Borchardt Consulting

Posts Tagged ‘Bed Sharing

I was reading an article from Australia where a coroner was making an impassioned  plea for parents to stop bed sharing with their infants.  This coroner had handled a number of recent infant deaths.  In all his cases the infants had been sleeping in the same bed with the parents on the night that the baby died.  The coroner ruled these deaths accidental suffocation.  He was pleading with the parents in Australia to stop putting their infants, especially those less than 6 months old in the adult bed with the parents.  His recommendation was to place the baby in a crib near the parent’s bed so that the baby could still be easily tended but keep baby in his or her own safe sleep space.

Breastfeeding is Best for Baby

This article was quickly responded to by a group of breastfeeding advocates.  The argument made by the advocates was “It’s not THAT dangerous”.  Holy smokes!  My head almost blew off.  Really, it’s not THAT dangerous!  Is that the best argument that you can make in response to numerous babies dying?  How many babies have to die before it’s considered “that dangerous”?As a mother who successfully, exclusively breastfed 3 babies, I am strongly in favor of breastfeeding as the best food for baby.  As a working mother, I completely understand how exhausting and  challenging it can be to breastfeed.  It takes real commitment. There is no question that it’s hard work.  Rewarding, but hard work.  As a parent, I get to make all the decisions for my baby.  As a parent, my primary responsibility is to keep my baby safe.  All else is secondary.

How many babies have to die before breastfeeding advocates rate bed sharing as dangerous enough?  I have heard from many parents who have successfully raised their babies through infancy while sleeping together.  They say, “It’s not dangerous.  I did it and my children are fine.”  That makes you lucky.  Not right.  It feels like these parents believe that they are somehow better, smarter, richer….something more than those poor parents who had a baby die.  Those unfortunate parents must be overweight, drug addicted, alcoholics.  Something must be WRONG with them.

Is it possible that we are putting the comfort of the mother ahead of the health and safety of the baby?  Remember, this is not a situation where the consequences for being wrong are minor.  The consequences for being wrong is your babies life!  I cannot figure out why any parent would risk their infants life when there is an inexpensive, simple alternative – a crib in the parent’s bedroom.

There are some pediatricians and anthropologists who argue that bed sharing with your baby is essential to bonding.  Baby must be alive to bond.  They quote lots of statistics about how mothers and babies have slept together from millennium.  Mothers, you have to understand that sometimes through evolution some behaviors are no longer necessary.  We no longer sleep in caves where we have to use our bodies to provide heat for our babies and keep them safe from maurading animals.  Our beds are now soft surfaces filled with more soft items like pillows, duvets, comforters and pillow toppers and more.  Don’t let talk of “co-sleeping” confuse you into thinking that bed sharing is safe.  The research is clear that room sharing is safe.  Bed sharing is not.

There are many barriers for some mothers to surmount in order to successfully breastfeed.  Room sharing is not one of them.

Recently, there was an excellent  article in the New York Times entitled “A Campaign Against Co-Sleeping“.   This was a thoughtful article on the Milwaukee ads that have caused such a hew and cry amongst professionals and attachment parenting advocates.

Milwaukee's Safe Sleep Campaign

The author, KJ Dellantonia offers one main point to consider – “It isn’t whether bed-sharing can be safe under the right circumstances (no soft bedding, no alcohol or medications, non-smoking parents, no cutlery). It’s whether the ads will work, and even whether they might work too well.”  She goes on to say:

“An image of a baby sleeping with a butcher knife is  powerful enough to stick in the head of not just a pregnant woman or new mother considering her baby’s sleeping arrangements, but also in the head of the boyfriend she might leave that baby with, or the grandmother, or the  sitter.

It’s shocking enough to stay with a woman who isn’t making a clear-headed decision about sleeping with her baby, but is acting out of sleep-deprivation (or some other form of desperation) when she collapses onto a sofa or takes an infant into an unprepared bed. It’s enough to make almost anyone think twice. These ads are likely to achieve their stated goal: disrupting a cycle that Milwaukee believes leads to easily preventable infant deaths.”

The author calls for a calm discussion from the readers to weigh in about the intention of the ads – not whether bed-sharing worked for you and not if bed-sharing is an effective parenting tool.  She asked that we consider whether the ads will be effective with a particular segment of the population referred to as the “impulsive bed-sharer”.

I am truly impressed with the comments that followed her article.  Rather than the usual party lines for and against bed-sharing, there are a number of thoughtful constructive comments. People from both sides of the debate coming together to address an issue.

I’m all for it!  Constructive debate is good.  Instead of “I did it so it’s right” or “Everyone that does it is endangering their babies.”  Let’s have an open forum.  According to the 2011 Health Ranking Report, the U.S. ranks 43rd in infant mortality in the world.  Countries like Sweden, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Iceland are all half of the United States rate.”  Come on now.  We can do better!

The Back to Sleep campaign was successful in reducing sudden unexpected infant deaths by nearly 50% however, in the last 10 years, that decline has leveled off.  We need to try something new.  People, there are babies dying out there.  What do you suggest?

Do you ever read the comments at the end of an on-line newspaper article?  I do.  Apparently, lots of people comment on newspaper articles.  Sometimes, those comments just make me want to scream.  I recently read an article from NPR entitled “Co-Sleeping is Back in the News”.

The author, Barbara J. King was commenting upon the fact that a baby died while sleeping in bed with his breastfeeding mother.  The cause of death was listed as “a co-sleeping accident”. This article was a fairly unbiased commentary on co-sleeping.  While there is much about this article that I would choose to comment on, I’ll pass by that for now and go directly to the comments.

nothing is forever  wrote:

responsible parents never roll over their babies it is not optimism but truth if it is not true humans would have been extinct by now…..from time immemorial babies slept with their parents that gives the parents and the child a bond which we is very important. When a baby dies with mother rolling over the baby it is news because it is very uncommon………….

WHAT!  Where do you get your information?  After nearly 20 years of working with newly bereaved parents whose infants have died, it’s not all that uncommon.  Every single day my fax machine will turn on with at least one death report for an infant.  When a baby dies due to an overlay or accidental suffocation, some parents are too grief stricken and guilt-ridden to tell the world.  It is a horrible accident.

Leah  wrote:

I slept in the bed with all three of mine when they were babies and never rolled on any of them. The elephant in the room here is the *size* of the parent, I’d wager.

Wow!  That’s certainly judgmental.   Having your children survive might just make you incredibly lucky – not right. Why is it necessary to vilify parents who experienced a horrible tragedy?  In order to separate yourself (you’re right and they are wrong), it’s apparently necessary to make them fat, drug using, alcoholics.  Research has shown us that some of the reasons that you should NOT bedshare are using  drugs (even over-the counter drugs like cold medication), alcohol,  smoking and being overweight.   But the list is actually much, much longer.  No one wants to be
the bed room police. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine actually has protocols for breastfeeding mothers to co-sleep.  You can check them out here.

Brow Master wrote:

You don’t need a doctors opinion on this just listen to your own mother or grandmother.

I’m sure that your mother would be happy to hear that you believe she is always right; however, changes in childrearing occur because research
continues to give us more information, new products are discovered and even our children change. I’d wager that your mother did not put her children in a car seat.  There was probably lead paint on the crib that she used.  I played on construction sites, drank out of garden hoses and ate white bread with butter and sugar for lunch, but I certainly wouldn’t want my grandchildren to do that.

Jerry wrote:

From an evolutionary perspective, survival requires co-sleeping. For most of human history, sleeping away from your parents would most likely result in your becoming food for predators.

I wonder if the any of the studies factor in the size of the mother. There are some women walking around here even I wouldn’t feel safe sleeping next to.

Excellent point – Evolution. Defined as  1. any process of formation or growth; development. 2. A product of such development. 3. Biology.
Change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift. 4. A process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development, as in social or economic structure or institutions.

In short, evolution means change.  I can’t speak for everyone, but in my neighborhood, I don’t have to worry about lions eating my children.  We have heat in our home so I don’t have to keep them close for heat.  I sleep in an America style comfortable bed, not on a dirt floor.  Sometimes, we outgrow our evolutionary history.  Some call that progress.  As to the other point about a woman’s weight – that’s just mean.  Most women who have recently given birth to a baby are carrying a bit of extra weight.

Candida  wrote:

I am sorry for this mother though it may be that the baby would have still passed or passed sooner had it been in a crib. The majority of the worlds culture co-sleep.

Back to that.  I don’t live in a third-world country (most of the world’s population).  Also, please don’t ever say something like
that to a bereaved parent.  We all die eventually but you have no way of knowing that this baby would die under other circumstances.

jpett88 wrote:

“3 million years of human evolution have prepared you for it.”

My favorite product of millions years of human evolution is the frontal cortex of the brain, which allows [most] humans to think rationally. It’s why we buckle our seatbelts in cars. Why we avoid drinking antifreeze. And probably why we shouldn’t sleep in the same bed as our babies, given the evidence. Bed-sharing is probably on par with opting out of vaccinations. Low risk but
high stakes. It’s a parenting choice, of course.

There are no right answers. Just safer answers.

AMEN! Excellent answer!  There are no right answers.  Just safer answers.  As a parent, you get to decide for your family what works best for you.  Consider, are you putting the comfort of the parents ahead of the safety of the child?   Babies are dying – unnecessarily.  As the parent, you get to chose what is right for your baby and for your family.  Make an informed choice and don’t for a minute think that it only happens to “bad” people.  It happens in every racial, ethnic, economic group.  It happens to loving parents who desperately wanted a baby.  Luckily, it doesn’t happen to most of us.  But, most people do know someone who has had a baby die.  That family deserves your sympathy, empathy and support.  Not your judgment.

When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.   Sophia Loren, from Women and Beauty

NBC’s Today Show recently ran a story entitled “New study: Parent/child bed-sharing is OK”.  If you haven’t seen it, please watch the link.  http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/43984891#43984891

NBC News chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman and psychiatrist Dr. Joshua Weiner talk about a new study that says it is OK for children to sleep in their parents’ bed at night.  The problem with this story is that the study was intended to demonstrate the long-term effects on children who bedshare with their parents. Unfortunately, this discussion wasn’t very clear on how unsafe the practice is for infants.

First, let’s be clear on terms.  The term bed-sharing is used when parents sleep in bed with their children.  It also is sometimes referred to as the family bed.  Adults and children (including infants) share the same sleep surface.

Room-sharing is the term used when infants and/or children sleep in the same room as the parents in close proximity but in their own bed or crib.

The term co-sleeping is the term used for both bed-sharing and room-sharing.  This term is rarely used by researchers because it is too general.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and most SIDS related organizations do not recommend bedsharing for parents in the United States who use the typical bedding found in American bedrooms.  It has been well documented that the risk for a sleep related death increases dramatically for infants in the adult bed.  Their is a 40 times greater risk of death than for an infant in her own safe crib.

The greatest risks to infants actually occurs with what is called “chaotic bed-sharing”.  This is a term used for an unplanned sleep time where the infant is brought into the adult bed without the adult pre-planning the shared sleep space.  Every parent has experienced that night when she just needs to get a little sleep and the infant is not cooperating.  So, Mom or Dad brings the baby into bed out of desperation in order to just get a few minutes of sleep before another day begins.

There is plenty of conversations from anthropologists and bed-sharing proponents that tell us that parents have slept with their infants all over the world for centuries.  That is completely true.  However, sometimes our evolutionary habits outlast the need.  We no longer have to keep our infants close for fear of lions.  Nor do we have to keep them close to keep them warm.

In most cultures where bed-sharing is the norm, the bed does not resemble an American style bed.  Today’s parents generally don’t sleep on a thin pallet on the floor without the benefit of pillows and blankets.

When the parents sleep, that is the longest time that a helpless newborn is unattended.  Therefore, it is imperative that the newborn is in a safe microenvironment.  Studies of infant deaths confirm that sleep related deaths most often occur in unsafe sleep environments.

Do parents bed-share – Yes!  Do most babies live – Yes!  Do toddlers or children suffer pychological damage for bed-sharing – No!  But, sleeping with an infant in an adult bed is definitely risky behavior.  Can it be done without tragic consequences?  Yes!   But, unfortunately, accidents happen.  Parents have to consider the risks for they are real.


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