Skip to main content

I’ve been wanting to write about this for some time. I think baby sleep is a much-discussed yet misunderstood subject, so I would like to bring some clarity to the matter. Now after being able to compare first and second baby sleep, and having read the very insightful book of Dr. James Mckenna; “Safe Infant Sleep”, I think I have enough knowledge to share with you my personal thoughts and professional opinions.

Let me start by saying that we, in Western society, have been completely indoctrinated by the capitalistic patriarchy to think that a “good baby” has to learn to sleep by itself. No other society on the planet (and no other mammal) does this. If you look at our biology and the physical as well as the emotional needs of a small baby, it is ludicrous to think that would ever work. It is just a scheme made by big corporations to sell you bullshit. Think about all the things you thought you needed, yet in the end, are utterly useless when the baby sleeps on you. A crib, a sleep sack, a swaddle, a pacifier, a monitoring camera, a white noise device, a sleep training course, and so on… All these things just try to substitute the mother’s presence. The idea was making a mother obsolete, and the result is just very frustrated mothers and fathers who try their best to lay their babies “drowsy but awake” and don’t understand why they end up crying.

Baby’s needs are very simple. Hunger (Breasts), warmth (closeness), sleep and feeling safe. A baby’s instinct is to be close to their mother. It is indeed logical, they aren’t ready to fend for themselves and they only know their mom. Her smell, her sound, her milk. Without it, there is absolute panic. They can’t think logically, like oh, that is my father or other caretaker so I will be fine. This doesn’t happen. So if the mother is not there, the baby will be stressed, and cortisol levels will rise. This is undeniable.

Far from mom = Cortisol = Fight, flight & freeze mode. No optimal development.
Close to mom = Oxytocin = Safe mode. Optimal brain development.


See studies by Dr. James Mckenna and Dr. Niels Bergman 

No one prepares us for the postpartum. Our whole life we have been presented with an unrealistic model of it. In TV shows, movies, etc. We don’t share homes and don’t see other families during their postpartum like we used to in tribes and communities. We have no idea what it is actually like. So most moms discover after labor and birth (usually an over-medicalized and/or traumatizing birth) that this little baby, even though earthside, still wants to be on their mothers 24/7. Of course with bathroom breaks, but nature has made it this way so mothers can rest, lay down with their babies, and let their families do the rest. This however doesn’t often happen anymore, we are left alone during this time. New moms have little to no help in the postpartum and are expected to do everything alone. Let me tell you this is not how it should be. You physically cannot. I remember feeling so distraught after my first birthing experience, and I was so tired. But I felt guilty for not folding the laundry or taking out the dog. All things new moms shouldn’t have to worry about. My advice? ask for help in this time, from friends, family, and a postpartum doula.

So what do you need for safe infant sleep:

A firm mattress. No duvet covers or pillows near the baby, and no gaps. Baby sleeps in between the parents or on the mother. For formula-fed babies, a sidecar crib is advised. Parents may not smoke nor drink and bedshare. It increases the risk of SIDS. Also, be careful with certain medications which can make you drowsy. A big risk is overheating, so watch out for that. Babies should always sleep in the same room with their parents until at least 12 months.

It is proven that breastfeeding decreases the risk of SIDS tremendously. One of the biggest arguments of sleep trainers is that breastfed babies wake up more often. This is true, but it’s a good thing. Hear me out. Babies need to develop the ability to get out of deep sleep, which is why frequent wakings are safer. Babies staying in deep sleep have a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome. But these are “mini wakings”. If you bedshare, you simply breastfeed while both laying down and fall back asleep within minutes. The book “Safe Infant Sleep” has much more information about this. I highly recommend it.

I personally love contact naps. I feel this way I get some deserved rest and gives me the opportunity to slow down time and enjoy being with my baby. With my first baby, I was shocked she didn’t nap on her own. She only would really sleep on me. So after many tries, I just “gave in” and let her do all naps on me, or on her dad. This worked for us, although being completely ignorant of the subject, I thought we were spoiling her. Oh little did I know, that she wasn’t ready to leave my body completely. Little did I know she still needed my warmth, smell, and the safe feeling of mom. She wasn’t spoiled at all, it was her basic instinct and biology telling her that life without me wasn’t safe. That she would have to be close to me at all times. Once we gave into reality, we figuratively became kangaroos and had her sleeping on us always. This took away so much stress. We either contact napped together or let her sleep in a baby carrier.

With our second baby, we already knew all there was to know about infant sleep. And I must say, in her 6 months of life, we have had very few sleepless nights. Sleep is not an issue, not something we dread. It is something we enjoy together.



    Signup to my newsletter

    Sign up for my free mailings to keep up to date!
    Ps: I won’t send you annoying daily emails, promise x

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.