It’s one of the hidden taboos of breastfeeding.
Something that so many of us have done by accident, only to wake suddenly, ashamed, in terror.
Many of us have fallen asleep while breastfeeding.
Have you felt that jolt of horror when you wake and realise where you are? That second of panic while you check your newborn?
That feeling of relief as though you’d dodged a bullet when you find her soundly sleeping and yes, thankfully, breathing okay.
50% of mothers breastfeed their babies at night in places other than the bed, Via IStock.
The exhaustion caused by the demands of being a new mother and the endless rounds of breastfeeding, combined with the fact that breastfeeding actually physically makes you sleepy means that it’s a common phenomenon.
In 2012 Dr Kathleen Kendall Tackett found that more than 50% of mothers breastfeed their babies at night in places other than the bed, such as chairs, armchairs and couches, and over 40% of these mothers say that they fall asleep during these feedings.
Findings like this helped point out the obvious – by telling mothers not to co-sleep they were feeling the pressure to ensure they didn’t fall asleep in bed with their infants and so were accidentally falling asleep in places far more dangerous - like armchairs or couches.
It's with this in mind that the traditional advice on how to prevent sudden infant death has been turned on its head in a massive policy shift by for the world’s leading group of paediatric experts.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has, this week, updated its advice on how to prevent sudden infant death syndrome and other sleep-related deaths in a new policy statement.
The guidelines reaffirm many of the recommendations from the AAP’s previous policy which are shared by Australia’s Red Nose (previously Sids and Kids). They say parents should place babies to sleep on their backs and on a firm surface without any soft or loose bedding, and in the same room but not in the same bed.
But the AAP have now included an acknowledgement of the exhaustion of new parents and that some mothers do fall asleep while feeding their babies and thus should plan for that.
While the recommendations don’t go as far as endorsing co-sleeping they say that the less risky place to fall asleep with a newborn is in your bed.