Infant sleep, breastfeeding & breastsleeping.

There is no such thing as infant sleep, there is no such thing as breastfeeding, there is only breastsleeping.
- James McKenna, PhD

James McKenna is the director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory (University of Notre Dame), Anthropologist and world-renowned expert on infant sleep.

Here is what he shares with us:
“At birth the human infant is the least neurologically mature primate of all, and the most reliant on physiological regulation by the caregiver for the longest period of time.

Until recent historic periods in the western industrialized world no human infants were ever separated from their caregivers– most human infants know only constant contact, exclusive breastfeeding and proximity, made necessary by the infants extreme neurological immaturity, lack of ambulatory abilities, and need for frequent breastfeeding both day and night. “

What exactly is infant-parent cosleeping? “A generic concept referring to the diverse ways in which a primary caregiver, usually the mother, sleeps within close proximity (arms reach) of the infant permitting each to detect and respond to a variety of sensory stimuli (sound, movement, smells, sight etc.) emitted by the other. Cosleeping is the universal (species wide) sleeping arrangement.

For the human infant contact with another body is love…in the most profound and scientific sense…nutrition, transportation, immunity, body warmth, calorie absorption, hormonal levels, heart rate, sleep architecture, neuronal proliferation.”

There is no such thing as a baby, there is a baby and someone. - D.Winnicott

The benefits of cosleeping

  • Baby remains at a more stable body temperature and breathes more regularly

  • Baby uses energy more efficiently, grows faster, and experiences less stress

  • Babies who are not necessarily breastfed, as in the case of adoption, will also naturally reap the many other benefits of such close contact

  • When babies are artificially put into deeper sleep through formula-feeding and the sensory isolation of a separate room, they not only are deprived of this close interaction and its attendant physical and emotional benefits, but the risk of SIDS rises. (By contrast, in cultures where co-sleeping is the norm, incidents of SIDS are far lower or even unheard of).

  • Not all cosleeping arrangements are safe: Parental smoking, drinking, and drug use make parents insensitive to their babies. The presence of other children and/or heavy duvets that can smother, are also are dangerous. So are places where a baby can get trapped, like gaps between beds or in couches or recliners. (Here you can find guidelines for safe cosleeping)

  • Mothers who breastfeed wake more often but have a better quality and duration of sleep

While there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy in regards to sleeping arrangements it’s important for parents to receive information both on safe bed-sharing, co-sleeping and separate surface sleeping so you can make an informed choice that is right for you and your family.

Nathalie Solis