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Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Also called bedsharing, co-sleeping is the practice of sharing your bed with your infant. Co-sleeping practices are gaining in popularity, and I've noticed recently lots of discussion on the topic that is VERY negative in nature. Parents from both sides bash the other, with the idea that *they* know best and the other side is just ignorant. The biggest problem I've seen is misinformation from the pro co-sleeping side that no babies have died while co-sleeping. This is very untrue, and can be a problem for parents who are led to believe that it is much safer to co-sleep rather than put their baby in a crib. Here I will discuss the inherent risks of both co-sleeping and crib sleeping for babies.

Where's the risk?

With crib sleeping, we all know there is a risk of SIDS. We've also heard not to put certain things in the baby's crib such as soft bedding, pillows, and toys. But do we know why leaving these things out helps decrease SIDS risk? Most people assume that they are a suffocation hazard, because most people don't know the true cause of SIDS. (And most orthodox SIDS scientists don't either). They know that most babies found dead were either on their stomach, sleeping with a comforter, or sleeping on a pillow, etc. But the true cause is found not only in the baby's own mattress, but other products of synthetic materials that outgas a deadly nerve gas when fungus grows inside. You can read more about this Toxic Gas Theory for more knowledge on the subject.
Proponents of co-sleeping believe that their practice decreases the risk of SIDS. There is a very real possibility that babies that share the family bed are at less risk of dying from SIDS. This is only because many babies who co-sleep tend to sleep on their backs or in their mother's arms. This helps decrease the risk, because even though adult beds have the same toxic nerve gases as baby mattresses, the baby tends to breathe air away from the mattress which is fresher and contains little or none of the gases. But another risk comes into play that does not exist with crib sleeping. Actually, a number of risks. There is overlaying, falling from the bed, getting stuck between mattress and wall, getting covered by parents' blankets, and strangulation by various means. The Consumer Products Safety Commission collected these statistics:

A review of incident data from January 1990 to December 1997 linked adult beds to at least 515 baby deaths. Analysis of the deaths revealed four major hazard patterns:
  • Suffocation associated with the co-sleeping of adult and baby.
  • Suffocation where an infant becomes entrapped or wedged between the mattress and another object.
  • Suffocation due to airway obstruction when the baby is face down on a waterbed mattress.
  • Strangulation in rails or openings on beds that allow a baby's body to pass through while entrapping the head.
CPSC's study is the first to quantify the number of fatalities resulting from the practice of co-sleeping with babies. Of the 515 deaths, 121 were reported to be due to a parent, caregiver or sibling rolling on top of or against the baby while sleeping. More than three-quarters of these deaths occurred to infants younger than 3 months. The other 394 deaths resulted from suffocation or from strangulation caused by entrapment of the child's head in various structures of the bed. Entrapments occurred between the mattress and the wall, bed frame, headboard, footboard, bed railings or adjacent furniture.
The first thing most co-sleeping fans scream is, "but how many of those deaths were actually SIDS?!" This is because they do not understand what SIDS is. And let me go back to the whole reason they give for co-sleeping: it decreases the SIDS risk. Well, you can't have it both ways, so which is it?

IS Co-Sleeping Safer than Crib Sleeping?

If you compare the numbers, there are actually fewer deaths per year from co-sleeping than there are crib sleeping. But what we don't know is how many people actually co-sleep with their babies? Since most co-sleeping deaths are going to be labeled as those above, and not SIDS, we don't know how many of those 515 were actually SIDS. And if we don't know how many people co-sleep with their babies, it is hard to make a comparison. But this should be clear:  aside from SIDS risk, there are additional risks with co-sleeping that are missing with crib sleeping and those are the suffocation and strangulation risks above. Forgetting all SIDS statistics, 515 babies died while co-sleeping that would be alive today if they were sleeping in their own beds (assuming none of the deaths were SIDS deaths). Since there is no solid proof that co-sleeping decreases the SIDS risk, during co-sleeping you are introducing an additional risk to your baby that otherwise would not be there if the baby were sleeping in a crib.

What About Safe Co-Sleeping Practices?

This is where we calm down all the nay sayers that are reading this and fuming. The term "co-sleep" means many different things to different people. Some families will do everything they can to make the shared bed safe for their baby (outside of wrapping the mattress which is the most important element). Other families "co-sleep" because the mom or dad passed out from drinking or drugging and happened to be holding the baby when they did so. There are two extremes and everything in the middle. One of the "safe" co-sleeping points is to never sleep with your baby if you are exhausted from sleep many new moms do you know that AREN'T sleep deprived? Some sleeping environments are safer than others, obviously, but this still does not remove the SIDS risk from sleeping on an unwrapped mattress. Since you CAN wrap a crib mattress very easily, you CAN eliminate the SIDS risk in a crib while you cannot reduce it in an adult mattress. Unless you wrap an adult mattress, you are not safely co-sleeping, no matter how you set up your bed and what you remove from it.

How Can I Eliminate SIDS Risk?

First, I want to say that in this article, when I say "SIDS," I am referring to what is actually "crib death." I feel very confident in telling you that you can absolutely eliminate this risk by wrapping your crib mattress with a polyethylene sheeting such as the BabeSafe Mattress Cover. *If* Dr. Sprott was wrong about the Toxic Gas Theory, it would be irrelevant to the fact that his product has a 100% success rate. Here are statistical facts proving the importance of this theory and the BabeSafe Mattress Cover:
  • The "p" factor for the mattress-wrapping intervention was calculated by Dr Kapuste, in collaboration with experts from the Statistics Department of the University of Munich; result:  p = less than 1.9 x 10-22
  • Medical researchers regard “p” less than 0.01 (10-2) as good proof of a scientific proposition; and "p" less than 0.001 (10-3) as virtually certain proof.
  • The “p” factor for mattress-wrapping, 1.9 x 10-22 can be written as:  0.000,000,000,000,000,000,000,19
  • Put another way, the statistical proof that mattress-wrapping prevents crib death is one billion billion times the level of proof which is generally regarded as constituting certain proof of a scientific proposition. 
It is estimated that 235,000 babies have slept on wrapped mattresses with ZERO crib deaths. Statistically, over 200 babies should have died. Also important in this concept is that proper bedding protocol should be followed, since polyester fills, waterproof mattress pads, and sheepskin are also dangerous items due to their arsenic, antimony, and phosphorus content.

What if I Still Want to Co-Sleep?

You can still eliminate crib death risk and co-sleep as well. There are co-sleeper beds available that bump right up next to an adult bed that make co-sleeping safe from all standpoints. First, you can purchase a co-sleeper mattress cover to eliminate crib death risk. Second, you can keep your baby in a safe sleeping environment (away from heavy sleepers, harmful bedding, and entrapment possibilities). Your baby will still be close so that you and baby can bond, and nursing will be just as easy. Personally, my daughter loved being in her crib and slept through the night from four weeks on. As she got older, though, when crib death is not an issue anymore, she was welcome in our bed and still to this day will come into our room sometime during the night. So while you may turn your nose up at a co-sleeper for whatever reason you have, it is possible to have a safe, shared family bed once your baby is a toddler over the age of 14 months.

What if That's Not Good Enough for Me?

Well, then, you realize that you are taking the risk if you want to have the baby in bed with you. I have slept many nights holding both of my newborns all night, especially my son who was a classic "high needs" baby. We did not know anything about the real cause of crib death, and he even slept on his stomach more than back, because he would NOT sleep on his back. With my daughter, she was 6 months old before I learned about the true crib death risk, and she as well had spent many nights in my bed. But the difference between getting your baby from a co-sleeper or bassinet and having the baby right there next to you in the bed is so minimal. During at least the first couple of months of breastfeeding, it is not easy to get proper latch on while lying in a bed for most people. So I found myself heading for the glider rocker during the night, anyway. If you can do it, that's great. But your baby would be safer returned to her co-sleeper when she is finished nursing. And personally, I would sleep better knowing she was safe rather than worrying that something would happen to her during the night, by my own doing.

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