When promoting ecological breastfeeding for all its benefits including the natural spacing of births, bed-sharing is taught. At one of Dr. James McKenna’s lecture, he gave out two bed-sharing papers. One sheet showed 10 benefits of bed-sharing for the baby and the other, 10 benefits for the mother. Interestingly, one of the 10 bed-sharing benefits for the mother was significantly highlighted. That benefit was namely, amenorrhea for the mother, which he noted “suppresses ovulation thereby increasing birth interval.”
We have been teaching ecological breastfeeding since the late Sixties, and no one has written us saying they lost their baby due to ecological breastfeeding. The last blog I wrote mentioned how to do safe bed-sharing, and the NFPI website has information on this at the home page at “links.”
I recently heard from a mother who lost her baby while ecologically breastfeeding but she was not bed-sharing at the time. The baby was alone in an adult bed, slept on her tummy, and was developmentally behind. The mother obviously regrets leaving the baby alone, thinking she could have been there to help. Here is part of her correspondence to me:
“I bought your book the Seven Standards of Ecological Nursing, and following your 7 standards helped me remain without periods till my 3rd child was 9 months old. I was so happy I even told all my friends about your book. I used your 7 standards for my 4th child and was still without menstruating at 6 months postpartum when she died suddenly in her sleep.. She loved nursing on demand, co-sleeping and being held in the moby wrap. Sadly she died in her sleep Friday, August 1st. In the evening I nursed her to sleep while we were both lying in my big double bed, then I put her sleeping on tummy (the position she preferred sleeping in) near corner of bed which was fully next to the wall. Away from my pillow. I covered her lower body with my quilt. She was dressed warmly and wearing a hat because it was such a cold winter night. (I live in the southern hemisphere). (She used to cry when she was too cold and usually cried when left sleeping on her back). The heater was on and window was slightly open. I left her sleeping peacefully in my bed and went out of the room. A bit later I heard her cry for a very brief short time and stopped crying. I didn’t go to her because I thought she went back to sleep like she sometimes does to resettle herself without me. When I was about to go to sleep I looked for her in my bed but I did not see her. Then I saw a lump under my quilt. I picked up my quilt and found my baby lifeless all the way on the other side of my bed under my quilt. She had never before moved herself such a far distance in her life. She had a constant runny nose and was slightly behind developmentally. No one in my house smokes or drinks alcohol. I would love to co-sleep with my next baby g-d willing when I will be blessed with one.” (The writer’s spelling of the divine name is a Jewish custom.)
I use this sad experience to stress one other rule regarding bed-sharing and ecological breastfeeding. Never leave your baby unattended. Keep your baby with you in your area of activity or sleep, whether the baby is sleeping or not.
During the day if I was tired, I nursed my baby in our bed. If I awoke, I would bring the baby to my area of activity. Many times I had a firm quilt on the floor in the corner of the dining room and nursed the baby to sleep and I rested there while doing so. If I had to go downstairs to do laundry, the infant came with me. In the evening I would nurse the baby to sleep and kept the sleeping baby near us until we retired for the evening and brought the baby to our bed.
Some mothers have written me that their baby awakes and cries because mother is not there. With mother-baby togetherness, as I have described, this is rare because mother is right there or nearby. I have always stressed that the key to ecological breastfeeding is mother-baby togetherness. This togetherness is best for the baby, and it is also best for the mother.
Please read what the SIDS researcher said this month — that bed-sharing is NOT dangerous.
The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding (print or e-book)