Bed Sharing with Amanda Jansen
Today we're talking about bed sharing with Amanda Jansen, who is a registered nurse and IBCLC. She has eight years of L & D and postpartum experience as a nurse. (This blog is pulled from a The Birth Lounge podcast interview with Amanda Jansen.)
So let's start off with the basics.
What is Bed Sharing?
If you get online, you'll realize there's not a set definition. Just to make it clear bed sharing, obviously infants in the bed with you. Co-sleeping, you know, there's something right beside the bed, like kind of like an arms reach but not necessarily, you know, right next to mom. And then there's room sharing, which could just be a crib in the same room with you. So those are the three levels parents should be informed of, and then of course the independent sleep in a separate room, that a lot of families choose to do.
So a little bit more of my history. I did bed share with my first as a postpartum nurse, you know, I'm teaching parents, you know, the ABC's asleep. I was working in a hospital setting at that time and this was kind of around the time that the you could get a special initiative if you follow these five things, you couldn't have pictures of babies cuddling with a blanket in the hospital, because it was against this specific initiative.
So we were kind of given this gag order where we couldn't share anything outside of the ABCs of sleep- alone on their back in the crib. I mean, there's other little things that have kind of been tacked on to that, to additionally decrease the risk. But when you're only given that, and you're in either that dire situation where you're like, so sleep deprived and you literally cannot help yourself to fall asleep with your baby. I think we've all done it, like, that's what happened to me. I had my rocker and my nursery that I would get up and go to every three to four hours. There are times where you start nodding off and you like look down and you're so thankful that you didn't drop the baby or the baby didn't fall into the crack of that oversized, plush sofa. The American furniture industry was not made for baby.
How to Bed Share
Parents just need to know where to get good information. And that's the road I like to go on. So if you're going to do it there definitely are things that need to be put in place to make it safe. The number one resource that I like to send parents to is James McKenna's work.
So he actually has, you know, the mother-baby like sleep laboratory that where he's put babies up against mom, it's a monitored situation. They're monitoring heart rate, oxygen levels, respiratory rate, brainwaves, etc. He actually has some guidelines on there that you can print out and read through. But the main thing is sober parent. No drug use, no heavy sedating of like medications. Baby needs to be termed. So preterm babies are definitely more at risk, because of the brain development. And there's so much that we still don't know about SIDS.
So we've got no alcohol use, no drug use, no sedation medications. Then it needs to be like a primary caregiver. So mom, dad, both aware that baby's in bed. Both parents have to be on board and agree. Both parents should have a sense of awareness and not be incredibly deep sleepers. Also, ideally, until the infant is one, they should not be sleeping in a bed with an older sibling (who may be lacking awareness of their body while sleeping).
There's a few other things. Long hair needs to be tied back cause it could be a strangling issue. Where your baby sleeps actually in the bed around the other adults in the bed matters as well. Moms have an instinctual position, it's been coined or termed the C hold (knees are at an angle and you kind have your arm around baby). They're snuggled in that perfect little spot that our bodies were made to either breastfeed or sleep in, So it really just depends on bed size, size of the parents- what you feel comfortable with.
Also, a lot of parents don't want to put your mattress on the floor, so that's another thing. Getting the mattress off a platform in case the baby would roll off as they get a little bit bigger. You also then want to avoid any type of gap or crack against a dresser or a nightstand or something that could entrap baby and fixate them.
If we do it appropriately - no heavy bedding- then you can still sleep with a pillow, you can still have a light blanket on the lower part of your body. I personally like to sleep with just a nursing bra, because loose clothing is just another thing to factor in. So just removing all those things that you can control and knowing what to look out for.
It is also really important to say babies should still be on their back when they're in bed.
You know, as an IBCLC, I saw moms, you know, they went back to work, either babies, you know, maybe. Started eating less during the day because the bottle refusal, and then their babies were cluster feeding, you know, at night. And they were either going to wane altogether or, you know, they were dragging their tired bodies, you know, to a nursery, you know, three, four or five times a night.
And it just was not, it's not sustainable. And so that's where I think that. Yeah, implementing the safer steps if you choose to continue to breastfeed should be a valid option. I wasn't able to really give that to parents in the hospital setting. So that is what I do now in my private practice.
I bring the information. Parents make that decision for them and their family.
How about swaddling?
It's not recommended that they be swaddled. Being against another human is so much more subtle in bed sharing space. So it's not recommended that they are swaddled, they could be in a sleep sack if you want their feet contained, but their arms actually should not be restricted. They get the same sensory input. It just is in a different way.
Can you bed share no matter how you feed?
We should be exclusively breastfeeding. I think a lot of people are trying to work on breast milk and bottle being the same. However, if you're waking up and doing a bottle versus a bottle of breast milk versus feeding directly at the breasts, but it gets a little tricky because while it may not impact baby as much, just that mom baby connection, the slight hormone adjustments, and just the awareness of breastfeeding mother has it is slightly different.
It is specifically with James McKenna and his recommendations. It should be breastfeeding mothers. And he's actually coined the term breast sleeping, so it should just be exclusively milk from the breast.
Sleep deprivation can cause so many issues. If you want to start going down the maternal mental health route it's huge. There are some instances where we need to be more careful if you were to that point where you just cannot even carry a conversation, you are so tired. That's probably not the time to start bed sharing. That's what I would call in your outer resources. Bring baby to you to be fed, overnight care, etc.
Sleep deprivation will absolutely impact your healing too. So I think if you're in a bind and you know, maybe a doula isn't within your means to have, have your partner get up and go get your baby and bring them to you.
It's also an option for you to set up camping your baby's nursery. Reduce the amount of time that you spend out of bed in a awake yeah, sleep deprivation is huge.
So just to set the scene for everyone, some of the benefits of not having to get out of the bed is, you know, let's say you're laying in bed with your baby bed sharing and they start to wake because they're hungry. You don't get out of bed. You don't have to turn on the light. You don't have to get really situated. You just get situated enough to get a boob in their mouth and they're already on their back. You keep it dark. So you don't you know, you don't kind of get your baby more. Awake than they really need to be. You don't have to get more awake than you really need to be.
It's just easier.
Seek out the information and seek out the resources. If something just intuitively does not feel good for you. You can find what works for you. Feel free to take and choose and leave from all the options that you know, to make up your own equation.
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