Edited to add: The author of this piece is very PRO-CO-SLEEPING. Look at the references cited, look at the risks of cribs pointed out. This article is about how we don’t tell families how to safely co-sleep and nothing more. It’s not a statement about religion, teen sex or anything, despite what the commenters may say. You can sum this article up as: Dear Establishment, Just because you won’t talk to us about co-sleeping doesn’t mean we won’t do it, we’re going to do it anyway. Therefore, please tell parents what safety precautions we can take to make it even safer. Thank you, Co-sleeping Parents.
Abstinence versus birth control education. I like to think that this is a done deal when it comes to health educators and public health officials. While abstinence can prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, it is simply not an obtainable goal for the vast majority of people through out the course of their life time. This means that something else has to come into play to help keep them as safe as possible as they make reproductive choices. This means we teach them about birth control methods and condoms to help prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. We empower them to speak up and given them choices, including abstinence.
Sharing sleep surfaces with your baby is the exact same argument. You can tell a family that they shouldn’t sleep with their baby. You can explain all of the reasons why your organization or you as an individual do not believe in it. But when you fail to explain to them that should they choose to sleep with their baby anyway, that they can do it in a way that is safer than not following a few guidelines, then you are missing an opportunity to empower them to make choices that might be life saving for them as a family. You also prevent them from talking to you about the truth.
Some co-sleeping facts:
- Co-sleeping is having your baby sleep closely to you, as in, in the same room or potentially on the same surface, or in a co-sleeper
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your baby co-sleep in your room, but not on the same sleep surface, for at least the first few months.
- Never sleep with your baby on a couch or recliner
- Talk to all caregivers about safe sleep practices with your baby
- If you choose to sleep with your baby in your bed there are guidelines that you should follow. These include, but are not limited to:
- A firm mattress
- No fluffy bedding or pillows, quilts etc. used
- Do not place the baby near the head board or the wall
- Do not sleep with your baby on a water bed
- Do not sleep with your baby if you are taking any medications, even over the counter medications, that may make you sleepy or disoriented
- Do not sleep with your baby if you have been drinking or using drugs
- Sleeping with your baby on your bed is safest when you do not smoke
- Breastfeeding helps you be responsive to your baby when sharing a sleeping surface
- Babies are safest when sleeping on their backs
- Don’t leave your baby alone on the bed, even if you think that they can’t roll over or move
- There are safety rules for cribs, cradles and co-sleepers as well, particularly having to do with the make and set up of the actual equipment. 11 million cribs have been recalled in the last two years alone. 56% of deaths associated with safety products are related to cribs, cradles, etc. 77,000 injuries are reported due to nursery products with the vast majority being related to sleep surfaces like cribs, play yards, etc.
The point is to open the conversation. To give parents, providers, educators – everyone, a voice. Open the bedroom doors and talk about what happens at night when the lights go out. Parents are faced with choices, and this is one of them. Not giving them all the information that they need to make a decision, because you don’t like what that choice might be, is not a reason to withhold vital information.
AAP. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The changing concept of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Diagnostic coding shifts, controversies regarding the sleeping environment, and new variables to consider in reducing risk. Pediatrics 2005; 116: 1245-55.
Ball HL. Reasons to bed-share: why parents sleep with their infants. J Reproductive and Infant Psychol 2002; 20: 207-21.
Gettler, LT, McKenna, JJ. Never Sleep with Baby? Or Keep Me Close But Keep Me Safe: Eliminating Inappropriate “Safe Infant Sleep” Rhetoric in the United States. Current Pediatric Reviews, 2010, 6, 71-77.
Lahr MB, Rosenberg KD, Lapidus JA. Bedsharing and maternal smoking in a population-based survey of new mothers. Pediatrics 2005; 116: E530-42.
McKenna JJ. Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Cosleeping. Platypus Media. 2007.
McKenna JJ, Ball HL, Gettler LT. Mother-infant co-sleeping, breastfeeding and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): What biological anthropology has discovered about normal infant sleep and pediatric sleep medicine. Yearb Phys Anthropol 2007; 50: 133- 61.