Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The dangers of co-sleeping

People always go on and on about the dangers of co-sleeping for the child.  They neglect to mention the dangers to the parent.  Aside from bruised ribs, falling out of bed, crushed noses, and sore backs, there is another danger to parents: suffocation.

Last week I was putting L.H. to bed and dozed off a bit laying beside her.  I wake up a while later a bit hazy and out of it and feeling as though I'm not getting enough air.  As an asthmatic that happens sometimes, but this felt different.  Finally I fully woke up and realized that the problem was that L.H. had shoved her pudgy little arm into my face in such a way that it was completely blocking my nose.  And voila, there you go - parental suffocation.

In all seriousness, though, I think that co-sleeping gets a really bad rap.  There was recently an ad campaign in Milwaukee which pictured an infant in bed sleeping with a butcher knife, with the caption "Your baby sleeping with you can be just as dangerous."  The AAP also recommends against co-sleeping (baby should be in his own bed in his parents' room).

I do agree that co-sleeping can be dangerous - if you don't do it properly.  We made a safe environment for our child.  N. and I are never under the influence of drugs or alcohol; I stopped sleeping with a comforter and instead just use a top sheet and lightweight, breathable blanket - pulled up only to my waist; I didn't give up my pillows but kept her head at least six inches away; and made sure that the sheet was tight-fitting and the mattress wasn't too soft.

There aren't very many statistics available on the topic, but what I have gleaned off of what was available was that most co-sleeping deaths occurred when the parameters for safe sleeping were not met.  As a breastfeeding mother, sleeping with my babe just about saved my sanity.  It took several weeks until I was comfortable sharing my bed with her and until she and I mastered nursing laying down, but once everything clicked into place - suddenly I was actually getting sleep at night.

I don't advocate this practice for everyone.  I just think that there are a lot of scare tactics being used out there that shouldn't be.  If the AAP says that co-sleeping is bad, there are still people who will do it.  Really they should put out a comprehensive list of guidelines for making bed sharing as safe as possible so that those who still decide to do it at least know how to do it right.

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