Search This Blog

Thursday, November 25, 2010

CBC Radio portrays co-sleeping as dangerous

It would seem that not a year can go by without the media running their anti co-sleeping campaign.  It starts with one report and snowballs from there.  Unfortunately the media seldom does their homework nor do they seem capable of  analysing the statistics: any way you slice it, co-sleeping is SAFER for baby!!!! Yes there are safety guidelines that you need to follow to co-sleep safely with your baby, but that is the same with everything in life, isn't it?  All you need to do is to look at societies where sharing a family bed is the normal way of life and analyse their statistics on SIDs (Sudden Infant Death).  In Japan where co-sleeping and breastfeeding (in the absence of maternal smoking) is the cultural norm, rates of the sudden infant death syndrome are the lowest in the world!!  Dr. James Mckenna writes a brilliant article that outlines the vital necessity for babies to sleep next to their mothers in Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone

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.
HERE to read the entire article

 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!!!

Co-sleeping Unsafe?? Letter writing opportunity to CBC Radio: The Current!

by Gina Merlin on Thursday, 25 November 2010 at 13:51
This morning The Current ran an interview (Letters section, Nov. 25, 2010) that portrayed co-sleeping as dangerous and a practice that results in baby deaths. The one woman interviewed, Miranda Halladay, was responding to a story that aired last week on co-sleeping policy in PQ (I didn't catch that story). Mrs. Halladay shared her personal story of tragedy in the hospital, but the message was to extrapolate from this one experience to say co-sleeping is an unsafe choice, that mothers can choose whatever but they should know that their choice will lead to baby deaths. Her baby was born "textbook delivery" at hospital. The next day, she was very groggy with pain killers at the hospital. She was left alone to figure out breastfeeding. She nodded off. When she awoke the baby had been "smothered by my breast." They were able to revive the baby but he never recovered and died in 2002.

This woman's point of view was clearly biased by her personal tragedy, and her message was based on fear, not based on all the available information. In fact, I don't think this baby's death technically even describes co-sleeping or SIDS death, but rather there are many factors at play, not least of which must be the heavy sleep-inducing drugs this woman was on. In the context that this message will ill inform The Current's listeners, and may scare new parents or well-meaning friends and family unnecessarily out of becoming informed and making their own choice, as is their duty, I called to set the record straight. I believe parents should be supported in in becoming informed of factual info and making the *right* decision for themselves in each particular situation.

Additionally, as this woman's story indicates, many of these reported co-sleeping deaths are actually NOT co-sleeping according to anyone's guidelines ~ for example, deaths on couches. This evidence is confounding, and context is important. What we know is that co-sleeping CAN be safe, and certainly does have some benefits, especially for breastfeeding mothers-babies. Co-sleeping doesn't by definition even have to mean the baby is IN your bed (bedsharing), but rather is in the room and at arms reach. Co-sleeping encourages mother-baby awareness and as such the mother is aware of the sleep-wake state of her baby and is able to attend to the baby's immediate needs at any time. Further, for as many stories as you'll find against co-sleeping, you'll have as many co-sleeping parents report waking up to notice their baby is having a problem (unrelated to co-sleeping), and being able to respond right away and possibly save the child's life. Other factors at play include the stability and suitability of the sleeping surface, as well as not overwhelming the baby with blankets, pillows and stuff in the sleeping space (true also of crib-sleeping).  Another point, since bedsharing in hospital with newborn babies is a policy now encouraged on hospital birth and postpartum wards, this tells me this instance although tragic has not changed hospital policy against co-sleeping ... this policy is more prevelant, not less, since this baby's death in 2002.

It is my opinion that to not include these aspects of the decision making processes in this coverage of this parenting choice, and to indicate that co-sleeping is dangerous because of this woman's very sad and complicated anecdote, is not supportive of informed and empowered parenting and is not fair to the intelligent and capable listeners of this program. I expected better of this radio program, one I normally enjoy.

If you have an opinion, I hope you'll share it with The Current, or if you'd like to encourage a revisit of the topic from a more unbiased point of view ...
PLEASE WRITE to Anna Maria Tremonti at:
Contact Us:
Telephone:  Feedback line (877) 287-3700
Fax: (416) 205-6461
Twitter: @TheCurrentCBC

Thanks all, I thought you'd want to know about this opportunity to express some facts!


Listen to the Podcast:
Co-Sleeping: Quebec is grappling with the deaths of three infants ... each of whom were sleeping in their parents' beds. Last week on The Current, we weighed the risks and benefits of this practice. We heard some of your thoughts last week in the mail but there were a couple more letters we wanted to share.
We also received a letter from Miranda Halladay. Her son Rex died in 2002 as a result of co-sleeping. We reached her in Naramata, BC this morning. We always appreciate you hearing from you, contact us with you stories.