There are various factors associated with babies sleeping next to their moms such as frequent breastfeeding, temperature regulation, emotional reassurance, and physical attention. And all of them converge together on the baby’s healthy mind and body, which helps him sleep better.
To start with, I would like to quote Dr. James McKenna, author of Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Co-sleeping writes in one of his articles:
“…neurologically-based infant responses to maternal smells, movements, and touch altogether reduce infant crying while positively regulating infant breathing, body temperature, absorption of calories, stress hormone levels, immune status, and oxygenation.”
Table of Contents
Sleeping together is an adaptation
The mother’s chest raises a bit after giving birth, as an adaptation. Moreover, her temperature rises when the baby’s temperature falls and falls when the baby’s temperature rises.
So, nature is working under the assumption that the infant is sleeping closest to the mother. The mother’s body can naturally look after the baby when co-sleeping, which ultimately helps him sleep better.
Longer infancy: longer care period
For sound sleep, baby’s temperature, hunger, breathing, and pulse patterns need to be taken care of, because human infants cannot cater to their needs themselves, unlike other mammals.
Humans spend twice the duration in childhood and adolescence than other primates.
In general, most species have their children independent in about a year after birth. But a human infant needs constant care and attention, and that also for a longer period.
This can be ensured only by the parents, and no one else. He needs to be monitored for 24 hours. You need to keep a constant check on his temperature, if his breathing rate is normal, the pulse is normal, or his nasal passages need cleaning, or if he is constantly itching some area on his body, or he needs warmth or cold.
The babies when they are growing up may also choke on small objects they are playing with. This is not very uncommon even at night when you are sleeping but the baby may be awake.
You may argue on this by saying that you are careful enough not to put such swallowable objects near your baby. But it has been reported so many times, that a piece or body part of a toy broke or got separated and the baby swallowed.
Not a child’s play, right!
Emotional and Physical Attention
Along with the regions of language, thinking, and memory, the human brain has developed emotionally and psychologically impacting areas. The biggest culprit is the limbic system. Research says “the formation of social attachments is a critical component of human relationships.”
This fact makes it even more essential for the mothers/parents to develop a bond of care, respect, love, emotional reassurance, and attention with their babies.
Sleeping with your baby helps in doing so while taking rest as well. Children deprived of enough physical and emotional attention grow up to face numerous behavioral, emotional, and social problems.
Don’t worry. We will be having a scientific basis for this as well, and not some beating around the bush with 15th-century wisdom quotes (although in my case they are more convincing).
A baby whether human or not can familiarize. Look at the animals. They all look alike. But the babies recognize their mothers and mothers, babies. You need this familiarity bond with your infant. Co-sleeping offers you the best opportunity in this case. But how is this bond beneficial?
Children growing up in orphanages were reported to have imbalanced hormonal levels, especially having raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And this pertained years after adoption according to a study from Development and Psychopathology. This shows infancy has longer-lasting effects than we can imagine.
Humans with lower stress hormone levels sleep better.
Also, stronger mother-baby bond makes the both the mother and the baby more responsive to each other!
The importance of skin to skin contact time cannot be overestimated. Mechanosensory stimulation has emerged as an important stimulatory factor of growth and development in infants.
Premature infants or institutionalized children show “impaired growth and cognitive development”. Institutionalized infants scored higher on developmental assessments with 20 min of tactile stimulation per day for ten weeks. [L Casler]
Sleeping with the mother provides sufficient skin-to-skin contact time. This is even more important right after birth.
Regular and prompt feeding
Babies sleeping next to mothers can entertain their feed needs. Suckling is one of the instincts that babies are born with. When they are hungry, they look for the mother’s nipples to suckle. This gives the mother a prompt signal that her baby is hungry.
In this way, he can get more sleep as the baby or the mother does not have to be fully active for the purpose of feeding, preventing sleep interruptions.
Besides, because breast milk is low in fats and proteins, and can’t provide for longer-lasting feed. It contains instantly digestible sugars, which means the baby may need to be fed many times during the night.
This can create problems when parents are sleeping in another room. Hunger can also interfere with the normal sleeping pattern of the baby.
Co-sleeping and feeding after intervals during the night also provides the baby with regular doses of antibodies, since breast milk is rich in antibodies.
History of Mother-Infant separation
Parents and babies sleeping in different rooms are deeply-rooted in western civilization. This behavior developed under two basic theories:
- Co-sleeping makes children extremely dependent on their parents. And it becomes difficult to make them sleep on different beds afterward.
- Co-sleeping infants may be at risk of accidental suffocation, resulting in SIDS (Sleeping Infant Death Syndrome).
Overlying and suffocating the sleeping infant was common before the middle ages in poverty-stricken over-crowded areas. That’s where the risk for SIDS originally comes from.
Of course, this can be dealt with some basic changes, such as avoiding intoxication, smoking, or getting a stiffer mattress, etc. You may seek expert bed-sharing guidance on how to make the arrangement as safe as possible.
With all this research we did, all the social, psychological, physiological, even emotional aspects of this common question “do babies sleep better with mom” shows that yes they do sleep better overall with mom.