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Sweet Sleep is the first and most complete book on nights and naps for breastfeeding families. It’s mother-wisdom, reassurance, and a how-to guide for making sane and safe decisions on how and where your family sleeps, backed by the latest research. It’s 4 A.M. You’ve nursed your baby five times throughout the night. You’re beyond exhausted. But where can you breastfeed safely when you might fall asleep? You’ve heard that your bed is dangerous for babies. Or is it? Is there a way to reduce the risk? Does life really have to be this hard? No, it doesn’t. Sweet Sleep is within reach. This invaluable resource will help you
• sleep better tonight in under ten minutes with the Quick Start guide—and sleep safer every night with the Safe Sleep Seven checklist • sort out the facts and fictions of bedsharing and SIDS • learn about normal sleep at every age and stage, from newborn to new parent • direct your baby toward longer sleep when he’s ready • tailor your approach to your baby’s temperament • uncover the hidden costs of sleep training and “cry it out” techniques • navigate naps at home and daycare • handle concerns from family, friends, and physicians • enjoy stories and tips from mothers like you • make the soundest sleep decisions for your family and your life
Advance praise for Sweet Sleep “Chock-full of advice and information . . . The editors smartly break the information into digestible bits organized by topics and age ranges. And for any parent desperate for an uninterrupted few hours of sleep, the advice is worth the read. Sweet Sleep includes extensive information on creating a safe sleep space, helping children learn to sleep on their own and defusing criticism of your family’s choices. . . . This book is nothing but supportive of whatever your choices are about nursing and sleeping.”—BookPage
“An essential guide for parents . . . detailed, practical advice on bed sharing and breast-feeding, with basic guidelines for safe bed sharing outlined in seven steps.”—Publishers Weekly
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Sweet Sleep
New-baby greeting cards joke about the 2:00 a.m. feeding, but at 2:00 a.m., it’s no joke. Too many of today’s new mothers feel like zombies during the day, desperate for sleep that their night didn’t provide. Their babies wail, their partners complain or take turns walking the floor. Every feeding means time out of bed. Sleep training takes nerves of steel, but it’s starting to look appealing. And everyone asks, “Is he sleeping through the night yet?”
Breastfeeding mothers can have even more concerns: “How and where do I nurse at night, and what if I fall asleep? How and where do I nurse lying down, and what if I fall asleep? Should I nurse my baby to sleep, and what if I fall asleep? Would it be easier just to pump and have my partner bottle-feed at night? Would formula or solids make him sleep better? How do I switch sides lying down? Are we safer on the sofa? If I let this baby into my bed, will she ever leave?”
And maybe the most pressing question of all: “If breastfeeding works best when I keep my baby close and nurse frequently, but everyone tells me it’s not safe to be next to my baby for one-third of every day, then how on earth can I keep breastfeeding and keep my sanity?”
Breastfeeding ≠ Bottle-Feeding Sweet Sleep starts with a few reality checks. Breastfeeding isn’t just bottle-feeding with a better-looking container. In fact, a breastfeeding mother and her baby are often viewed by researchers as a single unit—a “breastfeeding dyad”—with hormones, instincts, and reflexes that promote safe and nurturing interactions. It’s an age-old recipe for mothering that research is just beginning to rediscover.
We’re rediscovering, for instance, that the mothers who get the most sleep of all new mothers are—surprise!—the ones who sleep right beside their exclusively breastfed babies, just as mothers always did before they were told not to. But today’s breastfeeding mothers are warned that this simple solution isn’t safe. Since other arrangements mean less sleep, they’ll try anything to get more rest. It might be a crib, a sleep-training method, nighttime bottles of formula, or a sofa, any of which can actually increase risk. There’s a limit to how far a culture can bend normal, healthy biology before something has to give. This book’s purpose is to help you use built-in instincts and research-based information to choose a healthy, responsible path that meets your family’s, your baby’s, and your own needs.
There’s Risk—and There’s Risk Nighttime has always had risks. A mostly unconscious baby in the care of a mostly unconscious mother? Not ideal. But it’s also not humanly possible to stay awake 24/7. So what’s a mother to do?
After analyzing the research and talking with researchers, we’ve developed the Safe Sleep Seven: seven very clear criteria that address the risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS, or crib death) and suffocation. Meeting all seven means that your baby’s risk of SIDS when he’s sleeping next to you in your bed is no greater than when he’s alone in a crib. And following this book’s Safe Surface guidelines hugely reduces any breathing risks no matter where your baby sleeps.
In fact, we’re recommending that all breastfeeding mothers prepare for bedsharing whether or not they ever intend to do it, since research finds that most breastfeeding mothers do sleep with their babies at some point and preparing for bedsharing is safer than accidentally falling asleep together. And even those researchers who are concerned about bedsharing agree that by four months, it’s a non-issue.
These ideas may not be what you’ll hear from your family, friends, or health care providers, so we’ll back them up with research every step of the way. It’s research that you haven’t seen in sleep books before—research that we’re realizing barely scratches the surface. Carefully designed research that begins with certain assumptions:
Breastfeeding is our biological norm. Much of today’s sleep research uses the formula-fed baby—a cultural norm—as its starting point. This means we’re likely to read that “breastfed babies eat more often and sleep less than normal.” But when research starts with the biological norm of breastfeeding, as good science requires, it finds that formula-fed babies eat less often and sleep longer than normal. And that puts a whole new face on things.
Definitions matter. This book is very careful with its definitions, because muddled terms have created serious misconceptions. “Co-sleeping,” for instance, can mean sharing a room with your baby, or sharing a bed, or sharing a sofa or recliner. The term is meaningless when it can mean so many different things, so we won’t be using it at all. “Bedsharing” is also a confusing term. To some researchers, “bedsharing” includes “sofa-sharing” and “recliner-sharing.” Mixing beds and sofas and recliners in one term could make mothers think they are all equally safe. They aren’t. So in this book, we’ll be using the term “bedsharing” to mean exactly and only sharing a bed. And we’ll explain why some other settings can be risky.
Clarity is crucial. Some researchers and policy statements now combine SIDS with smothering and other completely different risks. We’ll define the various terms and keep them separate so that you have a clear understanding of which situations involve which risks, how great the risks are, and what you can do to reduce them. You’ll learn about the “triple risk” theory that helps clarify which babies are vulnerable to SIDS, along with some ways to help protect them. And you’ll learn some of the flaws in the research and policies that have made so many mothers afraid to follow their instincts and their hearts about how they spend their nights.
Bottom line: If you fit the Safe Sleep Seven criteria, careful research says you’re not the mother the bedsharing warnings are intended for. But you are the mother this book is intended for.
What’s in It for You? This book is for all women who were, are, or plan to be breastfeeding mothers. Do you combine breastfeeding and bottle-feeding? Are you back at work? An adoptive mother? Do you have multiples? You’ll find yourself in this book.
Part I, “Sleeping Better,” gives you a ten-minute (or less) way to make your bed safe for “emergency bedsharing” on a night when you’re just too tired to get out of bed one more time. It introduces you to the Safe Sleep Seven criteria and how to meet them. Part II, “Mothers and Babies Together,” is about how breastfeeding mothers and babies are attuned to each other and what normal sleep patterns look like for each of them. Part III, “Sleep and Bedsharing Practicalities,” is all about naps, nights, the personalities you spend the night with, and ways for you and your child to get more sleep. You’ll learn about “front-loading,” an effective way of structuring your days to make your nights easier.
In Part IV, “Sleep Ages and Stages,” we’ll cover the typical naps and nights for your baby, toddler, and preschooler. Part V, “Safe-Sleep Science,” tackles the tough stuff—sleep training, suffocation, SIDS, and the flaws in the research that have made bedsharing so controversial. Part VI, “Help,” answers some common questions, from pets on the bed to overnights at Grandma’s. And finally, there’s information on how to find help as well as how to give help to other mothers using the wisdom you’ve learned through your own family’s sleep journey.
Sometimes it helps to keep information right at hand. The Tearsheet Toolkit in the back of the book has pages that you can tear out and post for yourself, share with your care provider, even mail to your close-but-far-away friends and family. You’ll also find electronic formats that you can email or text on the La Leche League International website at llli.org/sweetsleepbook.
La Leche League International is the most trusted name in breastfeeding information, support, and advocacy. Founded in 1956 by seven intrepid women, La Leche League now has more than 7,000 accredited leaders in sixty-eight countries, and offers phone, online, and in-person consultation to breastfeeding mothers.