Sleep, part 2
If you breastfeed/rock/hold/snuggle your baby/young child to sleep you will be creating a monster! Your baby/child will never learn to self soothe. If you sleep with your baby/child (in the same room) your baby/child will never learn to sleep alone. If you bedshare you will harm your baby. These things have been said to parents time and time again. The holidays bring out everyone's opinions and advise. Sleep is the most contentious.
Let's start with biology:
Brain calming (self soothing) is not a learned behavior in children. It is a growth factor. You can train your child to not cry when going to sleep or during the night. HOWEVER, there are very good and many times repeated studies that show that your child isn't 'self soothing' but actually going into a fight or flight mode. Think frozen bunny. Don't move because if you do the bears will eat you. Babies and young children are instinctual beings not rational beings. Instinctually, the night time is the time of heightened awareness. It is the time of most danger. By holding and especially breastfeeding your child to sleep you are settling and balancing your child's serotonin and cortisol levels so that heightened awareness can recede. You are allowing your baby to physically feel that you will protect them in the scariest time of the day. Biologically it is also necessary for your baby to breastfeeding during the night. Your body makes specific brain growth milk at night. Your body slows your letdown (for most women). By slowing your letdown the specific amino acids and proteins that are brain specific can process more completely. You and your baby are literally growing brain cells by night time breastfeeding.
By the way, if anyone asks if your baby sleeps through the night, just roll your eyes. The standard sleep pattern for ADULTS is waking every 2-3hours. You wake, you drink a bit of water/check the time/adjust your position/pee and go back to sleep. Your baby does this same pattern except we add that brain building milk into the mix so your baby wants to breastfeed as well. If your baby is sleeping close, MOM gets more sleep.
Let's talk emotions:
Your baby/child is in a new or not frequently stayed at place. The sights, smells and noises of this place aren't familiar. Until 18 months you child doesn't have object permanence (remembering that something is familiar; it is just starting at 18months) so even if you have been to grandma's house before and have slept there, it is still all new to your baby. Remember the fight and flight mode we just reviewed? By keeping your baby/child close at night you are ensuring all the hard work you did to calm their brain to sleep isn't undone when they wake. Your close proximity allows your child/baby to feel safe even in this new place.
But what about sleeping alone? Infancy and childhood are the only times that we expect people to sleep alone. This is also specifically an American construct. Most places culturally have babies/children sleep with parents either in the same room or in the same bed until they are at least 2years old. Babies sleeping in another room didn't happen until the late 1940s. This is the time that houses got big enough in the US to move babies out. It was a sign of wealth to have a separate nursery. What also happened at this time is the SIDS rate in the US started to skyrocket. While separate sleeping is now culturally part of our vernacular it actually is a socio-economic construct not a biologically appropriate philosophy. Will this stop Aunt Betty (yes there really is an Aunt Betty!) from telling you all the horrible things that will happen if your baby/child sleeps near you? Nope but it sure helps to understand why you are choosing these sleeping arrangements. You don't have to change her mind. You just have to be secure in your own choices. If anyone tells you you are going to harm your child by bed sharing just print the Safe bed sharing rules posted in the comments and hand it to them. No sense in arguing.
What's the bottom line? Parents and babies/need sleep. The easiest way for everyone to get the most sleep is to keep your baby close