Every parent’s worse nightmare is to find their infant dead after putting them to sleep, and often, cosleeping is portrayed by the media as dangerous practice. While watching the news at my father’s house, such a tragic death was discussed, and cosleeping was blamed. A child became trapped between the adult bed and the wall, and he lost his young life. The crying parents were featured on the news begging parents not to sleep with their children. As an avid cosleeping parent, I found the report misleading. It stated that 60 children a year die from cosleeping, but the real cause may lay elsewhere.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is also known as “crib death”, and 1 in 1000 children die from it, according to a SIDS Foundation of Washington. The causes vary, and one researcher in New Zealand claims toxic nerve gases in crib mattresses are to blame. Other studies claim an abnormality in the brains of children that prevent oxygen release is to blame. No matter what the cause, it is definitely advisable to place babies on their backs and to remove bedding, pillows, etc. that can cause suffocation.
Cosleeping is not to blame for children’s deaths, but unsafe bedding practices, whether in cribs or adult beds pose a threat. In fact according to Healthy Child, “The benefits of co-sleeping are enormous as co-sleeping positively affects a baby’s emotional and physical health. When safe co-sleeping guidelines are followed, SIDS rates for co-sleeping infants are actually lower than for crib-sleeping infants. Breastfeeding is known to reduce the risk of SIDS, and co-sleeping definitely allows for more frequent breastfeeding. Some doctors and researchers believe that during co-sleeping, the physiological regulation of the baby’s breathing and heartbeat with the mother’s makes co-sleeping safer regarding SIDS. Mothers who sleep directly next to their babies can sense the proximity of their babies in order to avoid smothering them. The sleep studies done in the laboratory of James J. McKenna, Ph.D. of cosleeping/bed-sharing mother and infant pairs (2 to 4 month olds) reveal that both breastfeeding mothers and their infants are extremely sensitive throughout the night – across all sleep stages – to the movements and physical condition of the other. Mothers who sleep with their babies can readily respond to changes in the baby’s status – such as if it were choking or struggling to breathe.” They also provide Guidelines for Sleeping Safely With Your Baby.
I cannot imagine the tragedy of losing a child to a preventable situation families experience; however, I believe that the media should not place blame where blame is not due. Cosleeping does not cause death. Unsafe conditions that may exist in adult beds and cribs can cause death, especially if the child is prone to lack of oxygen release.