Breastsleeping – 5 Fabulous Benefits For Mother And Baby

Breastsleeping - 5 Fabulous Benefits For Mother And Baby

Breastsleeping describes the practice of a breastfeeding mother sharing a sleep surface with her baby, in the absence of all hazardous factors.

The term was originally used in 2015, by Professor James McKenna of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab, at the University of Notre Dame.

You might not have heard the term ‘breastsleeping’ before, but the practice is far from new. In fact, according to Professor McKenna, it’s the oldest and most successful feeding and sleeping arrangement for human beings.

Based on evolutionary science, we know human babies are contact seekers. We have evolved to have the largest brains of any primate, and so we are born ‘earlier’ – partly due to the placenta’s inability to sustain such huge brain growth.

The result of this is that, at birth, human babies are the most defenceless of all animals, and therefore need constant nourishment and care.

Breastsleeping Benefits

Breastsleeping has many benefits, and here are 5 of them:

#1: Improved Breastfeeding Outcomes

Perhaps the most compelling argument in favour of breastsleeping is that it’s associated with longer breastfeeding duration, and reduced formula supplementation.

Breastfeeding is important for our own and our children’s health. Therefore anything that promotes longer breastfeeding duration should be recognised.

#2: Improved Maternal Sleep

Being a new mother can be exhausting. Therefore, anything that helps you to get more sleep has to be a good thing.

Breastsleeping mothers tend to get more sleep, compared with breastfeeding mothers who sleep separately from their babies, and mothers who formula feed.

In his research, Professor McKenna found that breastsleeping helps to synchronise the breathing and sleep cycles of a mother and her baby; the baby attaches to a mother’s breasts, and the mother adjusts her coverings, and kisses her baby’s head without either of them fully waking up.

Interestingly, mothers who practise breastsleeping perceive fewer infant sleep problems.

#3: Increased Arousals From Sleep

Increased arousals from sleep (and breastfeeding) are associated with a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Breastsleeping promotes not only breastfeeding, but also more frequent arousals from sleep.

#4: Improved Settling And Reduced Crying

Breastsleeping helps to settle a baby to sleep, and reduces infant crying.

Therefore breastsleeping can promote more restful sleep, and reduce long term anxiety associated with sleep.

Breastsleeping also assists with positive cortisol (stress hormone) regulation in babies.

It might therefore reduce the risk of dysfunctional stress responses later in life.

#5: Improved Social And Emotional Skills

Mothers who practise breastsleeping might also help their babies, later in life, to have:

  • Greater independence
  • Less anxiety
  • Improved behaviour at school
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Enhanced social skills
  • Fewer psychiatric problems

That’s a persuasive list of the benefits of breastsleeping!

Before deciding whether breastsleeping is right for you and your baby, be sure to inform yourself fully about what breastsleeping in the absence of all hazardous factors means.

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Renee Kam IBCLC CONTRIBUTOR

Renee Kam is mother to Jessica and Lara, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


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