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Co-Sleeping With Your Newborn- A Complete Guide

After 9 long months of anticipation and mixed emotions, you finally get to welcome your little bundle of joy into the world. You’ve gained valuable knowledge about the pros and cons of co-sleeping vs. crib- sleeping through the hundreds of books, articles, and magazines that you’ve read. 273.75 days were spent preparing for motherhood but, you’re torn. Which do you choose? In this complete guide you will become familiar with what co-sleeping actually means, the relationship between co-sleeping and breastfeeding as well as the relationship between co-sleeping and sudden infant death syndrome, the pros and cons of co-sleeping, guidance for safe sleep and bed sharing, the relationship between co-sleeping in early childhood and social experiences during infancy, recommendations presented by the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA), the famous Parent- Infant Co-Sleeping Debate, and tips on how to stop sleeping with your newborn.

Co-sleeping with newborn

What is Co-Sleeping?

Here in the United States, a growing trend exists among families with newborn babies. Since 1993, more moms are choosing to hold their infants close throughout the night. This child-rearing practice of bedsharing, defined as infants and young children sharing a bed with their parents for sleep, has grown from about 6 percent to 24 percent in 2015.

A recent survey of over 8,000 caregivers in the United States revealed that rates of regular parent-infant co-sleeping more than doubled between 1993 and 2000, from 5.5% to 12.8%. In contrast to the rapid practice of parent-infant co-sleeping in Western societies, clinicians continue to push for separate sleeping arrangements between parents and their infants. Truth be told, it is likely that numerous parents today feel so unsupported in their decision that they feel the need to conceal their choice from their childcare doctors.

Co-Sleeping With Siblings: Is It Safe?

In a study of urban Chicago families, researchers found that parental co-sleeping is not significantly associated with infant death, but co-sleeping with someone other than a parent, such as a sibling, was associated with increased risk.

Allowing other children to co-sleep in the bed with you and your baby is totally acceptable with caution and boundaries. Do not allow toddlers or older children to sleep directly next to the infant. If other children are sharing the bed, keep your partner between them and the baby.

Co-Sleeping With a Newborn- Instinct or Tradition?

From the moment the nurse places the newborn baby on the mother’s chest, there is an instant mother-infant interaction. This early skin- to- skin contact creates a physiological need to be together immediately after birth and during the hours and days that follow. Just like the nature vs. nurture debate, co-sleeping is both an instinct and a tradition around the world.

Co-Sleeping: Instinct

According to James Mckenna, an anthropologist who has been studying infant sleep for 40 years, mothers and infants mutually gravitate towards each other for survival. Human babies are contact seekers. What they need most is their mother’s and father’s bodies. Through the eyes of Mel Konner, an anthropologist at Emory University, the practice of bed-sharing has existed way before the discovery of the human species. Konner reveals that homo sapien moms and their newborns have been sleeping together for more than 200,000 years. Modern hunter-gatherer cultures provide insight into the traditional co-sleeping behaviors of our early progenitors. Even till this day, the practice continues to be universal and widespread around the world.

Co-Sleeping: Tradition

Yale University’s Human Relation Area Files presents evidence that bed-sharing is a tradition in at least 40 percent of all documented cultures. Some cultures even think it’s cruel to separate a mom and baby at night. In one study, Mayan moms in Guatemala responded with shock and pity when they heard that some American babies sleep away from their moms. In Japan, the most common sleeping arrangement is referred to as kawa no ji or the character for the river: 川. The child is represented by the shorter line and both the mother and father are represented by the longer lines.

Western culture, then again, has a long history of separating mothers and infants at night. Historians have noted that babies from wealthy Roman families slept alongside the bed in cradles and bassinets. By the 10th century, the Catholic Church started banning” infants from the parental bed to prevent poor women from intentionally suffocating an infant whom they didn’t have resources to care for. If a mother was caught sleeping with her one-year-old infant in her bed, she was excommunication from the church.

Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding

In the mid-1990s, Notre Dame’s James McKenna decided to figure out just what happens at night when a mom sleeps with her baby. What seemed relatively unthinkable to others was actually a relatively easy task for Mckenna and his colleagues to carry out.

To better understand the relationship between co-sleeping and breastfeeding, he transformed his laboratory into an apartment, recruited dozens of moms and babies to use in this study, and analyzed their bodies while they slept. Both the physical movements of the moms and babies were captured using infrared cameras, as well as their heart rate, breathing patterns, chest movement, body temperatures, brain waves and the carbon dioxide levels between the moms’ and babies’ faces.

What McKenna found was amazing. When the mother is breastfeeding, she positions her body around the infant that resembles a shell. Through experimental observations, he saw that the mother naturally arches her body around her baby and pulls up her knees just enough to touch the baby’s feet. Inside the “shell,” the infant hears the mother’s heartbeat and, thus, subconsciously slows down their own heart rate. Additionally, the child hears the mother’s breathing, which mirrors the sounds that the infant heard in the womb. It contains a swoosh, swoosh sound, which in turns sounds like, ‘hush, hush little baby.

 “It’s no wonder nearly every culture uses a swooshing sound to soothe a crying baby.” -Mckenna

The mom’s warm breath creates little clouds of carbon dioxide around the baby’s face. In spite of the fact that this may sound unsafe for the infant, the mother’s breath fortifies the child’s breathing and reminds them to take a full breath. McKenna found that for the duration of the night, babies who were breastfed in this investigation did not move all over the bed. Instead, newborns stood laser-focused on one location basically staring at their mother’s breast almost all night. In this study, it is evident that infants have evolved to experience this closeness, night after night after night.

Studies have shown that babies who aren’t breastfed have an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Based on James Mckenna’s research, breastfeeding keeps babies and mothers in a lighter stage of sleep, which decreases the risk of SIDS and promotes a greater awareness of what the other is doing.

Co-Sleeping and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year of age. Even after an autopsy, a thorough examination of the death scene, and an intense review of the deceased individual’s clinical history, an exact cause of this disease can remain unknown. Sometimes known as “crib death,” scientific researchers associate SIDS with deficits in the infant’s brain that control the infant’s breathing and arousal from sleep. While medical examiners have discovered a combination of sleep and environmental factors that might put your baby at risk, they’ve also identified simple measures that you can take to help protect your child from this tragic cause of death.

In a family co-sleeping with their newborn, possible causes of death are clarified by ecological components. On the off chance that the baby was born with brain deficits, low birthweight, or respiratory infections, the items in their crib and/or their sleeping position can ignite these physical issues. A blend of both sleep, environmental, and physical variables can extraordinarily build the danger of SIDS.

Albeit sudden infant death syndrome can strike any infant, scientists have recognized a few factors that may build a child’s hazard. They include:

  • Sex: Boys are slightly more likely to die of SIDS.
  • Age: Infants are most vulnerable between the second and fourth months of life.
  • Race: For reasons that aren’t well-understood, nonwhite infants are more likely to develop SIDS.
  • Family history: Babies who’ve had siblings or cousins die of SIDS are at higher risk of SIDS.
  • Secondhand smoke: Babies who live with smokers have a higher risk of SIDS.
    Being premature: Both being born early and having a low birth weight increase your baby’s chances of SIDS.

In the early 2000s, a few investigations found that bed-sharing considerably raised a child’s danger of SIDS. In these cases, the proof is solid and clear. Parents who drink or take drugs shouldn’t be sleeping with their infants since they could move over onto their child. Mothers who’ve just given birth to infants who are premature should not smoke or sleep in the same bed as their babies because of potential respiratory issues that can occur in the infant. Suffocation can likewise happen when babies sleep on couches since babies can be caught in between their parent and the cushions.

Peter Blair, a medical statistician at the University of Bristol, and his colleagues spent 25 years studying SIDS epidemiology. They found that a baby was 18 times more likely to die of SIDS when sleeping next to a parent who had been drinking. In another study, they found a similar risk for babies sleeping on sofas.

However, what about families who don’t drink or smoke? Whose babies aren’t premature or underweight?

In an analysis from two case-control studies in the UK, Robert Platt, a biostatistician at McGill University, examined the relationship between sudden infant death syndrome and infants who co-sleep in the absence of hazardous circumstances. One examination included 400 total SIDS cases and just 24 cases in which the infant had shared the bed without parental hazards. In the other examination, there were only 12 of these cases out of 1,472 SIDS deaths. In the last investigation, some data about the parent’s drinking propensities was missing. Nevertheless, the two examinations arrived at comparative conclusions. For babies older than 3 months of age, there was no detectable increased risk of SIDS among families that practiced bed-sharing, in the absence of other hazards. So far, only two studies have looked at this question.

Platt believes that there may be an increased risk among babies who are younger than 3 months. He further explains that if there is an increased risk, it’s probably not of a comparable magnitude to some of these other risk factors, such as smoking and drinking alcohol. In other words, the risks present in this age group do not pose as much as a risk than parents who decide to co-sleep with their children after they’ve just smoked a cigarette or drank a beer, or two. Overall, the two studies suggest bed-sharing, when no other hazards are present, raises the risk of SIDS by about threefold.

Co-sleeping and SIDS Risk Factors

  • Parents who become tired easily, sleep heavily, consume alcohol or take medication that affects their level of consciousness
  • Illness of either the mother or the baby: First and foremost, you must take care of your health and your baby’s health before co-sleeping with your newborn. Skin- to- skin contact easily distributes germs between the mother and her baby.
  • Babies who are underweight or preterm
  • Sofas and/or waterbeds
  • Soft bedding and pillows
  • Excessive pillows and duvet covers
  • Room Temperature
  • Bedding that covers the infant’s head

Smoking serves as another significant risk factor in sudden infant death syndrome. Compared to their non- smoking counterparts, babies are 15 times more likely to die from SIDS if their mothers smoke during their pregnancy. In 1998, the Department of Health conducted a survey where only 9% of women knew that smoking in pregnancy increased the risk of SIDS. The CESDI Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy (SUDI) Studies found that babies who died within the first year of life were twice as likely to have been exposed to tobacco smoke, with the risk increasing with the number of hours of exposure.

The most frequent risk in bed-sharing arrangements is paternal alcohol consumption among certain social groups. Helen L. Ball found that: “the heaviest drinking bed-sharing fathers were of middle- income, socioeconomic classes III and IV, with little post-16 education, whose partners were breastfeeding their first infants.” As the numbers of babies who are breastfed increases in this section of the population, attention needs to be paid to the wider implications of these changes in infant care practices.

“The heaviest drinking bed-sharing fathers were of middle- income, socioeconomic classes III and IV, with little post-16 education, whose partners were breastfeeding their first infants.”- Helen L. Ball

Guidance for Safe Co-Sleeping and Bed Sharing

  • Keep the mattress firm: Co-sleeping should never take place on a water-bed, sofa, or old sagging mattress because this can put the infant at risk for suffocation.
  • Ensure that your baby’s sleep environment is free of any gaps or small spaces
  • Maintain the room temperature at a comfortable temperature – around 18°C.
  • Do not overdress or swaddle your baby: Care should be taken to ensure that the baby cannot become entangled in loose ties from nightwear. Parents should keep a close eye on signs of overheating, such as sweating or the chest feeling hot to the touch, throughout the night.
  • Keep pillows away from the baby
  • Keep the crib bare: There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.
  • If your partner is sharing the bed with you and your baby, make sure that he/she is aware that the baby is in the bed
  • Never allow pets to share the bed
  • Become aware of the protective “C”- shaped position for co-sleeping. This is especially important for bottle-feeding mothers
  • Never co-sleep with your infant if you’re under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
  • Regardless of where the infant sleeps, always place an infant on its back to sleep.
The New Zealand Strategy

Specialists have been utilizing the New Zealand Strategy for a considerable length of time and the outcomes have been tremendous. Since 2010, mortality rates have decreased as much as 30 percent in the realm of sudden infant death syndrome.

The New Zealand Strategy specifically figures out which babies are at high risk for SIDS. Through this strategy, families will not be shamed by their decision to co-sleep, rather, they’re being taught how to bed-share more safely. Doctors will talk about what increases the risk, such as drug use and alcohol use, and families are given a so-called Moses basket so that the family can bring the baby into the bed. If parents feel less judged by their doctors, then they are able to receive better advice about the dangerous circumstances surrounding SIDS.

Co-Sleeping Pros

An implied medical advantage of bedsharing is that it encourages increased frequency and duration of breastfeeding, which is broadly held to be the best strategy for nourishing youthful babies. Bedsharing promotes breastfeeding and greater bonding opportunities. While there is no current research contending that co-sleeping has a defensive impact against SIDS, James McKenna’s exploration has demonstrated that babies who sleep by their mothers exhibit positive physiological changes. These progressions can hypothetically decrease the dangers of SIDS.

Co-Sleeping Cons

Co-sleeping puts the infant at risk for sleep-related deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation, and accidental strangulation. About 3,700 babies die each year in the U.S. from sleep-related causes. From a psychiatric viewpoint, prolonged bed sharing may be considered symptomatic of maternal separation anxiety, an inability to set limits, difficulty maintaining a consistent child bedtime routine, or a disturbed mother-infant relationship.

Due to the fragmented and poor quality sleep of family members, elementary school children tend to act out and cause disruptions in family life. Concerns have been raised about the unfavorable results of bedsharing for family relations, particularly the marriage, with some warning that marital intimacy will suffer from prolonged bed sharing arrangements. Whereas bed- sharing can potentially hinder the romantic relationship between parents, there is a lack of empirical evidence to support this possible co-sleeping con. Solitary sleeping and co-sleeping families both report marital intimacy and partner satisfaction despite existing controversies.

In a study comparing both U.S. and Chinese elementary school children, the Chinese children were reported to have more sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep, fear of sleeping in the dark, talk during sleep, and restless sleep. Although researchers clearly see that these children are suffering from the consequences of sleep disturbances, do nighttime care providers see these characteristics as problematic? Cultural considerations must be included as researchers evaluate the disruption posed by night wakings and other sleep behaviors. Parental recognitions are socially bound and essential to an evaluation of what constitutes a sleep issue. The definitions of sleep onset and night waking problems in young children are, to a certain extent, culturally determined.

Co-Sleeping and Safety Concerns

Those who are against co-sleeping argue that the practice is, in many ways, a dangerous one that, because of health, developmental, and safety concerns, has been and should continue to be abandoned by health professionals and parents. On the other side of the spectrum, some researchers contend that the practice of bedsharing is only a risk factor for SIDS if parents smoke or engage in other hazardous practices. They’ve also argued that entrapment/suffocation is only associated with bedsharing due to other contextual factors such as bed safety (soft mattresses, sleeping together on a couch) and parental variables (e.g. intoxication, smoking).

Co-Sleeping and Childhood Development

One one side of this controversial debate, some researchers argue that co-sleeping deters childhood development. They see the first year as an opportunity for infants to master sleep consolidation and sleep regulation. Other research views the process of sleep consolidation and sleep regulation as a natural process that matures over the course of the first several years of life. Controversy on whether falling asleep and staying asleep should be done naturally and independently or with the aid of parental involvement continues to reign as an issue for this field.

Co-Sleeping: Psychosocial Outcomes

Another formative issue concerns the psychosocial outcomes for children and parents of early sleep arrangements. Of prime interest is whether the requisite path towards independence and separation–individuation will be derailed for bed- sharing infants. In particular, Western societies believe that children should acquire the skills that are needed to thrive as independent individuals. This promotes the belief that ‘self-soothing’ in infants is an important developmental milestone. Co-sleeping or sleeping with a parent or sibling prevents the infant from becoming independent. Despite these convictions, evidence suggests that children who co- slept with their parents during the first year of life, are fundamentally more autonomous in everyday living abilities and in their social relations with peers as preschoolers compared to solitary sleeping children.

In their 18-year longitudinal study of conventional and nontraditional families, Okami and colleagues found that bedsharing during infancy and early childhood was unrelated to long-term problems in sleep, sexual pathology or problems in other areas of behaviour. Some sleep specialists see constant night wakings and excessive dependence on parental help for going to sleep and staying asleep in newborns and young children who co-sleep. However, in numerous nations around the globe where bedsharing is the norm, reports of rest issues are uncommon.

Co-Sleeping in Early Childhood and Social Experiences During Infancy

Marie J. Hayes, Michio Fukumizu, Marcia Troese , Bethany A. Sallinen and Allyson A. Gilles studied the relationship between co- sleeping arrangements in early childhood and social experiences during infancy. They monitored this relationship by using sleep- wake behaviors that took place during the infancy and early childhood periods from current and retrospective parental reports.

A convenience sample of 3-to 5-year-old children was obtained from the University of Maine’s Child Study Center in Orono, Maine. The Child Study Center is part of the Psychology Department at the University and provides a preschool educational experience to families who are encouraged to take interest in the preschool’s research mission. The average age of the children was 3.8 years, 51% were female, and 73% were breastfed during infancy.

Results showed that early childhood co-sleeping was reactive. Co-sleeping in early childhood was associated with sleep location in infancy (i.e. proximity to the mother’s bed) during wake–sleep transitions and night feedings. In infancy, researchers recalled an inverse relationship between the use of security objects in early childhood and current parent- seeking behaviors, night waking, poor bedtime routines, fear of the dark, and social contact during wake–sleep transitions. These findings suggest that co-sleeping in early childhood is related to social experiences during infancy, particularly the amount of parent social contact and security object use.

At 12 months old, a newborn’s proximity to the mother’s bed was related to co-sleeping at 2 and 4 years of age. Infant sleep location in a different room was related to self- soothing techniques that were practiced independently by the infant. Self-calming was additionally identified with a more prominent delay in parental intervention for night crying. Self-soothing opportunities are presented to the infant with increased proximal distance from the maternal bed, less parental awareness of infant awakenings, and longer delays in responding.

Interestingly enough, the use of a sleep aid may do more harm than good at sleep onset. In infancy, security object attachment and difficulty without the object were associated with more solitary sleeping and independent sleep onset skills in early childhood. Infants who did not use a sleep aid were associated with more co-sleeping in early childhood. In sum, you will find that infants who have more independent sleep onset skills, solid sleep routines, and low rates of nightwalking in early childhood have a history of using a sleep aid during infancy. In Western society, it’s possible that parental encouragement of object use may be simply a corollary of parental practices that are cultural conventions. These parents believe that early independent sleep onset skills are best developed by the parental delay in response to infant night crying and ritualized bedtime routines.

Tips on How to Stop Co-Sleeping With Your Baby

It is evident that co-sleeping has both its pros and cons. If you are a parent who is 100% comfortable with continuing on the co-sleeping route, that’s totally fine! But if you are a parent who wants to slowly wean you and your child off of a co-sleeping agenda, then stay tuned for these tips on how to stop co-sleeping with your baby.

Why did you begin to co-sleep with your infant in the first place? How you address this issue relies upon how and why you are co-sleeping with your infant. However, regardless of your condition, there are additional components for an effective change.

You must have a consistent nighttime routine

Is your child going to sleep in your bed every night or not? On the off chance that your child resists or you miss that feeling when your child slept close to you throughout the night, you are disturbing the establishment of a new sleeping pattern. Keep in mind that intermittent reinforcement is a powerful mechanism for encouraging undesirable behavior. According to Craig Canapari, director of the Yale Pediatric Sleep Center, the number one reason families fail at extricating their child from their bed is that they are inconsistent.

Devise a sleep time plan

Consistency requires all hands on deck. All caregivers must be aware of what this new plan consists of. If you decide that the child will not be sharing the bed with you tonight, make sure your partner is aware of this decision. Discuss with your partner where your child will sleep during the day so you are prepared to act upon this decision at night.

Agree on a “quit date”

Choose a specific date to start a change in co-sleeping behaviors.

Make solitary sleeping fun

Feelings of apprehension are completely normal for anyone who’s facing any kind of change in a normal routine. But in terms of co-sleeping, some children might feel uncertain about spending the night alone in their own bedroom without their parents. To ease this scary situation, take your child to choose a new set of pajamas or a fun bedding set. Pick out a new stuffed animal to use as a transitional object.

Face this new experience alongside your child

The beginning of a solitary sleep routine is experienced by both the child and their family. You can’t expect your child to start sleeping by themselves in an unfamiliar place right off the bat so it’s important to ease into this new situation. Craig Canapari suggests that you move with your child in their room for a week or so before starting to withdraw your presence.

Help your baby fall asleep on their own

Your child is bound to wake up at some point during the night but in order to go back to sleep without parental aid, they have to work on falling back asleep on their own. Some parents find success in checking on their baby in the middle of the night and reassuring her, without picking her up or bringing her to bed with them.

Be patient

Rest assured, co-sleeping does not last forever! Just like any other behavior, solitary sleeping becomes automatic when the correct measures are taken. Eventually, your baby will learn how to sleep on their own and your bed will become yours again.

Please do not think of yourself as a so-called “bad parent” if you choose to co-sleep with your child at any stage of their lives. This article is not meant to make you feel that you failed your children in any way because you allow them to share the bed with you at night. I hope you found the information in this article useful and helpful. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

For further reading…

In an analysis from two case-control studies in the UK, Robert Platt, a biostatistician at McGill University, examined the relationship between sudden infant death syndrome and infants who co-sleep in the absence of hazardous circumstances. One examination included 400 total SIDS cases and just 24 cases in which the infant had shared the bed without parental hazards. In the other examination, there were only 12 of these cases out of 1,472 SIDS deaths. In the last investigation, some data about the parent’s drinking propensities was missing. Nevertheless, the two examinations arrived at comparative conclusions. For babies older than 3 months of age, there was no detectable increased risk of SIDS among families that practiced bed-sharing, in the absence of other hazards. So far, only two studies have looked at this question.

Platt believes that there may be an increased risk among babies who are younger than 3 months. He further explains that if there is an increased risk, it’s probably not of a comparable magnitude to some of these other risk factors, such as smoking and drinking alcohol. In other words, the risks present in this age group do not pose as much as a risk than parents who decide to co-sleep with their children after they’ve just smoked a cigarette or drank a beer, or two. Overall, the two studies suggest bed-sharing, when no other hazards are present, raises the risk of SIDS by about threefold.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Risk Factors:

The risk factors for SIDS include:

  • Parents who become tired easily, sleep heavily, consume alcohol or take medication that affects their level of consciousness
  • Illness of either the mother or the baby: First and foremost, you must take care of your health and your baby’s health before co-sleeping with your newborn. Skin- to- skin contact easily distributes germs between the mother and her baby.
  • Babies who are underweight or preterm
  • Sofas and/or waterbeds
  • Soft bedding and pillows
  • Excessive pillows and duvet covers
  • Room Temperature
  • Bedding that covers the infant’s head

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Smoking:

Smoking serves as another significant risk factor in sudden infant death syndrome. Compared to their non- smoking counterparts, babies are 15 times more likely to die from SIDS if their mothers smoke during their pregnancy. In 1998, the Department of Health conducted a survey where only 9% of women knew that smoking in pregnancy increased the risk of SIDS. The CESDI Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy (SUDI) Studies found that babies who died within the first year of life were twice as likely to have been exposed to tobacco smoke, with the risk increasing with the number of hours of exposure.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Alcohol:

The most frequent risk in bed-sharing arrangements is paternal alcohol consumption among certain social groups. Helen L. Ball found that: “the heaviest drinking bed-sharing fathers were of middle- income, socioeconomic classes III and IV, with little post-16 education, whose partners were breastfeeding their first infants.” As the numbers of babies who are breastfed increases in this section of the population, attention needs to be paid to the wider implications of these changes in infant care practices.

“The heaviest drinking bed-sharing fathers were of middle- income, socioeconomic classes III and IV, with little post-16 education, whose partners were breastfeeding their first infants.”- Helen L. Ball

American Academy of Pediatrics: Recommendations on SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an association of 66,000 essential care pediatricians, pediatric therapeutic subspecialists, and pediatric surgeons. They are committed to the wellbeing, security, and prosperity of newborn children, youngsters, teenagers and youthful grown-ups.

“SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment,” draws on new research and serves as the first update to Academy policy since 2011. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) expressed an opposition to bed-sharing with this statement: “It should be avoided at all times with a full-term normal-weight infant younger than 4 months.”

“It should be avoided at all times with a full-term normal-weight infant younger than 4 months.”- The American Academy of Pediatrics (APA)

Newly revised recommendations call for newborn babies to share their parents’ bedroom for the first six months and, optimally, for the first year of life. Parents should rest their baby on a firm sleep surface, such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet. Lori Feldman-Winter, a member on the Task Force on SIDS, says: “There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant’s breathing or cause overheating.” While infants are at an increased risk for SIDS between the ages of 1 and 4 months, new evidence demonstrates that soft bedding continues to pose hazards to babies who are 4 months and older. To guarantee a safe resting place for your baby, stay away from soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare and the infant should be placed on their back. Research has shown that room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.

“There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant’s breathing or cause overheating.”- Lori Feldman- Winter

Doctors strongly emphasize the importance of skin-to-skin care immediately following birth. Skin-to-skin contact ought to be limited if one, or both, parents smoke tobacco, abuse alcohol, or other illicit drugs. For this can jeopardize the infant’s health and ultimately, their life.

Breastfeeding is likewise prescribed as protection against SIDS. After feeding, the AAP urges guardians to move the infant to his or her separate sleeping space, preferably a crib or bassinet in the parents’ bedroom. Winter explains: “If you are feeding your baby and think that there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair. If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed.”

“If you are feeding your baby and think that there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair. If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed.”- Lori Feldman- Winter

Other recommendations include:

  • Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  • Do not use home monitors or commercial devices, including wedges or positioners, marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Infants should receive all recommended vaccinations.
  • Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development.

References

American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Safe-Sleep-Recommendations-to-Protect-Against-SIDS. (n.d.).

Canapari, C. (2015, November 10). How To Stop Co-sleeping. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from https://drcraigcanapari.com/want-to-stop-cosleeping-heres-how/

Goldberg, W. A., & Keller, M. A. (2007). Parent-infant co-sleeping: why the interest and concern?.Infant & Child Development, 16(4), 331-339.

Hayes, M. J., Fukumizu, M., Troese, M., Sallinen, B. A., & Gilles, A. A. (2007). Social experiences in infancy and early childhood co-sleeping. Infant & Child Development, 16(4), 403-416. ( Study)

Is Sleeping With Your Baby As Dangerous As Doctors Say?. (2018). Morning Edition

Intrinsic Motivation: When You Love Doing What You’re Doing

What drives us to join a dance class or paint a picture? What makes some people choose a certain career path knowing that their economic stability will be challenged? What is it that gives us the energy to strive to reach our goals? The leading force behind all of these decisions is intrinsic motivation. In this article, we’ll talk about how to stay strong and meet your goals when you’re faced with challenges.

Intrinsic motivation

What is intrinsic motivation?

Motivation is a psychological process that helps us carry out and complete determined actions. We can be motivated to do anything, from taking a nap to running from danger. Motivation makes it possible to better adapt to the challenges and situations that we face on a daily basis.

The causes behind motivational processes vary significantly from person to person, and can even change for a single person depending on the circumstances. It’s possible to distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation depending on the reasons behind the action.

Intrinsic motivation comes from the inside and happens when you are truly interested in something, without seeking a reward in return. One example of intrinsic motivation may be working at or spending time volunteering at an NGO, knowing that you won’t receive any type of economic compensation.

Extrinsic motivation, however, is driven by the rewards or benefits that we receive in exchange (or avoiding a punishment) for doing something. Think about when someone works extra hard to get a raise at work. In this case, they aren’t working hard for an internal desire to succeed, but rather to receive an economic benefit. There are a number of differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, but the main difference is the expectation of receiving benefits or avoiding punishment.

The same task or action can be extrinsically motivated for some and intrinsically motivated for others. For example, there are some people who go to the gym to get something out of it: to lose weight, while others work out for the exercise itself.

This article will focus on intrinsic motivation. Find out its essential aspects and how to improve it.

Intrinsic motivation: Characteristics

  • You can influence intrinsic motivation: You may find that sometimes it’s hard to figure out what challenges will help you get the most from yourself. However, there is always time to find activities that pique your interest.
  • Rewards can make intrinsic motivation disappear: It’s been shown in a number of experiments and cultures that paying for certain tasks may cause a decrease in performance. How can this be possible? According to the theory of overjustification, interest in a job decreases if we are rewarded extrinsically. For example, if you like to draw and you are paid for your word as an illustrator, you may find that your passion starts to feel like an obligation.
  • There are also rewards that strengthen intrinsic motivation: What we said in the previous point is true (reward can have a negative effect on motivation), it’s also true that receiving gratification from people we care about can help strengthen motivation.
  • The difficult of a task affects intrinsic motivation: Challenges teach us to be perseverant and develop our skills as well as possible.We need to be able to believe that it’s possible to overcome any challenge that we’re presented with. On the other hand, tasks that are too easy will be boring and might not be interesting to us. Once you find the perfect balance, you can enjoy the task and get “into the swing of things”, as Csikszentmihalyi says (we’ll talk more about him in the last section).

Intrinsic Motivation: Application and Examples

Intrinsic motivation at schools

Learning, especially at school, is made up of a variety of subjects, some of which may seem more interesting than others. Facing these more challenging subjects can be difficult, and even the subjects that you like can make you feel unmotivated sometimes. What can you do you keep yourself from feeling this lack of motivation?

First, it’s important to reinforce good, productive behavior and reward studying and other activities that are beneficial to learning. Rather than threats and punishment, using positive reinforcement will help associate studying with positive experiences, helping to improve motivation. It’s important to try to make learning a fun activity, rather than a means to an end. The importance of motivation in learning is endless.

It’s easier to learn effectively if you value what you’re learning, spark a curiosity for the information, create good study habits, connect to the content, and find a way to make it relevant to your daily life.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation at work

Intrinsic motivation at work is one of the keys to success in a work environment. We all know the familiar sensation of watching the clock move minute by minute until you can finally start the weekend. However, you’ve probably also realized that when this happens, your productivity drops and you have poorer results. These situations can make you feel even less motivated to work.

Having the job of your dreams may not be as easy as you thought, but luckily there are ways to help you become more motivated at work like taking breaks, being friendly with co-workers, keeping yourself from falling into a rut, and changing up your daily tasks.

Taking some time to dedicate to altruistic activities or activities that help others and not yourself, can also improve motivation in the office. Corporate social responsibility can benefit not only those who are receiving the direct benefits but also those who offer the help.

There are other techniques that many companies use to improve motivation among their workers, like giving them an opportunity to develop personal projects, paying for educational or advancement opportunities, and recognizing a job well-done. Happy, smiling workers are more productive and useful than employees who race out the door at the end of the day.

Intrinsic motivation in daily life

There are a number of situations that we come across in our daily lives that we could do easier and better if we had intrinsic motivation. For example, maybe you would spend more time cooking and creating healthy masterpieces if you enjoyed it, rather than cooking just to eat the next day.

Personal relationships also play a large role in our intrinsic motivation. Creating bonds with other people motivates us to take up new activities or do something you’ve never done. Going out with friends to eat or see a movie are powerful motivators that will help you get to an art exhibit or other show that you’ve never seen before.

Intrinsic motivation: Benefits

  • Improves productivity: Intrinsic motivation helps us have more original ideas and be more creative in our decision making. Because of this, we tend to get less tired when working on tasks with a positive attitude.
  • Improves well-being: Knowing which activities makes you happy means that you can spend more time doing them, rather than doing something that you dread. Working on tasks that you enjoy can become an endless fountain of personal and professional satisfaction.
  • Raises self-esteem and self-efficiency: The amount of effort that you spend on tasks that motivated you are usually reinforced by significant progress and can make you feel competent and satisfied with your work. Who doesn’t like seeing progress being made on their work?
  • Makes you more independent: Intrinsic motivation pushes you to learn more about the areas and activities that you enjoy and are interested in, which means working without anyone telling you to and taking initiative when starting something new.
  • It’s longer lasting than extrinsic motivation: It’s common for motivation to subside once you’ve reached your initial goal. If your motivation extrinsic, you might not feel the need to continue working hard after you finish your last final. However, if you actually enjoy learning the material, you’ll be able to get more out of every class, even when your exams have finished for the semester.

All this talk of intrinsic motivation shouldn’t overlook the importance of extrinsic motivation! For example, a company can’t lower the wages of its employees because they would probably find work elsewhere.

It’s also possible to have both types of motivation. You can start an activity like yoga with the hopes of feeling more relaxed and less anxious, but end up going because you really love it. The best way to achieve this is to stay away from making external or separate rewards your main goal.

How can you develop intrinsic motivation? 5 tips

1. Avoid routine

Monotony causes boredom and can make you tired and lazy. For example, if you like to go running in the morning to wake up and get ready for the day, try to take a new route and explore the area! Adding an extra challenge can help keep you interested in running (not to mention that it’s a great way to train your brain in the city! -along with brain games, of course-)

2. Keep a positive attitude

It’s important to work to reach your goals without putting too much pressure on yourself to be the best. Trusting yourself is crucial to your overall wellbeing. It is also important remember that the key to intrinsic motivation is enjoying the activity itself, not the potential outcome that it may bring. Try to do what you need to do without any negativity or pressure.

3. Set realistic goals

Trying to reach unrealistic goals will end up being counterproductive and can cause you to lose your intrinsic motivation. Be critical of your goals and evaluate whether or not is a realistic goal that you’ll be able to accomplish. It’s better to focus on what you can improve and activities that will help you improve than to get stuck on things that went wrong.

4. Reward yourself

We’ve already said that intrinsic motivation isn’t about the rewards, but recognizing when you’ve done a good job and letting yourself feel good about it is essential to continuing to have the intrinsic motivation that allowed you to get there. You can even think about indulging every once in awhile as a little reward.

5. Spend time with like-minded people

If you love dancing, find a group of friends who you can dance with and make new choreography. It’s important to share your experiences with other people who enjoy the same activities. Luckily, we live in a time where it’s easy to find groups for any type of activity.

Intrinsic Motivation: Authors

-Abraham Maslow

Maslow is one of the most relevant theories when it comes to motivation. This humanist psychologist is especially known for having created Maslow’s Pyramid that provides a hierarchy of human needs. Intrinsic motivation is particularly linked to the top of the pyramid, based on the necessities of self-realization. This is where we are able to reach maximum existence and develop our potential.

Albert Bandura

This psychologist created the theory of self-efficacy, which is the idea that a person’s opinion about the execution of a task depends on their expectations of success, perseverance, and how much they dedicate to it. For example, if you see that after spending time and working to improve, your Spanish or French improves, you’ll feel proud and able to perfect the language at some point.

Eduard Deci and Richard Ryan

These two psychologists worked together to create the theory of self-determination, which is the idea that we do activities that we enjoy, rather than those that we don’t enjoy and aren’t interested in. This theory is especially relevant and applied to athletics. It is important to be independent when making decisions.

-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

This specialist in positive psychology is dedicated to studying the state of flow that takes place when we focus on a task that is neither too easy nor too difficult. In these situations, you tend to lose the sense of time and can spend hours on a single task. A common example of this is when a painter is completely absorbed in their work and they lose track of time.

Csikszentmihalyi is an expert in creativity and has interviewed a number of experts in order to better understand their flow. In this video, he will explain part of his discoveries and the importance of intrinsic motivation.

Thanks for writing! If you have any questions, leave me a comment below 🙂

This article was originally written in Spanish and translated to English.

Attachment styles: How to appropriately connect with others?

How many attachment styles are there, how are they developed, what consequences do they have in adulthood, why is it important to build an appropriate emotional bond as soon as we are born? Here you will find answers to those questions, advice for parents and so much more. Discover this useful guide about different attachment types.

Attachment styles: complete guide

Attachment style theory has uncovered humanity’s need to establish profound and long-lasting bonds with our peers in order to ensure our survival. Bowlby explained the qualities a caregiver should have to establish a healthy bond with an infant, child or dependent person these being:

  • Empathy: the ability to put oneself in another persons shoes and feel what they are feeling, however with enough distance to know its not their own problem or emotion.
  • Sensitivity: ability to detect even the smallest signs of a basic or non basic need in a child.
  • Availability: in order to satisfy the child’s needs adequately the caregiver has to be available.

The presence and absence of these elements in the set of interactions between the child and the caregiver are key to establish internal models for future relationships of the child, or attachment style in which the child will build its relationship with others.

Following J. Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth and her coworkers in Baltimore, were able to establish three attachment styles included into two main categories: secure attachment (type B) and insecure attachment which she divided into avoidant (type A) and ambivalent/resistant (type C). They did this by exposing the child to an unfamiliar place with the aim of seeing their reaction when the mother left the room and the child was left with a stranger. They observed the behavior before and after the mother came back. Finally, thanks to another research group insecure attachment got another category called disorganized/disoriented attachment.

Finally the attachments styles defined were:

What color does he see the world?- I question myself every time I’m in front of a patient and I’m trying to navigate his brain in order to give some sense to how he feels.  What does he think of others? Does he protect himself by avoiding, or is he outgoing and open to life?- These are other questions I wonder about when he is telling me his life story and I try to figure out what attachment style he might be.

Attachment Styles: Secure Attachment

“It’s living with the feeling that people have my back. That whenever I need someone, they will encourage me to continue with a smile or will get sad if I’m crying. No matter what, I know they will be there, offering me comfort”.

Ainsworth defined secure attachment as the absence of concern of the availability of the caregiver. In a unfamiliar situation, children that had a secure attachment with their caregiver would explore the world with curiosity and joyfulness. When their parents left, children would cry and exhibit signs of angst, however they were easily calmed when they came back.

Children with secure attachments are happier and have parents who have been able to satisfy their needs in the different developmental stages. They have made the children felt loved and part of the family, through empathy, availability and sensitivity. In each encounter between the parent and the child, the parent has been capable with love and unconditional acceptance to regulate the child’s emotion even if before the child was crying or uncomfortable. The well being for one is the satisfaction of the other.

Thus, with every interaction, the child has modulated his representation of others as predictable and optimistic. He defines himself as: worthy to be loved, with positive self-esteem, confident in his abilities and self-worth as well as capable of expressing and communicating his emotions.

Therefore, they grow with the idea that the world is a safe and trustworthy place, living each life experience as a challenge and an opportunity to learn new things.

Children that developed a secure attachment tend to become emotional steady and coherent adults, with well integrated life narratives, confidence in themselves and others and have long lasting bonds with others. They use empathy and interpret their experiences with optimism and positivism.

In my opinion, people with secure attachments are the people we meet in life that make us feel comfortable, happy and filled with optimism.

Attachment styles: secure attachment

Attachment Styles: Insecure Attachments

What happens with parenting is not satisfactory or when one of the essential elements is missing in order to create a secure bond? Then is when insecure attachments are usually formed. These are distinguished by profound significant ties that generate great discomfort, due to lack of empathy and sensitivity that turn into an unreliable and unpredictable view of the world. 

At best in this category are children whose parents did a their job raising them with empathy and concern but failed understanding their needs or offering solutions. For each time they searched emotional warmth, security and understanding they might have failed, leading to pain and feelings of confusion towards the world.

Imagine we just landed in a new unknown and strange planet and around us the people can’t read our facial expressions, let alone the fear we feel by being there. Some might even out of curiosity get close to examine us while others just ignore our presence. We might be so scared we won’t have any idea of where to go, our brain will be trying to figure out an infinite number of unknown stimuli, leading us to be bewildered and mistrusting towards that world.

Children with insecure attachments have lived their relationship with others as unsatisfying, be it because they felt ignored or because their parents have tried inconsistent educational guidelines usually relying on their mood or their own needs. These are parents that seem genuinely worried about their children, however when analysed its discovered that the motivation for being worried is an egocentric one, more based on their personal needs than the children.

Hence, these children grow up with a negative emotional model that generates high levels of anxiety.  Their interactions have taught them that there is nothing beneficial from them but great amount of disappointment and pain. Thus, they develop defensive strategies such as isolation, avoidance, in an attempt to lessen the pain. Likewise, they develop a lack of understanding, ignorance and undervalue that has in turn lead to a non-defined fragmented identity, coated with sadness and high levels of loneliness. 

As adults, they have low self-esteem and expect very little from life. In any interaction they seem restrained, withdrawn and suspicious of good actions. They tend to be deep-rooted in security, fearing independence, occasionally having anxiety symptoms when they feel their safety is being threatened.

Some of them spend their lifetime avoiding relationships, meanwhile others manage to establish random relationships with different people however not rooted in a meaningful profound connections.

Attachment styles: insecure attachment

Ainsworth was able to give specific characteristics to the different attachment styles:

  • Avoidant attachment style: children that don’t show any type of negative emotion with their mother’s absence. When the mother returns, the child avoids all contact with her not showing any emotions towards her, foreseeing his needs won’t be satisfied.
  • Ambivalent attachment style: children with doubtful and inconclusive feelings, on one hand they search for their mother’s comfort but at the same time they feel a deep pain displayed as rage, irritability and it becomes very difficult to comfort them.
  • Disoriented/Disorganized: this is the most serious one out of all three. They are traumatized children from young age. They don’t have a defined specific behavior established, therefore they swap from showing a strong attachment to avoidance or even remain paralyzed. They swing from anguish, to searching for comfort in the mother, to anger, to fear and avoidance. They think of their parents as scary and unpredictable because the latter have unpredictable educational guidelines. Thus, the child has a chaotic and disorganized view of the world, and in an attempt to protect himself a series of erratic behaviors are developed. Children with this attachment style have difficulty regulating their emotions and keeping healthy relationships. This attachment style is related to many psychological disorders.

Advice: How to build a secure attachment?

Attachment styles are very difficult to keep in mind when raising a child, however its possible build a secure attachment. What do we have to do to build a healthy bond and create a secure attachment? As caregivers, we have to ensure our child’s healthy development. As you may have been already understanding with this article, the bond or link between caregivers and the child are the key to our future relationships. Thus, I don’t want to conclude without giving some advice on how to build a secure attachment:

  • Establish well-defined rules and limits. Children need rules because they will face a world filled with rules and norms. Its important that within our educational scheme we include specific rules making some negotiable with our children.
  • Maintain high levels of communication. Answers such as “do it cause I say so” should not be used to get children to do something. Its important to first explain the motivations behind the rule or norm. This helps children develop a critical thought process about their behavior and how he feels about it. We can always help the process with words and expressions he may not know. Communication is an essential part of educating, particularly education values. Even when the behavior is not the most appropriate, its important to find a place where to speak and think about what happened and how it can change. This exchange in point of views between a parent and his child leads to better understanding of each other. A good communication requires active listening. We need to let the other person speak and we listen intently to what they are trying to transmit even if we don’t initially agree. Its not about who is wrong and who is right but rather help the child have introspection.

“There are no irrefutable truths, just stories, then, Why not listen to his story? And in case parts of his story include us, give our fragment of his story to complete it. “

  • Let your child know you love them. It’s an essential part of childhood, more than food, is receiving lots of affection. A good emotional development will help them create relationships, develop empathy, communicate and understand others. Even when explaining the rules or scolding it should be done with warmth and care.
  • “Sanction behaviors not people”. The child must be aware of the wrong behavior without it interfering or having a negative connotation with his identity. We have to explain clearly what exactly was the behavior didn’t like and measure our words in order not to hurt the child. Its very different for example if I said with a firm tone: “I didn’t like the way you threw that ball at your sister” than “you are a bad child for throwing the ball at your sister”. The second option is packed with negative emotions and brands the child a “bad person”.
  • Heal your own wounds. We have to let the past go in order to focus on the present. Attachment styles tend to be intergenerational, that is, they are transmitted from parents to children through imitation, modeling, etc. A child that grew up without empathy, as a parent may not have that tool to teach his or her own children. The same happens with irrational fears, they can be passed from parents to children, thus it’s important for parents to let their past behind and apply new strategies with their children.

Remember to always keep in mind the three essentials elements: empathy, sensitivity and disposition. These elements are the key to developing a secure attachment and will allow us to understand our child’s point of view and way of looking at life.

People can develop secure relationships with some people and insecure with others, or even a secure relationship can turn into insecure in a different moment in time. What is assured is that young experiences play an important role in our brain development and from there how we relate to others and ourselves.

Maybe by reading this article you are now aware of your attachment style. Maybe you might even adventure in asking yourself what color do you see the world? What style do I have? What relationships are secure for me and which aren’t?.

Thank you so much for reading. If you have comments feel free to leave them below.

 

This article is originally in Spanish written by Samuel Facius Cruz, translated by Alejandra Salazar.