Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Family Bed-

To sleep or not to sleep with your baby....

There has been a lot of media lately claiming that sleeping with your baby in an adult bed is unsafe and can result in accidental smothering of an infant. One popular research study came out in 1999 from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that showed 515 cases of accidental infant deaths occurred in an adult bed over an 8-year period between 1990 and 1997. That's about 65 deaths per year. These deaths were not classified as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), where the cause of death is undetermined. There were actual causes that were verified upon review of the scene and autopsy. Such causes included accidental smothering by an adult, getting trapped between the mattress and headboard or other furniture, and suffocation on a soft waterbed mattress.

The conclusion that the researchers drew from this study was that sleeping with an infant in an adult bed is dangerous and should never be done. This sounds like a reasonable conclusion, until you consider the epidemic of SIDS as a whole. During the 8-year period of this study, about 34,000 total cases of SIDS occurred in the U.S. (around 4250 per year). If 65 cases of non-SIDS accidental death occurred each year in a bed, and about 4250 cases of actual SIDS occurred overall each year, then the number of accidental deaths in an adult bed is only 1.5% of the total cases of SIDS.

There are two pieces of critical data that are missing that would allow us to determine the risk of SIDS or any cause of death in a bed versus a crib.

  • How many cases of actual SIDS occur in an adult bed versus in a crib?
  • How many babies sleep with their parents in the U.S., and how many sleep in cribs?

The data on the first question is available, but has anyone examined it? In fact, one independent researcher examined the CPSC's data and came to the opposite conclusion than did the CPSC - this data supports the conclusion that sleeping with your baby is actually SAFER than not sleeping with your baby (see Mothering Magazine Sept/Oct 2002). As for the second question, many people may think that very few babies sleep with their parents, but we shouldn't be too quick to assume this. The number of parents that bring their babies into their bed at 4 am is probably quite high. Some studies have shown that over half of parents bring their baby into bed with them at least part of the night. And the number that sleep with their infants the whole night is probably considerable as well. In fact, in most countries around the world sleeping with your baby is the norm, not the exception. And what is the incidence of SIDS in these countries? During the 1990s, in Japan the rate was only one tenth of the U.S. rate, and in Hong Kong, it was only 3% of the U.S. rate. These are just two examples. Some countries do have a higher rate of SIDS, depending on how SIDS is defined.

Until a legitimate survey is done to determine how many babies sleep with their parents, and this is factored into the rate of SIDS in a bed versus a crib, it is unwarranted to state that sleeping in a crib is safer than a bed.

If the incidence of SIDS is dramatically higher in crib versus a parent's bed, and because the cases of accidental smothering and entrapment are only 1.5% of the total SIDS cases, then sleeping with a baby in your bed would be far safer than putting baby in a crib.

The answer is not to tell parents they shouldn't sleep with their baby, but rather to educate them on how to sleep with their infants safely.

I love sleeping with my kids.  Hunter has slept with me his entire life basically up until the day I got married.  With Morgan, she sleeps in her bed next to mine and then I put her in bed with me around 4:00 AM after her feeding.  She gets up around 7:30 AM, so I enjoy those few hours of snuggle time in the mornings, hearing her breath, filling her warm body next to mine and oh that yummy scent she gives off.  The way I see it, this is OUR time as parents to get in all that together time with our kids.  For too soon they will not even think about having you next to them in bed.  As well, I also think that you have all your life from childhood to adult life to sleep alone.... who would want that, especially those little children? So I say go snuggle with your children for you never know when that opportunity will be gone. Safe snuggling and Safe sleeping moms and dads. 

Quiz here.  Do your kids at any time sleep with you or not? Curious!!!  

2 Personal Thoughts:

The Haynes Family said...

...Hey- Reagan doesn't sleep with us, for I fear that one of us may roll over on her, but as an infant (a couple weeks old), I found that she definately slept better with us, but as she has learned to love her crib (which I found her standing up in this evening...AHH!), she doesn't sleep well with us, when I attempt to snuggle. All kids are different!

Pam & Bill said...

The question really is - in the United States in 2008, do we have adult beds that compare to the rest of the world and back through history?

If you're going to critically evaluate bedsharing, you must consider the bed, the bedding and the inhabitants of that bed.

There is very little confusion for those of us that see the death reports on infants and evaluate the cases. Regardless of the cause of death - SIDS, Accidental Suffocation, Undetermined, many infants die in the adult bed.

Infants die in cribs as well. However, when we evaluate those crib environments, we have to ask, was that a safe crib?

Infants don't come with guarantees of survival, but most infants do live. If you successfully bedshared with your children - that's great.

Unfortunately, not all parents are as lucky. A better solution might be to keep your baby close - in a safe crib in your room - so that you can bring baby into your bed for breastfeeding and cuddle time. But, when you're ready to sleep, place baby back in their safe sleep space.

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