28 June 2011

Co-Sleeping in the News

You may have read recently about co-sleeping being blamed for the death of an infant.  Any time a child dies it is tragic, and I am in no way trying to minimise the parents' loss.  I cannot fathom losing my child, to be honest.

That being said, I am also appalled that co-sleeping is being blamed for the death.  Co-sleeping is not to blame - unsafe co-sleeping is.  See, the mother had drunk a bottle of wine on an empty stomach before falling asleep with her child.  Advocates of co-sleeping would all agree that mothers should not co-sleep if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol (see Dr McKenna and UNICEF's study and statement.  (By the way, it's perfectly fine to have a drink when breastfeeding, in moderation.)  Yet despite this, the article ends with the following lines:
Health bosses have also warned parents against falling asleep with their baby.
A spokesman for NHS Bolton said, 'There is no advice which can guarantee the prevention of sudden infant deaths but there are a number of things parents and carers can do to reduce the risk to their baby.

'The safest place for a baby to sleep for the first six months is in a cot, Moses basket or crib in their parents' room and it is dangerous for a baby to sleep in a normal bed or on a sofa or armchair.'
Notice that they don't say "co-sleeping is safe if you follow these guidelines" or "don't over-drink when caring for an infant (regardless of where they sleep but especially not if co-sleeping)".  No, they instead say that any bed-sharing is dangerous.  Full stop.

But what if a child had been placed in a cot to sleep, but there were extraneous blankets and toys in the cot and the baby suffocated?  Would there then be a prohibition against cot-sleeping?  No, they'd simply remind parents not to put extraneous items in the cot and to place the child on his back with his feet to the foot of the cot.

Yet when it's a practise followed by "attachment parents", as with co-sleeping or babywearing*, then the reaction seems to be to condemn the practise outright without acknowledging the benefits of the practise and the fact that it can be done safely.  This is infuriating not just because these are practises I like, but because it doesn't give parents the full picture and therefore makes it more difficult for them to make informed decisions.

Actually, I just noticed that Bolton's hospital were awarded Stage 1 UNICEF Baby-Friendly status, which means their policies and procedures were evaluated.  If I'm not mistaken, that means they should have a policy written that allows for safe co-sleeping, since co-sleeping certainly makes breastfeeding easier.  That almost makes it more infuriating, since it was a spokesman from NHS Bolton who is quoted above.

*  thinking of the knee-jerk reactions when it was shown that certain carriers were unsafe, though most babywearing is perfectly safe and even beneficial

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