Yesterday Maria Guido posted a new study about co-sleeping and how doctors are now saying how dangerous it is. As a mom who slept with all of her babies from the day they came home from the hospital until they were close to two-years-old (and beyond, because my nine-year-old still gets into bed with us), I should probably be thanking my lucky stars that I didn't kill any of them. The article stated:
Of the 8,207 deaths in National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths Case Reporting System – 70% of those were infants who were bed-sharing at the time of their death.
I can relate to a lot of comments posted on Maria's article. With my first kid, I co-slept because that was the only way to get him to sleep. I was breastfeeding, and exhausted, and co-sleeping came about my own sheer laziness. I wasn't about to wake up at two in the morning and trudge down the hall and get my kid from his nursery, change him, nurse him, and get him back to bed. For me it was just easier to lift my sleep shirt and have him nurse back to sleep. The other kids we slept with because it worked out so well with the first one that it just seemed easier. And cozier.
Maybe I was lucky, but I also think I unintentionally had the ideal set-up for co-sleeping. A firm, king-sized mattress so my kids just slept between us, swaddled in their own blankie. No super-fluffy pillows that could potentially suffocate them. And we usually sleep with a thinnish quilt, and I can remember that we were always super careful not to pull it up close to the babies. I also never really drank and didn't take drugs, and add to that the fact I am a horribly light sleeper, a baby cooing in bed can wake me up. So the situation wasn't ideal for my husband and I to have cozy, intimate, snuggle sleep, because we basically had babies between us with space on either side. But it was amazingly cozy in the sense we all slept very well, diaper changes were handled by my husband, I nursed the babies back to sleep, and he felt he bonded with them more because he was gone so often during the day that nighttime was when he could be with them, even if it was just for sleeping. I'm sure lots of parents who sadly had babies die during co-sleeping had the same set-up as we did, so maybe it was just sheer luck that my kids turned out fine.
And that's the other issue I take with studies like these, because no one knows. Not only was the study not ideal, Maria states that there was no control group, and she also didn't state whether alcohol or drugs or preexisting conditions played a part in the deaths. And what upsets me most about this is there are parents out there who co-slept who had an infant die and in so many of these cases it's impossible to know if the infant died because of the co-sleeping, or because sometimes, horribly, babies just die. And it could have happened in a crib with no bumper or it could have happened next to mom in the family bed.
I had the best intentions with my kids. I purchased wedges and bassinets and co-sleeping beds that we placed next to our bed and never ended up using. I was aware that co-sleeping was risky, but for my family it worked out fine. For those parents out there who had co-sleeping end in tragedy, unless they were drunk or on drugs or they woke to find their newborn trapped under them or under a pile of pillows and blankets I think it's amazingly unfair to say "Your baby died because they were in bed with you." That puts so much horrific, unfair guilt on parents when it's near impossible to determine what exactly caused their baby to die. Especially if none of the circumstances I listed above were involved. Sometimes babies just die. And it's horrible. And it can happen for no reason. And if it happens in a bed while co-sleeping with parents who didn't use excessive bedding and didn't have the baby get wedged between the wall and bed and didn't roll over on the baby or any other horrible tragedy that can occur, I'm finding it hard to place the blame on parents just trying to get their newborn to sleep.
Sure, co-sleeping can be dangerous. But so is life. And it's a personal decision for every parent to make and I do believe most parents use precautions and common sense. Maria says: The more I read these kinds of statistics, I’m wondering if we all need to be a little more open-minded in accepting the recommendation that co-sleeping may not be safe for young infants. I say the more I read these kind of statistics, the more annoyed I get that parents out there who had a baby die while co-sleeping will blame themselves when in some cases the baby would have died while in the crib anyway. Until studies like these use a control group or show me instances that point to stray blankets or drunk parents rolling over on babies, I'm not ready to suggest people never co-sleep.