thoughts on bed sharing

I try to avoid weighing in on these controversial subjects but this is one I thought I'd throw my two cents in.

This week, the city of Milwaukee introduced a quite controversial campaign on bed-sharing:

This ad has obviously pissed off a lot of parents, especially those who've co-slept with their children, specifically through bed sharing. First, I want to point out that co-sleeping can mean many things, from bed sharing, to baby sleeping in his own co-sleeper or pack 'n play next to the bed, to sleeping in a crib on the other side of the family bedroom. This ad is focusing on the bed-sharing aspect of co-sleeping. 

We co-slept with the boys, mainly with them in an arm's reach co-sleeper next to our bed, and at times there was one boy in the bed next to me. I took the pad off of our mattress, kept him on my side (not between Chikezie and I because he's a heavy sleeper) and had no loose bedding or blankets around him. The boys stayed in our room until they were 6 months old. Through our experiences I do feel strongly about the benefits of co-sleeping. However, I did my research, had many options and did what I thought worked best for my family. 

This is not the case for every household. 

Research has shown that the risk of SIDS is increased in bed sharing situations. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
"Epidemiologic studies have not demonstrated any bed-sharing situations that are protective against SIDS or suffocation. Furthermore, not all risks associated with bed- sharing, such as parental fatigue, can be controlled. Therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend any specific bed-sharing situations as safe. Moreover, there are specific circumstances that, in epidemiologic studies, substantially increase the risk of SIDS or suffocation while bed-sharing. In particular, it should be stressed to parents that they avoid the following situations at all times:
i. Bed-sharing when the infant is younger than 3 months, regardless of whether the parents are smokers or not.5,7,31–34  
ii. Bed-sharing with a current smoker (even if he or she does not smoke in bed) or if the mother smoked during pregnancy.5,6,34–36 
iii. Bed-sharingwithsomeone who is excessively tired.
iv. Bed-sharing with someone who has or is using medications (eg, certain antidepressants, pain medications) or substances (eg, alcohol, il- licit drugs) that could im- pair his or her alertness or ability to arouse.7,37 
v. Bed-sharing with anyone who is not a parent, including other children.3vi. Bed-sharing with multiple persons.3 
vii. Bed-sharing on a soft surface such as a waterbed, old mattress, sofa, couch, or armchair.3,5,6,31,32 
viii. Bed-sharing on a surface with soft bedding, including pillows, heavy blankets, quilts, and comforters.3,38   "

According to the city of Milwaukee website:
"Between 2006 and 2009 there were 89 infant deaths related to SIDS, SUDI, or accidental suffocation.  Of these, 46 (51.7%) infants were sleeping in an adult bed at the time of their death."
SO MANY families in this country bed share safely but just because they did so without incident  doesn't mean the risks are any less for the rest of the population. Sadly, not every parent just "knows the rules" of bed sharing. If you don't know how to do it safely, you ought to not do it. Co-sleeping in a bed next to yours is just as good, and safer for those who don't know the proper precautions. 

This ad even gives a number for parents to call to receive a free pack 'n play, and the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the City of Milwaukee are encouraging co-sleeping in that way. With the number of infant deaths in bed sharing situations their city, I believe they have every right to err on the side of caution by telling parents to place their babies in cribs at night. In Milwaukee, the risks of bed sharing are outweighing the possible benefits safe bed sharing.

This ad might anger many parents who've shared a bed with their children with no problems, because in their experience, bed sharing was a positive experience. However in the city of Milwaukee, 46 deaths in one year of babies sleeping in bed with their parents is 46 too many. I'm sure one of those parents who lost a child would tell you if they would have known how to bed share effectively or had been able to purchase a bed for their baby to co-sleep in next to them, they would have done it in a heartbeat.  

Many SIDS deaths are in lower and lower middle class households where the access to proper information or funds for safe bedding are unavailable. Regardless of the controversy surrounding this series of advertisements, it has already achieved it's goal; to bring awareness. Whether you agree with it or not, it's intent is positive and will hopefully save a life.

For information on the City of Milwaukee's campaign for safe sleeping go HERE.

For the latest SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Expansion of Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment publication by the American Academy of Pediatrics go HERE.

1 comment :

  1. Funny timing... This is my blog post for today

    When I was pregnant I swore I would never bed share. Then I actually had my son and like so many things, decided I was wrong. We bed-shared with Cash from the time he was a few days old and just now transitioned him into his crib at 8 months. While it drove my husband bat shit crazy, I loved it and will do it again with future children.

    Bed sharing isn't for everyone and it seems like they can't make a generic, "it's a great idea" statement because there are too many idiots out there.

    But honestly the ad DID piss me off. There are so many accidental infant deaths and so many due to SIDS that it seems in poor taste to single some deaths out which you can't even guarantee could have been prevented.

    Like anything else with parenting, use common sense. Bed sharing was great for us, but it isn't for everyone. But I don't like that people will write it off as dangerous when it isn't.