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The Harshe Podcast – Episode #42: The Birth of the Birth Without Fear Book!

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #42: The Birth of the Birth Without Fear Book!

January and Brandon are back from hiatus to discuss none other than THE BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR BOOK!!!

They discuss the entire process, from the initial email January received from a book agent, to the 41 page book proposal, to their trek across New York City with their book agent to meet with six editors, to the actual writing and editing of the book!

It’s a story January and Brandon have been itching to share for a year and a half, and it’s finally here! It’s so exciting that Brandon even busts out his Moviefone voice!

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Click here to download Episode #42: The Birth of the Birth Without Fear Book!

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Pre-order your copy of Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum today! If we want to see real change in our society where pregnancy and birth are concerned, let’s use our collective voice to change the narrative by getting a copy of this book into every birthing person’s hand! Pre-order a copy for yourself, or pre-order a few copies to hand out to friends and/or family!

Pre-Order The BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR Book Today!!!

Pre-Order The BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR Book Today!!!

In her first book, Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum (Hachette Books; March 5 2019), January Harshe, mom of six and founder of the Birth Without Fear website, delivers an inclusive, non-judgmental, and empowering guide to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum life.

Each chapter provides you with the all the necessary information, options, and tools to help you take charge of the experience of welcoming your child into the world.

Unlike other pregnancy, birth, and postpartum books, Birth Without Fear will also help partners understand what mothers are going through, as well as discuss the challenges that they, too, will face—and how they can navigate them.

Shattering long-held myths and beliefs surrounding pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum experience, Birth Without Fear is an accessible, reassuring, and ultimately inspiring guide to taking charge of your pregnancy, birth, and beyond.

The Birth Without Fear movement began as a voice for change in the standard of care in today’s birthing world, and Birth Without Fear will empower YOU to be a voice for change in your own pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Options, support, and respect should be the norm for every pregnant and birthing woman, and it can be if YOU, the Birth Without Fear community, vote for that change by pre-ordering your copy of Birth Without Fear today!

Pre-Order Now!

January Harshe knows firsthand how widely birth experiences can range. She has run the gamut from an affirming and joyful planned cesarean to a traumatic emergency cesarean, as well as a VBA2C (vaginal birth after two cesareans) in the hospital, and two home births. One of these home births was such a dramatic departure from the confusion, uncertainty, and fear of her other births that a beautiful idea was born — she would make it her life’s mission to promote a revolutionary birth and parenting message: you can have a birth without fear, no matter how you birth.

January is the founder of the Birth Without Fear community, as well as Take Back Postpartum, Don’t Forget Dads, and Mothering Without Fear under the Birth Without Fear tent—all of which today collectively represent a social media following of over 1 million and counting.

Within each chapter of Birth Without Fear is a Partner Point of View written by Brandon Harshe. Having been by January’s side for six pregnancies, births, and postpartum experiences, Brandon has learned a lot about what it takes to support the woman he loves through the biggest changes and experiences of her life. In Birth Without Fear, he’s shared some of that knowledge to help husbands and partners be the steadfast support person that all birthing people need and deserve!

Members of the Birth Without Fear community on social media are familiar with the conversation shifting regularly to postpartum, and Birth Without Fear is no different. The focus of so many pregnancy and birth books is on, well, pregnancy and birth. But what about after the birth? You have the entire rest of your life to live, only now with a new baby!

This is where Birth Without Fear comes in. With chapters on breastfeeding, self love, self care, mental health, and sex and intimacy, no stone is left unturned for those of you wondering “what next?” after the baby has arrived.

When January Harshe created the Birth Without Fear community in 2010, she wanted options, support, and respect to be the standard of care for every pregnancy, every birth, and every postpartum experience. Individually, we all have a voice. As a united community, we can affect real change in the conversation about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum in our culture. Pre-ordering Birth Without Fear is a vote for real change. Order your copy today!

Pre-Order Now!

Birth Of Elsie {Homebirth Story With Siblings}

Birth Of Elsie {Homebirth Story With Siblings}

We were just waiting for the Braxton Hicks contractions to turn into the real deal so we could get our daughter here.  Sunday morning was spent with the church family and then the afternoon was spent with Greg’s family celebrating his mom’s 55th birthday.

I was feeling pretty good and honestly didn’t feel like I’d see my daughter anytime in the next few days.  I was nervous that when it was finally time that Greg would be late getting home and I’d labor alone, that the midwife would barely get there in time, and that everything would happen so fast, I wouldn’t hardly remember the experience!  Needless to say, that was not what occurred.

Greg decided to go ahead and get the pool set up and ready. That way if I did start my labor before he got home, I could easily start filling the pool up on my own.  We all nestled into bed pretty early and I was sleeping pretty sound until 1:43 AM.

I was awakened by an uncomfortable contraction and spent the next hour and a half pacing about trying to be sure if I was really in pain before I bothered waking up Greg.  I got out a journal and start writing down times and lengths of contractions, and finally decided about 3:30 to wake him up and call in the midwife and my parents.

Everyone arrived about five that morning. Danette and Caroline, her sweet apprentice, began monitoring Elsie’s heartbeat and my blood pressure.  My BP was slightly raised, so after a homeopathic dose of calcium and magnesium, I returned to my left side to relax through some more contractions.  That all worked, as my blood pressure lowered, and the more relaxed I stayed, the more intense the contractions were.

My mom got to work fixing some biscuits and gravy from scratch, and my husband quickly decided we needed to do this more often if it meant eating my mom’s cooking for breakfast!  I got to enjoy the fruits of her labor and spent most of the morning just nestled into my room breathing through contractions.

(Remember me talking about The Sphincter Law before? I honestly wasn’t worried this would effect me in the privacy of my own home.  I pretty much figured I have enough control over my mind and body that once labor started, I would get in the zone and be good to go.  Well, that was not the case.)

By the afternoon, with contractions still 10 minutes apart, and losing intensity at times, we thought a walk around the neighborhood would help. It did not help at all.  In fact, I felt as though everything was being put on hold.  I stayed out in the kitchen chatting with everyone and went almost 30 minutes without anything happening.

So, with Danette’s encouragement I went back to my room with my headphones in, music up, and only the company of my husband, and at times Emma.  As long as no one else was around my body would allow contractions to come up to eight minutes apart and last over a minute.  However, oddly enough, even if my sweet mama would come into the room, everything would stop.  I really got to experience how little control I had over my body’s birthing plan.

Jamie Buckland 1-2

 So, with the afternoon turning into the evening, my body slowly worked on getting Elsie lined up for her big debut.  For years Greg and I had told Emma that if/when we ever had another baby, the new little one would be in between us instead of her, and she would have to be prepared for that.  So, with the last few hours of her being the baby dwindling away, she nestled in between us to make the most of it.  We chatted about what Elsie would look like as she drew pictures, and then Greg would hold her really still as I would hum through my contractions.

Jamie Buckland 2-2

Everyone was pretty tuckered out after an eventful, yet still uneventful day.  The kids camped out in the living room with my parents and Danette and Caroline made themselves at home in the kids’ beds.  And that is how it was, still and quiet, until around 12:30am on Tuesday morning.

Finally, the contractions were coming on nice and strong!  Hooray!  I was up pacing back and forth, and then every eight minutes or so, I would bend over the bed to hum through what was now what I would consider active labor.  I woke Greg up and Danette heard us stirring around.

It was time to start boiling water for the cooled off pool and a wardrobe change as I got ready to get in the water.  Danette had told me we would hold off on getting into the pool until I couldn’t get comfortable any other way. I was at that point.  I crawled into the birth pool around 1:15am Tuesday morning and prepared myself to crawl out of it when no longer pregnant.

As soon as I got in the water, a contraction came on super strong. Then about two minutes later, another one, and that was the pace for the next two hours. My body was so relaxed in the water that I was completely out of control and the human ejection process had begun!

The water definitely helped me handle the intensity of the pain, so I just hummed away as my mind kept repeating things like, ‘and this too shall pass’, over and over.  The last 30 minutes were totally overwhelming.  I felt completely out of control during the contractions and proclaimed I felt like I was suffocating and couldn’t catch my breath.  Danette reminded me to relax and not let my contractions get ahead of me, so back to the humming and focusing.

This entire 25 hours of labor, Danette did not “check me”.  We did not know how dilated I was at any point in time.  My body was completely in control of the process, and although I felt helpless for those last few minutes, the empowerment I felt when it was all over was totally worth it!

I threw up my yummy snacks from the long day of labor as I transitioned through those last few centimeters, and started shaking as my body prepared to deliver my beautiful little girl into her daddy’s awaiting hands.  Danette gave me some ginger candy to help with the nausea, and I was really thankful, even asking for another piece to get me through the end.

Danette had a pitcher and would pour water over my back through my contractions while my husband was sitting on a stool in front of me holding my hands, and I was bent over the edge of the pool on my knees.  My mom and Caroline were patiently awaiting the progression, and my dad and kids were still fast asleep.

I remember looking over my shoulder once and finding my mother shedding big tears as she tried to deal with her baby girl being in so much pain, but the midwife was quick to comfort her and assure her all was well.

With all the controversy surrounding our decision to birth at home, I want to make it clear that I never once had any worry about my health, or the well being of my baby through the entire process.  My mind never once wandered into those dark thoughts, and I praise the good Lord for bathing the entire ordeal with His wonderful grace.

About 10 minutes before Elsie found her way to daddy’s hands, Danette told me I could check to see if I felt her head.  My water still hadn’t ruptured, and it was obvious I was feeling her sac cushioning her head in it’s descent.  With the next contraction I exclaimed that I felt like I could push.  So, I did.

On the second push, I felt my water break. Seconds later ,I announced her head was out.  Greg was scurrying around from being in front of me to getting behind me and Danette was getting the flashlight on so they could indeed see if she was on her way out!  Her head had been delivered, and with ease her little body followed just in time for Greg to reach down and lift her up out of the water.

They carefully helped me roll over onto my bottom where I stayed for the next hour.  Greg laid my sweet Elsie right onto my chest as I expressed my sheer delight that my baby girl and I had worked so hard together, and now here she was!  She immediately began to root and kick, lifting her head and bobbing around to begin suckling.  My sweet girl latched right on and has been an expert nurser from the beginning.

The after pains were pretty harsh. We waited 45 minutes for the cord to finish its beautifully engineered job, and then Danette clamped it for Greg to cut it.  Then miss Elsie got to go cuddle with her papa as they helped me get out of the pool and into my robe so I could get in the bed to rest.

Jamie Buckland 3-2

Moments later, it happened. As Emma looked on from her daddy’s chest, little Elsie took her place in between mommy and daddy.  And like that, the process I had anticipated for so long was over. My little babe who I’d dreamt about for years was finally lying here in her home, in my bed, in the blankets I had washed just weeks before.  We were complete.

And now Emma seemed so much older and much more mature.

 Jamie Buckland 4-2

The Big “E” seemed much bigger as he nestled the new little “E”.

Jamie Buckland 5-2

Elsie will be a few weeks old in just a few hours, and I’ve gotten to share our experience with some of our close friends and family. Some have been curious about how I felt afterwards.  I can honestly say it was a much easier recovery than with Ethan or Emma.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at just how good I have felt.  I did have a small tear, but never had any discomfort from it whatsoever.  Danette had made me a brew up of some comfrey root, which worked wonderfully.

Some have asked now that it is all over, will we be trying to conceive again, and if so, will I birth at home again? The answers are yes, and yes. We plan on trying for #4 when Elsie is a little over a year old, and yes, I plan on inviting my new favorite midwife, Danette, back into my home to attend the birth of our next child.  Looking back, I am so thankful everything went just as it was.  Even with labor lasting just over a day, I feel so blessed Greg and I got to spend that time together as we waited for her arrival.

A big thanks to all of you who have supported us through this journey! And of course a huge thank you to BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR for all the information and stories that helped me along this journey.  If you want to read more about why we chose a home birth, you can read about my first two pregnancies and why I felt so passionate about sharing this experience.

{By Jamie Buckland}

A Mother Will Overcome {I Am Strong}

A Mother Will Overcome {I Am Strong}

A short and sweet story of a teenage mother, or just a mother, this is Jada’s story:

I am strong because I found out I was pregnant at 17, two months into a relationship, and decided then to keep the baby.

I am strong because I decided to end the relationship, because I wasn’t happy anymore.

I am strong because during my pregnancy, I went through the worst depression in my life a month before my son was born.

I am strong because I had my mother and my aunt in the birthing center room to support me while I went through with my natural birth, which showed me just how strong I was.

I am strong because I pushed for an hour (which felt like only five minutes) and gave birth to a 8 lb. 8 oz. healthy boy and picked the name of my son when I met him for the first time.

I am strong because despite the criticism on bed-sharing, I am proud to say I have slept beside my son every night since he was born, and have no plan to stop.

I am strong because I overcame my fear of breastfeeding in public despite my overwhelming social anxiety, and plan on weaning when he is ready.

I am strong because I suffer from postpartum depression and am raising my son, alone, the way I feel is right for the both of us.

I am strong because I am going through with getting my high school diploma so my son and I can have a good future.

I am strong because now, at 19 years of age, I am where I want to be and have great plans that I see myself accomplishing in the future.

Brandon

Why Mothers Measure In Months

Why Mothers Measure In Months

So often, I see memes like this:

meme

And you know what, they bug me. A LOT. Normally these are posted by people who are not to the point of having children yet, which makes it even more annoying.

Basically any mother will tell you that from one month to the next, our children learn and change drastically. During the first year it is the most drastic, during which time it is still “acceptable” to refer to your child’s age in months. But for some reason after that first birthday people like to make fun of referring to a child’s age in months instead of years or “1/2” measurements. This especially comes up in reference to full-term breastfeeding.

First I have to ask the masses, why does it bother you if I refer to my toddler as “30 months” instead of “2 and 1/2 years old?” Are your math skills not up to par? Does it take too much brain power? Does my reference to months actually effect your life at all? Some commenters and meme makers like to take it a step further, insisting that referring to our babies in terms of months is just a way to cover up our inability to let go of them being a baby and rationalize our child still breastfeeding/sleeping in our bed/being carried/[insert parenting issue here].

I simply have to assume these cynics have never paid attention to the development of a child, especially when that child is your own. For instance – my son at 12 months could not walk – at 13 months he could. What a difference a month made! At 29 months my son was still breastfeeding, at 30 months he had self-weaned. Again – the difference a month makes! At 18 months he had learned to jump down off the sidewalk at the park without falling. That month he also chose to go down the slide on his own for the fist time. He was 32 months old when his baby brother was born, I will always remember him singing Twinkle Twinkle at their first meeting and his avid interest in the placenta.

stairs

These are all moments after the first year that are in my memory at a specific time and place. To me the month it happened is important. It is a milestone, a special moment. It is something scribbled down in a baby book or documented in a photo. In my mind he was not “2 and 1/2” or “almost 3” or “a year old”.

23 months

One day when I am not living in this moment, in this day-to-day rapidly changing world, I will probably tell him “You were 2 and a 1/2 when you weaned,” or “You walked just after your first birthday”. But today, those vague time periods are not specific enough. They are not important enough to describe that exact moment he learned something new, that moment he became his own person a little more than the day before.

32 months

So next time you hear a mother say “He is 22 months old” don’t roll your eyes. Smile and know that this mother is simply relishing in this fleeting time in her life as a mother. She is giving homage to the breakneck pace at which her children are growing and learning.

Intuition of the Modern Woman {Motherhood}

Intuition of the Modern Woman {Motherhood}

“Oftentimes I felt ridiculous giving my seal of approval to what was in reality such a natural thing to do, sort of like reinventing the wheel and extolling its virtues. Had parents’ intuition sunk so low that some strange man had to tell modern women that it was okay to sleep with their babies?” Dr. William Sears

Thank you to Earthside Birth Photography for getting this picture for us and to Ruthie Davis for putting the image together.

Siblings Cosleeping {Part 2: Twins!}

Siblings Cosleeping {Part 2: Twins!}

We recently featured Part 1 of Siblings Cosleeping with great information on the advantages of doing so and how to cosleep safely. We have received many wonderful cosleeping pictures, but noticed there were quite a few sets of twins finding comfort by bedsharing. It would only seem natural, wouldn’t it? After spending their whole life together (thus far) in the womb, it would feel right and safe to continue sharing space and love with each other once earthside!

Let’s hear from some experts and from BWF families with twins and their experiences with cosleeping!

“Our twins (Charlee & Lola) have been co-sleeping with us since the day we brought them home & typically migrate to each other no matter how far apart we put them (sometimes the resulting migrations aren’t so cute).” ~Manda

Erin Tiscareño sayas, “I thought I would contribute pics of my boys to your sibling photos. They have always slept together, and no I can’t get them to separate at 2!”

“Since they were “wombmates” for many months, your babies are used to sleeping together. Newborn specialists have long observed that twins placed together in the same incubator or bassinet while in the hospital tend to breathe better and grow faster. Co-bedding works especially well in the early months.” ~Dr. Sears from Parenting.com

Sent in by Nicole M. of her newborn twins sharing a sleeping space.

Gabby shares this about her twins and their sleeping arrangements, “My twin boys have slept together since they were born. We were given a custom built twin crib with an optional separation in between them. Around 11 months we thought maybe we should separate, for better sleep. They cried for each other the first night. During naps again the next day, bawling. I finally grabbed Jaemon and put him with Dominic and they instantly fell asleep.  I came back in the room to find them like this. They always sleep touching each other now, even at 16 months. They will stay together until they tell us they want to be separated.”

Sent in by Moriah…

More from Dr. Sears, “Try putting one baby next to you and the other in a bedside co-sleeper, a crib-like bed that attaches safely to your bed. Or, if you are a single mother, try putting your babies down to sleep on their backs in your bed and sleeping between them. Most nursing mothers find that co-sleeping gets them more sleep, since they are able to nurse one baby and then quickly roll over and feed the other before both wake up.”

From Australia, Selina’s adorable twins…

Other things to keep in mind:

Getting help from Dad at night with twins is a must. You can assign each other a baby for the night and dad can bottle feed. If that is not what you want, then dad can help get baby to mom and get a baby back to sleep.

Have babies on the same schedule. This may take some tweaking and adjusting, but can be done. Usually one baby will take cues from his/her sibling. If you get babies on the same schedule, you will get more rest yourself…especially if you can nap with them!

Get any help you can during the day. Whether from friends, family or hired help!

Remember, cosleeping and bedhsaring has great benefits through infancy and beyond, when done safely and how it is best for each family!

*First twin picture by Sarah with Capturing Fireflies Photography

Siblings Cosleeping and Bed Sharing {Part 1: Safety and Advantages}

Siblings Cosleeping and Bed Sharing {Part 1: Safety and Advantages}

We are huge fans of safe cosleeping here! It’s been done since the beginning of time and is normal and natural in most cultures.

“When my grandma was little she & her siblings & children that passed thru their home use to sleep in dresser drawers, hope chests & under their parents bed. That sounds scary & unsafe to most people, but in England during the war it was the safest place for children to sleep. It’s all about perspective! You can paint a scary picture about co sleeping when really it could be the safest spot, just like people advocate that cribs are safest yet can’t explain why babies pass in their sleep there too.” ~Janeen

Here are more pictures of BWF families enjoying safe cosleeping!

“I just had to share the sweetness I found in my bed this morning after getting ready for work.  Love watching my children’s sibling bond grow right before my eyes!” ~Jennifer C.

“My darling kids 🙂 I handmade my co-sleeping baby bed to keep us from rolling onto him.” ~Jennifer O.

“We snapped these a couple of years ago, and let me say that this co-sleeping was supervised. We have a very “free” home when it comes to sleeping, as we live in a subtropical climate and it is warm most of the year. Our children don’t go to bed with pajams on a regular basis, mainly winter time, and they could sleep anywhere in the house, lounge, or each others bedrooms (ours too).”

There are great guidlines to follow to ensure safe cosleeping and bedsharing. Elizabeth Pantley has a great outline (as does Dr. Sears). Here are a few and to see more visit her website:

Your bed must be absolutely safe for your baby. The best choice is to place the mattress on the floor, making sure there are no crevices that your baby can become wedged in. Make certain your mattress is flat, firm, and smooth. Do not allow your baby to sleep on a soft surface such as a waterbed, sofa, pillowtop mattress, beanbag chair, or any other flexible and yielding structure.

Make certain that your fitted sheets stay secure and cannot be pulled loose.

If your bed is raised off the floor, use mesh guardrails to prevent baby from rolling off the bed, and be especially careful that there is no space between the mattress and headboard or footboard. If your bed is placed against a wall or against other furniture, check every night to be sure there is no space between the mattress and wall or furniture where baby could become stuck.

An infant should be placed between his mother and the wall or guardrail. Fathers, siblings, grandparents, and babysitters don’t have the same instinctual awareness of a baby’s location as do mothers. Mothers: Pay attention to your own sensitivity to baby. Your little one should be able to awaken you with a minimum of movement or noise — often even a sniff or snort is usually enough. If you find that you sleep so deeply that you only wake when your baby lets out a loud cry, seriously consider moving baby out of your bed, perhaps into a cradle or crib near your bedside.

Consider a “sidecar” arrangement in which baby’s crib or cradle sits directly beside the main bed.

Do not ever sleep with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, if you have used any drugs or medications, if you are an especially sound sleeper, or if you are suffering from sleep deprivation and find it difficult to wake.

Do not sleep with your baby if you are a large person, as a parent’s excess weight poses a proven risk to baby in a co-sleeping situation. I cannot give you a specific weight-to-baby ratio; simply examine how you and baby settle in next to each other. If baby rolls towards you, if there is a large dip in the mattress, or if you suspect any other dangerous situations, play it safe and move baby to a bedside crib or cradle.

Remove all pillows and blankets during the early months. Use extreme caution when adding pillows or blankets as your baby gets older. Dress baby and yourselves warmly for sleep. (A tip for breastfeeding moms: wear an old turtleneck or t-shirt, cut up the middle to the neckline, as an undershirt for extra warmth.) Keep in mind that body heat will add warmth during the night. Make sure your baby doesn’t become overheated.

Do not wear nightclothes with strings or long ribbons. Don’t wear jewelry to bed, and if your hair is long, pin it up.

Never leave your baby alone in an adult bed unless that bed is perfectly safe for your baby, such as a firm mattress on the floor in a childproof room, and when you are nearby or listening in on baby with a reliable baby monitor.

“Co-sleeping doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. While I LOVE all the pictures posted about co-sleeping, I just wanted to say that you don’t have to sleep with your 3 year old, or several kids at once, to be a co-sleeping family. We happily sleep with our babies until they are around a year, then we spend a month or two gently transitioning them out of our bed and into their own. We are co-sleeping with baby #3 and it has been the biggest blessing. I can’t wait to get into bed and night to snuggle up with baby! We both sleep an awesome 9 hours or more together. Just wanted the mommies who are skeptic of co-sleep because they value their bed space and adult time to know that you can talior co-sleeping to fit your lifestyle. It’s all about what works best for YOUR family. Here is hubby co-sleeping with baby #3 when she is 2 weeks old.” ~Danielle

“Here’s a photo of my two gorgeous bubs (Samyel 16months old & Sean 5weeks old) – cosleeping while having their afternoon snooze together (with Mummy next to them). Love my gorgeous boys so much!!!”

“This is my 2 year and my 6 month old (3 months old at the time of photo).” ~Aleesha B.

Sleeping like a diva! Sent in by Elizabeth.

“These are my boys Avery and Gram! They are 17 months apart.” ~Jamie

What are some advantages of cosleeping and bed sharing? Here are some huge benefits as laid out by Dr. McKenna’s research (Notre Dame):

The baby will know that you are there, and can respond emotionally and physiologically in potentially beneficial ways.

Babies will breastfeed more often with less disruption to mothers sleep, and will receive more sleep as will the mother compared with solitary sleeping breast feeding babies – as recent studies show.

Babies arouse more frequently, but for shorter average durations than if the baby slept apart.

Babies cry significantly less in the cosleeping environment which means that more energy (at least theoretically) can be put into growth, maintenance and protective immune responses.

More breast feeding, which accompanies cosleeping, also can be translated into less disease and morbidly. Proximity of the infant potentially permits the parents to respond to changes in the baby’s status, such as if it were choking or struggling to breathe and, of course, proximity makes it more likely that if a baby was fighting to rid itself of blankets over it’s head, the parent might here the event and intercede.

Mothers who feel guilty of not having enough time to be with their babies during the day can feel better about nurturing and, hence, being in interaction with their baby during the night, and hence, further nurturing their relationships, as can Dad.

Given the right family culture, cosleeping can make mother, dad and baby feel very good, indeed.

“This is when Lex was days old, it’s nap time so he slept in the rocky. She crawled into bed with him and got behind him and wrapped her arms around him and fell asleep. My favorite! My babies at nap time. I was across the room sewing.” ~Kate

 

“My newborn and 19mo sleeping sweetly.” ~Nichola

Part 2 coming soon…TWINS Cosleeping!

For great support, ideas and info on sleep help with your children, check out The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley!

10 Things Wrong With Anti-Bed-Sharing Campaigns

10 Things Wrong With Anti-Bed-Sharing Campaigns

A few weeks ago, this picture popped up in my newsfeed.

As the happily bed-sharing mama of a very healthy 18 month-old, I was floored. It made my blood boil. Like the majority of parents worldwide, I do not believe it is safer for a small infant to sleep alone in a crib. I believe it is safer and healthier for babies to sleep beside their loving caregivers as they have done for millennia. But, like everything to do with child-rearing (ear-piercing, sharing, Santa…), bed-sharing – and its cousin, co-sleeping – is a hot topic. People talk about it a lot. You can find something terrifying on the internet to support any claim about it. And the mud-slinging comes from both quarters. On the one side, there’s the “YOU WILL KILL YOUR BABY BY SUFFOCATION!!!” contingent.  On the other? “YOU WILL KILL YOUR BABY BY SIDS, PLUS, YOU WON’T EVEN BE ABLE TO BOND!!!”.

What’s a woman to do?

As a first-time pregnant mama, I was no more immune to the hysteria than anyone else. I was concerned about SIDS, suffocation, and making sure my baby grew up with a round head. Fortunately, I was nauseated and fatigued for most of my pregnancy, so I had the privilege of doing a hefty amount of bedside research.

My Bedside Table, November 2010 (please ignore the Dr. Spock and WTEWYE. I was young and I didn’t know any better):

I read about worldwide SIDS rates (lower for countries where co-sleeping is the norm); I read about the newborn’s challenge in transitioning from one sleep stage to the next (facilitated by synchronizing with the sleeping mother’s heart rate, breathing and brainwaves); I read about concomitant factors in most bed-sharing deaths (such as smoking, drug use, and formula feeding, all of which I continue to avoid); and finally, safe ways to bed-share: reducing the risk of suffocation by using firm bedding, no extra pillows, and placing baby on his back.

My husband and I decided we’d compromise and get one of those fancy co-sleeper things that attaches to the side of the bed. At over $300, it is the most expensive laundry hamper I have ever owned.  Because when baby came, baby had other ideas. He rejected the co-sleeper, demanding to sleep face-down on my chest with a complete and beautiful lack of concern for any and all AAP recommendations. As good as it felt, I wasn’t comfortable with it. So we compromised again and exiled papa to a blow-up mattress on the office floor. Baby and I nuzzled together on our own bed, drowsily nursing from 9pm to 9am. I started to joke that I had never gotten so much sleep. Bed-sharing worked for us.

Mrs. BWF has already written an excellent post on bed-sharing, in which she explores the  history and benefits of co-sleeping and how to do it safely. In this post, I take a look at some of the ways anti-bed-sharing campaigns spread their message. There’s some violent vitriol, prejudice and misinformation out there, and it’s not OK. It scares me. I worry that it will shame and isolate mothers who are bed-sharing simply because they intuit it is best for their baby, but are looking for ways to make it safer.

I began writing this post as a direct critique of one specific anti-bed-sharing organisation, because they were the ones responsible for the pseudo-edu-picture that got me mad. But then I read that group’s founder’s personal blog, and it broke my heart. She lost her 26 day-old son to positional asphyxia. She writes that her anti-bed-sharing campaigning has been her way to find meaning in her grief; that through her group’s actions, she feels he lives on. Reading her words, I felt all the spite drain out of me. Who cares if we disagree on these issues? She has lost her son.

The mothers of many anti-bed-sharing groups have lost children and that gives them a lot of latitude in my book. They have the right to say, “we think bed-sharing is dangerous” in the face of all our objections because, for them, it was. But the fear-mongering through which anti-bed-sharing organizations convey their message cannot receive the same consideration. Much anti-bed-sharing campaigning is not only misguided, but also unethical. It puts ideology before practice, diverting attention away from situational factors that contribute to most bed-sharing deaths, and putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of – who else? – mothers dearest.

10 Things I Hate About Anti-Bed-Sharing Campaigns

1. Making False Analogies

Making an analogy is an excellent way to explain something unknown (such as the sex appeal of Crocs sandals) by emphasizing its similarities with something that is known (such as the sex appeal of Lord Voldemort). But not all analogies are created equal. I could say, “My baby is a honey badger,” assuming that you know something about honey badgers. But my baby isn’t really like a honey badger at all, because he doesn’t have a honey badger’s loose, leathery skin. Also, he doesn’t fight and eat rattlesnakes. Yet.

My baby = honey badger is a bad analogy. A fauxnalogy, if you will. Having completed a truly unusual college course called ‘Analogy and Its Rituals’, I feel I am a good judge of this particular rhetorical device. And let me tell you, the analogies used by anti-bed-sharing campaigns are really, really bad.

As January mentioned in her post, a baby sleeping with his parent is nothing like a baby sleeping with a butcher’s knife.

And it’s not like “walking out into the interstate without looking at traffic.”

C0sleeping is not a “silent killer.”

And it’s not like Russian Roulette, though I do appreciate the admonishment to “rest mindfully knowing that you have one in the chamber.”

The Chances of Dying in a True Game of Russian Roulette (One in Six):

Total USA Infant Mortality Rate (all infant deaths up to one year, 6.6 per 1000 births):

Somehow, I can’t help but feel that these analogies are designed to invoke fear. Shared sleep, instead of being described as a peaceful slumber, is portrayed as a dangerous, dangerous thing. A dark and scary place where anything could happen. Infants do die in their sleep. Infants do die while bed-sharing. But the vast majority of these deaths occur within a context of situational factors – factors that have little to do with sleep and everything to do with waking life.

2. Refusing to acknowledge other factors contributing to infant death. Like the one called “poverty”.

Bed-sharing can be done safely. But many infants who bed-share are also at risk for death due to other factors. For example, a New Zealand study (1993) found that mothers who bed-shared were younger, less well-educated, of non-European origin, had 5+ kids, were unmarried, and their baby’s father was more likely to be unemployed. What commonly accompanies all of these factors? Poverty.

People with lower Socio-Economic Status (SES, loosely defined as access to resources) rarely receive adequate pre- and post-natal medical care. Mothers face all kinds of pressure to stop breastfeeding, and are more likely to smoke and battle substance addiction; they are more likely to work several low-income jobs – and, at the end of the day, just be plain exhausted. These factors have been linked to bed-sharing deaths, along with all other forms of infant mortality. Disenfranchised populations are also less likely to have been exposed to literature on how to bed-share safely.

When people say, “don’t bed-share!” what they’re really saying is, “don’t be poor!”

When they say, “bed-sharing is lazy,” what they’re really saying is, “We have no idea why poor babies die more often than rich babies, and we’re not interested in finding out.”

3. Being unwilling to link to reputable sources.

“You want studies and links Do some research on bed sharing deaths, SIDS,SUID, and unsafe sleep environments and infant deaths. I know your type, we give u links to scientific based studies and you stil find a way to dispute the findings. I am sorry telling the truth and saving babies threatens and bothers you ;)” (An anti-bed-sharing campaign page, Aug. 2012)

I’m not sure, but I think that if I were going to advocate an intervention changing the way infant care has been practiced for thousands of years, I would want to back it up with a list of articles longer than my arms.

And I have really long arms.

4. Being unwilling to critique other sources.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to trust research findings and medical recommendations in our consumer society. Nobody stands to profit from many of the ‘crunchy’ practices I love, so nobody is interested in funding objective research into them. And who’s to blame them? Every time a mother breastfeeds, she snatches money from the deserving hands of formula-making corporations. Homemade baby carriers mean only that another expensive stroller sits lonely in a Babies R Us aisle. And bed-sharing can never conscionably be accepted by anybody receiving funding from crib manufacturers.

The Juvenile Product Manufacturing Association, which bills itself as, “the only association solely dedicated to promoting the well-being of the juvenile products industry” (won’t somebody think of the children[‘s products manufacturers]!) represents 95% of the $6.02 billion industry. It funds research under the assumption that, “The safest place for a child is in a fully functional, properly assembled crib or other sleep environments specifically designed for children.” (JPMA) Apparently, the (already purchased) adult bed doesn’t count as one such sleep environment. And you can be certain that findings such as the one that, from 2005 to 2007, cribs and playpens were responsible for half of all nursery product-related deaths among children ages 5 and under don’t appear on their website.

I am much more inclined to trust research conducted by lone wolf Dr. James McKenna at the University of Notre Dame sleep lab. He used to study monkeys. Then he had a baby and realized that the best way to get baby to nap was to lie down beside him and breathe deeply. So he started studying mother-baby sleep interactions by attaching electrodes to their heads, and the rest is history. His work is not glamorous and it hasn’t netted him a lot of money. It’s not entirely thankless (I’m pretty sure there are a few AP mamas in love with this man) but it isn’t financed by an industry. Some anti-bed-sharers claim he has a nefarious hidden agenda to have us all in bed together, but in his words,

“I do not recommend to any parents any particular type of sleeping arrangement since I do not know the circumstances within which particular parents live. What I do recommend is to consider all of the possible choices and to become as informed as is possible matching what you learn with what you think can work the best for you and your family.”

5. Confusing SIDS with suffocation

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is not suffocation. SIDS is a diagnosis made when a post-mortem autopsy shows no signs of suffocation and the death scene investigation found no articles near the baby which may have caused suffocation. SIDS is a tragedy with several suspected causes but non confirmed. As one anti-bed-sharing website itself states, “…if a baby is going to die from SIDS there is no way to stop it.”

But these people also believe that parents who bed-share increase their child’s risk of dying from SIDS.

SIDS diagnoses are not made willy-nilly. For an infant death to be classified as SIDS, strict requirements must be met – requirements that are becoming increasingly stringent and may be the true cause of the reported decline in SIDS deaths over the last 10 years. Stating or implying that SIDS deaths are simply misclassified suffocation deaths is no small matter. It calls into question the careful and conservative conclusions made by Medical Examiners, coroners, police officers and doctors.

And finally, believing that because many SIDS deaths happen while bed-sharing, bed-sharing must cause SIDS, is to commit the common logical fallacy of ‘Ignoring a Common Cause’. It’s like believing that because research has shown that more deaths happen on Wednesday than any other day of the week, Wednesdays are inherently dangerous and we should adopt a new, 6-day calendar. Or make Wednesday a mandatory Stay Home And Avoid Catastrophe Day. Much as I would like to sleep in, this simply makes no sense at all. It would make more sense to investigate other potential factors, such as the nature of shift-work and how many people work double and graveyard shifts in the middle of the week. In the case of bed-sharing, acknowledging other common factors to SIDS and bed-sharing (as mentioned above) is the logical thing to do.

And as this study of 400 American infants found, the bed-sharing/SIDS connection disappears when other factors are taken into account.

6. Denigrating other parents’ choices:

“How have their babies survived? I guess pure dumb luck!”

Some anti-bed-sharing activists suggest that bed-sharers should have their kids taken away from them, or be charged with manslaughter in the case of an accident. While less extreme, the ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’ albums hosted by some of these campaigns are inappropriate and unnecessary. In one group, over 100 pictures of infants in ‘unsafe’ sleep environments are offered for our “education” (read: derision). Some are stock photos, some are photos of the organizers’ angel babies (to their credit, the admins submit themselves to the same judgment they dole out), and some come from people like you and I. People who thought we were just posting cute pictures of our babies, never suspecting they would be re-shared with comments like, “What a death-trap” and “That baby is lucky to be alive!” attached to them.

The admin writes, “We seem to have a lot of pro bed shares coming here lately. To those people we will not argue or debate with you….Funny how people come on our page but not ALL the other pages who as [sic] promote safe sleep for infants!”

Well. Maybe it says something that bed-sharers are making a fuss on your site alone. Could it be that your work does not simply promote safe sleep for infants, but disrespect for other people’s parenting choices?

7. Focusing on the negative ( Anti- Something is not Pro- Anything).

It’s important to stand up for what you believe in, especially in memory of someone lost to tragedy. But being anti-something is bad for the heart. It does not help you to move on; it keeps you stuck. The group which disseminated the anti-bed-sharing picture at the beginning of this post could just as effectively be called Parents Advocating Safe Sleep Environments (or is that too passé?). But they persist in framing their work in the negative, drawing the ire of mothers like myself.

There are positive ways to express concern for other people, and other people’s children.

For example, Still Birthday is a genuine effort to acknowledge the pain of loss mothers and focus on healing. It’s not called ‘Mothers Against Callousness Toward Loss Mothers’ (and not just because MACTLM is a crappy acronym). Still Birthday is there for the positive to take place, and as founder Heidi Faith writes,

“This website marks a beginning–a new place to offer resources, inspiration, and hope. But, it’s also a place of ending. …I have ‘birthed’ this place, have presented it to the world, and now, I can step forward.  I can begin to move on.”

Heidi and I come from different backgrounds, and there’s a good probability we see the world in very different ways. But I respect and admire the work she has done because it does not come from a place of judgment and ridicule. It opens space for people to experience grief in a multitude of ways and move through it on their own journey.

8. Promoting the idea that everything is in our control.

Most Americans are are not well-acquainted with death. We cover it up, we don’t talk about it, and we don’t have to encounter it too often. Somehow, we’ve started to think that we can control it. That if only we were perfect mothers, we would be able to foresee and forestall every possible danger. But we can’t. Motherhood is an advanced course in risk management.

No healthcare provider will tell you that there is no chance of your child suffocating beside you. James McKenna, Mr. Co-Sleeping himself, states that,

“To claim that there is NO chance of an adult overlaying a baby would be ridiculous, but so would it be irresponsible to claim that an infant could never be killed while traveling in an automobile, or while sleeping alone in a crib which has an overly soft mattress, or crib slats which do not prevent the infant’s head from passing between them. In each case, the dangers are significantly reduced – and the potential benefits of car travel or infants sleeping alone (where this is what parents want) can be realized — when the safety precautions unique to each choice of behavior are regarded.”

Some parents have lost their child to ostensibly safe co-sleeping. They did everything right: no smoking, no extra blankets, exclusive breastfeeding, and so on. And still, they woke up to find their child lying lifeless beside them. An unspeakable tragedy, but it does occur. I am aware of this possibility when I lie down to sleep beside my son, just as I am aware of the hurtling tonnes of ferocious metal – sorry, cars – on the freeway and the leap of faith I take every time I leave him with a babysitter.

We do all that we can but there is simply no way we can ensure that our babies are death-proof. This is part of the pain of being a mother, as Elizabeth Stone said, “to forever have your heart go walking around outside your body.” One anti-bed-sharing campaigner writes, “If you slept with your child in your bed, consider yourself lucky to still have a child alive.” Yes, of course I am lucky. Everyone with a child alive is lucky. Luckier than we could ever know.

9. Putting ideology before reality.

I cloth diaper, but put my son into disposables at night. Why? Because, much as I like to crunch like Grape Nuts, I do not like waking up to a pee-pee bed. I am a pragmatist. I believe activism should acknowledge and work with the reality of people’s lives before promoting an ideology. Even if I thought crib-sleeping was safer than bed-sharing, I would advocate safer practices for bed-sharing first. Why? Because people sleep with their babies. They always have, and they’re not likely to stop just because I told them to. People are more likely to throw their extra pillows off the bed than to go out and drop $300 on a new crib.

Cribs can be expensive. Some anti-bed-sharing campaigns do work with Cribs for Kids, providing cribs to low-income families. I appreciate this effort. But what about the families they cannot reach? Encouraging poor parents not to sleep with their children is either unrealistic (if there is nowhere else for baby to sleep) or just downright dangerous. Babies whose parents cannot afford a crib have slept in suitcases, drawers, duffel bags, bathtubs lined with blankets, couches, swings, carseats, strollers, and second-hand cribs with bars so far apart their entire bodies can slip through. None of these options are safer than sleeping in an adult bed.

A Crib With Bars So Far Apart, His Entire Body Could Slip Through:

The truly dangerous methods of co-sleeping are actually encouraged by anti-bed-sharing propaganda.  For example, mothers who breastfeed and whose babies sleep in a crib usually get up several times a night to nurse. Mama picks baby up from her crib and takes her to a rocking chair or other comfortable sitting place and they nurse. Then mama gets up and puts baby back in her crib. Except when she doesn’t. Except when she’s dog tired from getting up five times a night, and drifts off into sleep with the baby at her breast, sitting upright in a chair (or even an adult bed) that was never meant for co-sleeping, and is not equipped to do so safely.

A National Centre for Health Statistics survey found that 42% of American parents co-sleep with their baby “at least sometimes”. We all know this often happens when parents are completely at the end of their rope with fatigue, such as when the infant is sick and refuses to sleep alone.  Accidental co-sleeping is not safer than carefully considered, purposeful bed-sharing.

10. Refusing to acknowledge the benefits of bed-sharing.

I won’t bore you with endless rhapsodies on the intimacy of bed-sharing. But it is pretty great. Other benefits include easier all-night breastfeeding and more sleep. I night-nursed my little one until he was 17 months old and we’re still breast feeding in the daytime. I can’t imagine I would have done the same if I had to get up to nurse him five times a night. Instead, I just rolled over and latched him on in the instinctual half-sleep behavioral pattern of our ancestors. It works.

And it works for a reason: the 4am feeding releases more prolactin than feeds at any other time of day. Not only does prolactin increase milk supply, it also postpones ovulation. In Ye Olden Days, this meant that mama wouldn’t get pregnant until her baby was old enough to drop that feed, giving her body time to replenish and providing natural child spacing. Bed-sharing is part of a beautiful system designed to keep mamas and babies healthy and happy. It saddens me that anti-bed-sharers are so quick to mock and deride this ecology. I wouldn’t mess with it in a million years.

*Svea Boyda-Vikander is a mother, psychotherapist and visual artist. She works with mothers and other creative people in facilitating healthy parent-child relationships and artistic practices. In February of 2011, she gave birth to her first child at the Côte des Neiges Maison de Naissance (Birthing Centre) in Quebec. This experience opened her eyes to the powerful healing and spiritual potentials of birth, and it quickly became her passion. She is now conducting research into perinatal depression, loss, and cross-cultural infant care practices at Goddard College, VT. Svea believes motherhood is a political act deserving of support, acknowledgement and endless tubs of mascarpone cheese.

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