I have previously written about bed-sharing with an infant, in the terms of it being strange to people and explaining why I disagree with that point of view; however I plan to discuss its safety here. I not too long ago was involved in a discussion where the end result was talking with someone against bed-sharing no matter what.
I find bed-sharing a really bizarre thing to fight against. I understand that many of the people arguing against it are people who have lost a child in a bed-sharing circumstance. A lot are also against it because they are involved in determining how the death occurred. The problem with the arguments of all these people is they are truly arguing against unsafe sleeping.
There is absolutely no evidence to show that bed-sharing is inherently dangerous. There is evidence that shows there are definite benefits to it, a little more on this later. The problem is finding out the negatives and attempting to have them removed from the situation. The problem with these anti-bed-sharing advocates is that they are stopping a proper dialogue from happening. They are working on stamping out something that lots of parents do, rather than working to educate parents on safe ways to bed-share.
When we went to our pre-natal class they explained the birthing process fairly well and talked about other moderately useful things. They did talk about SIDS, but what they discussed wasn’t anything that you wouldn’t have heard if you read the newspaper regularly. I don’t understand why there was no discussion on bed-sharing or other forms of co-sleeping. I believe they should be discussing with new parents that many experts argue against bed-sharing but if you feel you have no other option, here is the safest way to perform bed-sharing. Education is more important than telling people not to do something they are most likely to give into doing.
Now onto what I believe should be taught, in terms of safe bed-sharing:
- Do not wear loose fitting clothing.
- Do not use sheets, blankets or quilts and make sure the fitted sheets aren’t loose.
- Keep pillows well away from your child.
- Do not consume ANY drugs.
- Only sleep on a mattressed bed, never on a water bed, sofa, armchair, etc…
- Do not place anything (including a wall) next to the side of the bed your child is sleeping on.
- Place your child on their back.
- Have long hair, tie it out the way.
- Morbidly obese… don’t do it.
- Tobacco smokers should also avoid bed-sharing.
This is just an example of what should be included in the teaching but if you follow this your child will be much safer.
In the media when they are talking about this subject they are very much on the side of the experts. It doesn’t appear to be a critical look at what is actually happening. Experts announce it is dangerous to bed-share no matter what, without giving any explanation. Often the explanation are pathetic and like on The Project tonight (12/03/2012) they make outrageous statements like, “You wouldn’t put your child into a car with out strapping them in.” Straw man, anyone?
Another problem with the experts opinion is that it goes against evidence. Like this paper that finds Mother-infant bed sharing promotes infant arousals. This one finds there was no significant relation between routine bed sharing and the sudden infant death syndrome. This is just a couple of examples. I have read more when I originally started writing this a few months ago but I didn’t take note of them. I found it very difficult to find good evidence against bed-sharing in my searching.
If you are at wits end with your child and you feel that feeding them to sleep in your bed is the only thing you can do, make sure you do it as safely as possible.