Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Baby Co-Sleeping Fact Sheet"

This article contains all the information you need to defend your decision to co-sleep with your new baby, or to help you  make an informed decision about sharing a family bed.

baby co-sleeping fact sheet

by Elizabeth Willmott Harrop
June 2008, updated April 2010

Co-sleeping is surrounded by myth, with all co-sleeping branded as irresponsible, when it is actually unsafe forms of co-sleeping which lead to harm. Rather like wanting to ban all car driving because of the possibility of road deaths, without differentiating between safe and reckless driving. To quote an October 2009 study of SIDS in south west England: "Many of the SIDS infants had coslept in a hazardous environment ... specific advice needs to be given, particularly on use of alcohol or drugs before cosleeping and cosleeping on a sofa."

Co-sleeping1 is beneficial to mothers & babies and the children & adults they become:

  • Protective against SIDS
  • More frequent breastfeeding for a longer term
  • Less crying
  • Calmer and more soothing night time environment
  • Dramatic decrease in sleep startles
  • Increased understanding of baby's cues
  • Longer birth intervals
  • More light and less deep sleep appropriate to infants
  • More independent and secure children
  • Better mental health as adults
Always follow safety guidelines such as sleeping baby on their back, avoiding smoking (in and after pregnancy), being drug and alcohol free, using light bedding and a firm mattress. For full recommendations see Safe Cosleeping from The University of Notre Dame Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab and Attachment Parenting International - Infant Sleep Safety

It is ok

  • to breastfeed your baby to sleep
  • to breastfeed several times in the night
  • if your baby doesn't sleep through the night
  • if your baby wants to be with you all night
  • to bed/room share with your baby
 HERE to read the whole Article

Many times when the topic of bed sharing or co-sleeping enters conversations someone will undoubtedly bring up "The Study".... the Study that has caused several media storms of negative articles about co-sleeping and the irresponsibility of parents who sleep with their babies.  This is a perfect example of how the media is unable to read a study and analyse it correctly, without letting their own personal bias come into play when they publish the report to the public. 

This research study I am talking about came out in 1999 from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that showed 515 cases of accidental infant deaths occurred in an adult bed over an 8-year period between 1990 and 1997.  The media jumped on this (and has jumped on it again and again), using fear mongering  and sensationalism to proclaim loudly that sleep sharing and co-sleeping is unsafe.  But anyone with the ability to read facts and use logic would be able to see through the gigantic holes in this study and be capable of concluding that not only is the study flawed, but that the conclusions drawn from it are highly illogical.

Dr. William Sears discusses the glaringly illogical conclusions of this study, and more importantly brings to light a huge conflict of interest on his website.

the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that showed 515 cases of accidental infant deaths occurred in an adult bed over an 8-year period between 1990 and 1997. That's about 65 deaths per year. These deaths were not classified as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), where the cause of death is undetermined. There were actual causes that were verified upon review of the scene and autopsy. Such causes included accidental smothering by an adult, getting trapped between the mattress and headboard or other furniture, and suffocation on a soft waterbed mattress.
The conclusion that the researchers drew from this study was that sleeping with an infant in an adult bed is dangerous and should never be done. This sounds like a reasonable conclusion, until you consider the epidemic of SIDS as a whole. During the 8-year period of this study, about 34,000 total cases of SIDS occurred in the U.S. (around 4250 per year). If 65 cases of non-SIDS accidental death occurred each year in a bed, and about 4250 cases of actual SIDS occurred overall each year, then the number of accidental deaths in an adult bed is only 1.5% of the total cases of SIDS.
There are two pieces of critical data that are missing that would allow us to determine the risk of SIDS or any cause of death in a bed versus a crib.

  • How many cases of actual SIDS occur in an adult bed versus in a crib?
  • How many babies sleep with their parents in the U.S., and how many sleep in cribs?
The data on the first question is available, but has anyone examined it? In fact, one independent researcher examined the CPSC's data and came to the opposite conclusion than did the CPSC - this data supports the conclusion that sleeping with your baby is actually SAFER than not sleeping with your baby (see Mothering Magazine Sept/Oct 2002). As for the second question, many people may think that very few babies sleep with their parents, but we shouldn't be too quick to assume this. The number of parents that bring their babies into their bed at 4 am is probably quite high. Some studies have shown that over half of parents bring their baby into bed with them at least part of the night. And the number that sleep with their infants the whole night is probably considerable as well. In fact, in most countries around the world sleeping with your baby is the norm, not the exception. And what is the incidence of SIDS in these countries? During the 1990s, in Japan the rate was only one tenth of the U.S. rate, and in Hong Kong, it was only 3% of the U.S. rate. These are just two examples. Some countries do have a higher rate of SIDS, depending on how SIDS is defined.
Until a legitimate survey is done to determine how many babies sleep with their parents, and this is factored into the rate of SIDS in a bed versus a crib, it is unwarranted to state that sleeping in a crib is safer than a bed....
...A conflict of interest? Who is behind this new national campaign to warn parents not to sleep with their babies? In addition to the USCPSC, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) is co-sponsoring this campaign. The JPMA? An association of crib manufacturers. This is a huge conflict of interest. Actually, this campaign is exactly in the interest of the JPMA.

 So the next time someone tries to tell you that you are endangering the physical and emotional well being of your baby by cuddling up next to him all night, give them the facts!!!