Thursday, August 16, 2012

Co-sleeping and Bed-sharing

A while back there was an ad campaign in Milwaukee was launched to scare people away from co-sleeping/bed-sharing with their infants. While I do agree that it CAN be just as dangerous as the ad states (when a parent is under the influence, has sleep problems, or even overweight), I have to say I'm pretty outraged at some of the comments made by people and even organizations such as The National SUID/SIDS Resource Center, who said, "...Sharing your bed for a few minutes with your baby can be safe only when you are wide-awake. Never bring your baby into bed when you are sleepy. Never bring your baby into bed if you have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs or medicines that may make you sleepy. The only safe place for babies to sleep is their own cribs."

The only safe place for a baby to sleep is a crib? That's weird, because not only do many cultures around the world not use cribs, I seem to recall many infant deaths caused by unsafe cribs once thought to be perfectly safe. In fact, there are more infant deaths caused by cribs than by bed sharing. In cultures where they practice safe co-sleeping, 
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) rates are actually down, not up. I completely agree that a parent shouldn't share a bed with their baby if they aren't sober, but that's common sense.

Research by Dr. James McKenna, Director of the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory of the University of Notre Dame, shows that mothers who co-sleep actually have a heightened awareness of their baby’s presence and are more aware if her baby’s well-being is in danger. Again, something that would only be untrue if a mother is on drugs of any kind (or even very tired - you need to co-sleep responsibly, be responsible with it as you would with anything else). A recent large study concluded that bed sharing did NOT increase the risk of SIDS, unless the mom was a smoker or abused alcohol. And, babies who co-sleep have what's known as "protective arousal," a state of sleep that enables them to awaken more easily if their health is in danger, such as breathing difficulties.

Co-sleeping tragedies that have occurred have nearly always been associated with dangerous practices, such as unsafe beds, or parents under the influence of substances that dampen their awareness of baby. Cultures who traditionally practice safe co-sleeping, such as Asians, enjoy the lowest incidence of SIDS, so instead of trying to scare parents away from co-sleeping, I'm wondering why we aren't telling parents how to co-sleep safely. Sure, as advertising executive of the Milwaukee ad, Donny Deutsch stated, "If it saves one baby," may be true, but if all parents quit co-sleeping then crib deaths would only rise. Then what would they do? Create more ridiculous ads, or actually promote safe crib sleeping? Again, taking me back to practicing safe co-sleeping. The media needs to educate people in the right way, and that isn't by scaring them into doing things they are uncomfortable with.

For safe bed sharing:
- Always place your baby on his back to sleep.
- Be sure that there aren't any crevices where your baby's head or face can fall into, such as a space between a headboard and mattress, or between a mattress and wall, etc.
- Don't allow anyone but the mother of the baby to sleep next to the baby, as she is the one with the sleep awareness of her child.
- Your baby shouldn't be in a position where he could roll to sleep beside a husband or boyfriend who may roll over onto him unknowingly.
- Your baby shouldn't be able to roll off your bed without you waking (and babies tend to gravitate towards their mother and a warm body anyway), but if it's a concern, there are guardrails that fit under your mattress and serve as a safe wall to keep your baby on the bed. They come in many different lengths and heights. (If you're looking to purchase one, try this link. CLICK HERE FOR BUMPERS.) Guardrails enclosed with plastic mesh are safer than those with slats, which can entrap baby's limbs or head. Be sure the guardrail is flush against the mattress so there is no crevice that baby could sink into.
- Don’t share your bed if you smoke or are under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medications that affect your sleep.
- I don't have any personal experience with it, but I don't think a water bed is an appropriate sleeping place for a baby at all, nor would any space be that has excess bedding/sheets where a baby could become entangled.

Remember, people have been safely sharing their beds with their babies for hundreds and hundreds of years. In fact, many cultures find it taboo, not, to bed-share. This concern is not about healthy and sober mothers co-sleeping, it's about exactly the opposite. The media needs to stop trying to scare parents into doing everything they want to deem "best" for everyone. Do what gets you and your baby the most sleep, comfortably and safely, be it you in bed, and baby in crib, or co-sleeping, or bed sharing. Just make sure (like with anything else you would do) you are doing it safely.

Co-sleeping provides many benefits, such as:
- Easier and prolonged breastfeeding, which provides many health benefits for mother and baby.
- Protective arousal and sleep harmony.
- Less night time crying and sleep anxiety (which has negative long term effects on many babies).
- More stable temperatures, regular heart rhythms, and fewer long pauses in breathing compared to babies who sleep alone. This means baby sleeps physiologically safer.
- Healthier growth and development.
- Promotion of better bonding between mother and baby.
- Infants grow up with a healthy sleep attitude, regarding sleep as a pleasant state to enter and a fearless state to remain in. (I know I'm terrified to sleep alone and ALWAYS have been, maybe having been a crib sleeper was the cause?)
- And more peaceful sleep for all in the household, among other things.

Some parents and babies sleep better if baby is still in touching and hearing distance, but not in the same bed. For them, a bedside co-sleeper is a safe option. Try WWW.ARMSREACH.COM for bedside co-sleepers.

My daughter is two, and has slept in our king sized bed with us since the day she arrived. Not once has there ever been a concern for her safety, or a close call, or anything of the like. In fact, when she was only a couple of weeks old, she spit up while laying next to me in our bed and began to choke, unable to catch her breath again. She didn't make a sound, but my motherly instincts kicked in and woke me up, allowing me to see that she was in fact struggling, so that I was able to pick her up and get her breathing again.

If she had been in her crib, I would never have known she wasn't breathing. And although we have a very tall bed, over wood floors, she has never rolled away from me in the night either, causing any concern for her safety as far as falling from our bed. Only now that she is one and able to sit and even stand in our bed are we considering guardrails for her nap times, though laying her in the center of our bed keeps her away from the edge, and like I do any time she isn't near me I keep a monitor next to her to hear when she wakes. Not to mention, she knows how to safely slide off of our bed now at her age.

The links listed below provide scientific evidence of positive co-sleeping as well as the site where you can find the ad campaign that stirred up so much debate. Please remember, co-sleeping can be one of the most beneficial things for your family if practiced safely. More importantly, do what works best for you and your family, not what the media or any other strongly opinionated person, like myself, deems "best" for everyone in the world.




Below I added another link to the bed rails if you're looking to buy one! I chose pink because I love it. :) But you can select other colors and patterns!

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