In the News
The Deadly Risks of Co-Sleeping
New study points to significant dangers of co-sleeping
-Julie Ryan Evans
Co-sleeping is one of those controversial topics that ignites fierce debates between parents who embrace the practice and those who don’t. A new study is sure to fan the flames and gives those who renounce the practice some pretty strong evidence to support their position that babies belong in cribs.
The study from the UK’s Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) found that nearly half of all sudden deaths among infants between 2005 and 2008 in London were caused by co-sleeping on a bed or on a couch.
The foundation says individuals who smoke, drink alcohol or take medication or drugs that make them drowsy are at particularly high risk as are babies who were born prematurely and/or with low birth weights. They also include in the high-risk group those who “feel very tired.” (Um, wouldn’t that include all new parents?)
“I see many families whose lives have been devastated by the sudden death of their baby, but the numbers of infants that we continue to find dead in beds, on sofas or armchairs is unacceptable,” said John S Pollard, coroner for the Manchester South District. “We need to make all parents aware that the most comfortable place for them to sleep is the most dangerous place for their baby.”
Here in the United States, in Milwaukee alone, four infants have died while co-sleeping since March. There way too many stories and statistics that illustrate the dangers of this practice.
Of course, there are plenty of mothers and groups out there who will tell you how safe it is to co-sleep if you do it correctly, how beneficial it is for baby and mother if you take precautions.
But even with precautions, there are risks. In a recent blog post, Don Mays, senior director, product safety for Consumer Reports, wrote:
“Although sleeping with a baby in an adult bed is a common practice among some cultures, it can be dangerous. The new bassinet-like devices designed to go in between parents or alongside an adult bed don’t necessarily make co-sleeping with a baby safer… Currently, safety standards don’t exist for either co-sleepers or bedside sleepers. Until they do, we think the safest place for your baby to sleep is in a crib.”
Sure accidents can and will happen no matter what parents do, and the majority of babies who co-sleep turn out just fine–better even, according to their attachment-style parents. I have nothing against attachment parenting–I’ve even been known to sport a sling–and I support a parents’ right to chose what they feel is right for their child. But I can’t imagine making a choice this risky.
I knew someone who woke up to find her baby suffocated between herself and her leather couch. She didn’t even intend to fall asleep; she was just an exhausted mother trying to soothe her beautiful baby boy.
Sitting through the funeral for a 2-month-old, and seeing her family collapse in the aftermath of that tragedy is enough to jolt me awake if my eyelids get so much as a bit heavy when I’m feeding my daughter in the middle of the night. And to make a conscious choice to put her in bed with us is, for me, unthinkable.
She may sleep better in bed with her father and me, but I’d rather listen to her scream in her crib all night long than to wake up and never hear cry again …