The eternal co-sleeping debate. Does it ever end? I guess it won’t. It’s always alarming to hear stories about infants dying. Take for example the story below.
The story comes out of Columbus, Ohio where 4 separate cases of infants dying occurred. On the outside that doesn’t seem so odd. From SIDS, respiratory infections, accidental suffocation, to undetected physical problems many more than four babies die each day. Probably all in the same area also.
However what set these four cases apart is that each child was sleeping with an adult at the time of death. This has, of course, lead to warnings of the dangers of co-sleeping being tossed around. Of course we don’t know exactly how these babies died yet, but the simple fact that all four so happened to be with adults sleeping leaves some pointing to co-sleeping as the obvious cause.
It’s ironic that if four babies in the same county all died and they were all in cribs, there really wouldn’t be much of a public outcry on the dangers of leaving infants alone in cribs.
There really wouldn’t be too much fuss about the dangers of leaving infants in cribs as compared to infants co sleeping with their parents.
Although there are studies showing that co sleeping isn’t as dangerous as it’s depicted to be, a lot of parents are still in a quandary as to whether they should practice it or not.
No one can blame these parents since scare tactics are still being used to sheep people into thinking that co sleeping is, indeed, very dangerous. Parents are told that co sleeping will kill their children, even if there is no proof that it will.
Unfortunately, parents are not presented with facts about co-sleeping. Instead, they are threatened to practice it.
When it comes to the safety of kids, specifically babies, there’s just no room for ignorance. Dr. James J. McKenna is from the University of Notre Dame. He is connected with the University’s Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory. He shares some valuable insights on co-sleeping.
“One of the important distinctions that need to be made, both in research and in discussions that parents have, because it is one that really can change the behavior of people. It has to do with defining and getting it right. What co-sleeping means vs. what bed sharing means vs. what sofa sharing means.”
He defines co-sleeping as a kind of situation or setting where the mother, father, or even a dedicated caregiver are all within the sensory range of the baby.
He adds that the participants in a co-sleeping setting are able to detect each other since they can see, hear, and feel each other’s presence. He further goes on to say:
“The participants can detect and respond to those signals and cues of the other because it changes for the baby.”
Dr. McKenna cites the many ways different cultures practice co-sleeping.
“There are as many ways to co-sleep with your baby as there are cultures doing it, thousands of different ways, depending upon where you are. In our culture, one way would be to have your baby in bed with you, called bed sharing.”
He goes on to cite another variation of co-sleeping and what exactly should take place in a co-sleeping setting.
“Another way to do it would be to have your baby sleeping alongside in a bassinet within arm’s reach … The Navajo Indians put a baby in a cradle board and out the cradle board right next to a modern bed. That’s their way of co-sleeping. Some moms around the world sleep on a hammock with your baby. Some on a raised platform. So it isn’t really so much what the physical structure looks like on which it takes place, though the safety issues really need to be raised but it’s very important that the actual proximity and contact takes place because that’s what is biologically appropriate.”
It’s safe to say that the two important elements of a co-sleeping setting are proximity and contact. Unfortunately, those two elements are often missed out. When that happens, co-sleeping becomes a very vague topic that remains a debatable.
“For example, in terms of the ways this can be misused, bed-sharing is often used as kind of a proxy for any and all co-sleeping.”
He cites an example:
“So in other words somebody might say something like, ‘Oh! I heard that co-sleeping is extremely dangerous. Just five babies died last week or last month in Detroit from co sleeping.”
It’s very easy to make a conclusion about co-sleeping even if the manner of co-sleeping isn’t identified. Dr. McKenna has this to say:
“What they are talking about isn’t, perhaps, co sleeping. They’re talking specifically … about sofa-sleeping, recliner-sleeping, or bed-sharing. Which can be, in many ways, either safe or dangerous.”
He goes on to explain:
“Bed-sharing may be safe or dangerous depending on specifically how it’s done … I always suggest to parents that a breastfeeding mother-baby care is much safer in bed than it is in a bottle feeding mother-baby care because the physiology of breastfeeding is very different in both the mother and the baby in terms of sensitivities to the presence of the other …the baby … just wants to be … as close to its mother as possible.”
He adds this very crucial point:
“So co-sleeping needs to be further distinguished. The question someone might say is, ‘Oh, co sleeping. But what kind of co-sleeping are you referring to you? You know, bed-sharing, sofa-sleeping, or recliner sleeping?’ Sofa sleeping and recliner sleeping … are two forms that are always dangerous. You want to avoid them.”
Dr. McKenna cites a form of co-sleeping that is safe:
“One form of co sleeping is called separate surface co sleeping. Some people like to call it room-sharing, meaning you’re in the same room. But personally I don’t like that term because it kind of distances what’s really being shared … It’s really person sharing. It’s the mother or the father who’s committed to that baby in the room that’s changing something about that baby and making that baby healthier and safer for its night sleep. It’s proactive. So separate surface co-sleeping or person sharing but on separate surfaces is extremely important and always safe.”
Co-sleeping is a very intricate topic. You really need to dig into the facts first before making your own conclusion about it.
It will just be a total waste of time to worry about co-sleeping. Why make a fuss about it when a medical expert like Dr. McKenna cites the safest ways to co-sleep with your baby.