25 November 2010

Attachment Parenting & Safety

Sometimes it seems that the practices common to attachment parents, such as co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and even baby-led weaning and extended breastfeeding, to a much lesser degree, are condemned as being absolutely, unequivocally unsafe.  It's rather infuriating when examples of doing these things in an unsafe manner results in condemnation of the practice as a whole, where "mainstream" practices such as the use of buggies and cots are deemed safe with certain caveats (like the feet to foot practice with cots).

So, first up, co-sleeping.  I've talked about this before. Co-sleeping gets a bad reputation because of infant deaths from suffocation and/or overlaying, and these are real risks if co-sleeping isn't done safely.  However, to condemn the practice outright isn't helpful, either.  Parents are already given information on how to keep their baby safe in a cot, such as putting their feet to the foot of the cot, keeping blankets away from their heads, not using pillows, etc.  Surely it wouldn't be much more difficult to also give them information on how to safely co-sleep by ensuring there's no way for the baby to fall off or get caught in cracks or crevices, keeping pillows away, keeping blankets away from the baby's face, and only co-sleeping if the mother is breastfeeding and neither parent smokes or has had alcohol before bed.  But the wholesale condemnation of it seems to assume that parents can't or won't follow those simple guidelines and so aren't given the information.  How can we make informed choices if the information either isn't available or is skewed?

Next up, baby-wearing.  Recently there was a condemnation of baby-wearing because certain slings were linked to infant deaths. These deaths are tragic, but parents would be better served by being given information on safe baby-wearing instead of condemning the practice altogether.  After all, there have been injuries and the like with pushchairs/buggies, but use of those items isn't condemned.  Condemning baby-wearing is also unwise due to the benefits to the baby, since baby-wearing allows them to regulate their temperatures with the mother's, and helps with their physical development (it works the same muscles as tummy time).  There are many safe slings, wraps, and mei tais to choose from, too.  I don't see a great many people who baby-wear here, but I almost always get positive comments about it when I'm out, as people see how snug C is, and how content.  The only half-way negative comment I've personally gotten was my Health Visitor asking if my wrap was one of the recalled slings, and I assured her it wasn't.  So this isn't something I've personally experienced criticism with, but I have seen a lot of it online.  The information certainly isn't widely disseminated here, though.

Finally, feeding practices.  At first, people seemed scared that my children would choke with doing baby-led weaning.  BLW is when you give the child the same food you're eating, just cut into chunks they can easily pick up, and the child then feeds himself.  If you wait until the child is developmentally ready (sitting up well, lost the tongue-thrust reflex, and has a pincer-grasp), and you make sure the food is cut large enough to allow for easy handling by the baby, then it's very unlikely anything bad will happen.  Thankfully my HV said they're now recommending BLW, so the word is getting out.  Extended breastfeeding is still looked down upon in some cases.  Once K turned 1, my HV was a bit iffy about the fact that he still breastfed at night because of supposed dental risks; however, breastfeeding isn't linked to dental caries like bottle-feeding is.  I don't know if the HV is still iffy about that, since I've not spoken with her about that since then.  We'll see what she says once C turns 1 (if C actually has teeth by then!).


  1. THey are so against co-sleeping here that they show baby coffins and claim that will be the result. Sad.

  2. It's very sad. I've also seen an ad from the US that shows a bed headboard as a tombstone. Ridiculous.