Like many mothers, sleeping with my infant is a natural instinct. Ever since we both fell asleep during a feeding on the hospital bed two days after he was born, I had begin to question the recommendations based on the research on SIDS and cosleeping. In no way am I trying to refute the dedication and preventive methods from decades of studies and research to prevent infant death, but I would like to analyze the recommendations and the actual practices as it pertains to bed sharing.
What Researchers Recommend
The American SIDS Institute summarizes the following recommendations:
- Not smoking
- Not sharing a bed
- Placing the baby in a bare crib
- Putting babies on their backs to sleep
While most parents and care-givers strive to be aware and proactive on all of these recommendations, it appears that cosleeping is the deadliest. Live Science reports of a recent study stating that sharing a bed with an infant could increase the risk of infant death 5 times as much as not sharing the same sleeping space. With that in mind, it is imperative that we cosleepers are aware of the researched risks we put on our infants when we share a bed with them.
Other research insists that cosleeping is a natural and healthy way to bond with your infant. Some even go as far as to contest most SIDS research recommending that infants should share beds with their parents. Cosleeping.org states that practicing bed sharing is safer than using a crib or a cot when practiced correctly. This research can be used to support mothers like me who are currently questioning the true risks of sharing a bed with an infant.
What Women Actually Practice
According to The Natural Child Project, Anthropologist Dr. James J. McKenna has studied sleeping practices of mothers and children around the world and concludes that cosleeping is a practice shared by several cultures, but is not as socially accepted in certain cultures. In the U.S., many parents will find this to be true as most pediatricians discuss SIDS and sleeping arrangements during well-child visits mostly suggesting that the infant sleep in a bassinet or crib in the same or separate room. I always answer the doctors by saying “yup” and “mmm hmmm” knowing that we only used the bassinet twice in the last week as a changing table.
We should try our best to accommodate our children in the safest environment as possible. Like many mothers who ride the fence with cosleeping, it is ultimately my goal to completely transition my infant out of my bed and into his independent sleeper which will reduce the chance of SIDS related death according to some research, but not just solely for that reason. I know that I will eventually want my own uninhibited sleeping space where I don’t have to worry about rolling over my baby or waking him. More than that, I don’t want him getting used to sleeping in my room or bed!