child spacing.

Me and Luc

The point of this post is not to try to convince you to co-sleep if you don't want to.  If you are in doubt, research it for yourself and follow your own intuition.  You know how you sleep.  If you don't feel safe, don't do it.  The point is that co-sleeping is natural, universal, and safe when practiced by good parents who use their common sense and intuition.

If you are going to co-sleep:

1) Breastfeed

2) Don't smoke in the home or around the baby

3) Don't go to bed impaired by drugs or other substances

4) Keep the blankets and pillows away from the baby's face

A newborn baby has only three demands.  
They are warmth in the arms of its mother, 
food from her breasts, 
and security in the knowledge of her presence.   
Grantly Dick-Read


THE Princess Bombshell* said...

I saw some ads and articles about this. I didn't even bother telling you-- I knew you would blog about it before the week was up. :) lol

So stupid.

Rebecca C. Fowler said...

Jessica C. posted a link to your blog site on her facebook, recommending we read this article. I am so glad that I did. Well written and I love your supporting photos of you and your babies!

I have co-slept with all of my blessings. Number 4 is currently co-sleeping with me <3

Thank you for your great post!

Melinda said...

Thank you for this. I did very little co-sleeping for several reasons 1.) the idea that it is dangerous 2.) because my husband couldn't sleep as well when I did and 3.) because my husband's brother and his wife had difficulty getting their older child (9yo) to move to her own bed and I was afraid we'd have that trouble, too. When you have opportunity, please address transitioning your older children to their own beds so other mothers can benefit from your experience! It would have been a help to me. I regret that we didn't co-sleep more. (Especially when I read that it suppresses ovulation! I never got to experience that blessed event, although I nursed all four of mine!)

I hope this doesn't show up 2x. It didn't work correctly the first time I tried it.

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity... How long do your babies co-sleep with you? My son co-slept with me every night for the first month or so. After that I would start the night with him in a crib in our room right next to my side of the bed and then I would take him into bed with us after he woke up to nurse. He was in our room for about a year and then we moved him into his sister's room. It worked well for us.

I agree with most of what you've said... except that I've never been able to master in-the-bed nursing. There's just no way. I'm such a spastic breastfeeder and I have really sensitive nipples, so a good latch is always really important and I could never achieve it in bed. Besides which, my nipples go in weird directions, haha...


Sara said...

May I share this on Facebook? I saw these ads and think you hit on the most relevant counter arguments very well.

We co-slept after a while because it came naturally and was easier for our whole family. We all got more sleep if I wasn't walking around the house at night in response to shrill screams!

And I agree, with the precautions for co-sleepers. With four kids who all were in our bed for varying amounts of time (and mom and dad that followed the advice you mentioned), we NEVER even had a scare. It's more nerve wracking to me to not know what's going on with baby in the other room.

Gombojav Tribe said...

Yes, feel free to share on Facebook! Thanks!

Sara said...

this is so perfectly said i started tearing up. we too were led to co-sleeping because our little man needed it, would only sleep near me. it was a life saver. little miss never spent a night away from me....and still wont. HA. our new babe falls to sleep and naps with a lot of work but she sleeps beautifully next to me only waking a few times to nurse gently back to sleep. all of this to say, such a lifesaver for us...and it makes me crazy to see this nasty campaign, and my sister points out kinda racist too, with a little Af-Am baby as their chosen model?? with a knife?? what dolt came up with these?? in any case. thanks for a perfectly worded defense of logic and sense. cosleeping is natural and safe!

Gombojav Tribe said...

They are targeting the African American community, which has a higher SIDS rate. However, there is a companion poster with a white baby. I just thought it was redundant to post two pictures so similar.

Alice said...

Aaaaand.... ANOTHER post that I completely love! :) Except the part with the campaign, which makes me so frustrated and sad!!!

I have nursed my babies at night on demand until somewhere between 13 and 17 months, when I was starting to panic about another baby being due pretty soon (even tandem nursing did not suppress ovulation for me, but that's God's plan so I'm fine with that, lol!), so that's when we moved the little one (usually sleeping partly in the cot (crib) next to my bed and partly in my bed from first waking to nurse until morning) in with his older brothers, in his cot. That seemed to go well. The way we have worked it is, to combat any night wakings without mama, Daddy sleeps in their room to comfort a little waker back to sleep.

Meanwhile a new baby arrives and sleeps next to one ecstatic and blessed mama! :) Currently I have an 11-month-old sleeping snuggled up to me at night, nursing on demand (who knows how many times, I don't notice). My 2-year-old is in the boys' room (not in a cot) and still nurses but not at night. I am 13 weeks pregnant. The difference this time is that my baby has never slept a single wink in a cot! So I am not sure how to do that transition, and I don't want to think about it yet! I love my little sleep companion by my side! My hubby slept next to him (nervously, he said! He was so worried he wouldn't have the right instincts to protect him!) at 7 months old when I was in hospital with a kidney stone for 2 nights, but other than that he has always slept by my side.

I have had a lady at church once get quite angry with me and tell me I should not be sleeping with my babies because it's dangerous and it's in the news so how could I ignore that, and risk their lives?! :S Oh that was difficult. I know the research, and trust my instincts, but she doesn't get that. I tend to keep it to myself now, but I shouldn't. It's wonderful and something to be proud of doing! :)

Mrs. Anna T said...

It has been a long time since I visited you, and I loved this post! I never slept well with a baby next to me, yet there was a period when Tehilla didn't fall asleep in any other place but our bed. It lasted until she was about 7 months old. So, we value our privacy in the bedroom, which is generally off-limits to kids, but we were also able to recognize her very real need to simply be with us.

Gombojav Tribe said...

Nice to "see" you, Anna! Hope you and the family are doing well!

Anonymous said...

We co-sleep all - me, my husband and both our daugters from their first days. We only changed heavy feather blankets and pillows for lighter from hollow fibres. When my husband is after some party (not very often :-))he has to sleep on coach. Everything is all right even though my older doughter sometimes sleep over her baby sister. They love each other. I can sleep all night without getting up for night breastfeeding. That is great. When I´ve seen theese propaganda pictures for the first time, I laughed, I supposed it has to be a joke. I was terrified, when I realize it´s serious. (Sorry for my English). Zuzinick

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