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Bed sharing with your baby the risks - Baby Winkz Blog

Bed Sharing or Co-sleeping with your Baby ?

Many experts and parenting authorities have come out against parents sharing their bed with their infants, citing safety concerns. On the other side, organisations that promote attachment parenting or breast feeding believe the benefits outweigh the risks.

Bed-sharing and co-sleeping are closely related: bed-sharing involves the infant sharing the same bed as one or more parent, and co-sleeping involves the infant sleeping close to, but on a different surface than, the parent(s). Here, we will mostly address bed-sharing with your newborn or infant. Let’s look at both sides of the debate in detail.

The Risks of Bed-Sharing

Experts cite studies showing an increase in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation amongst newborns and infants who engage in bed-sharing. The increased risk comes from soft mattresses, loose sheets and blankets, pillows and other impediments to infant breathing. There is also an increased risk of a parent rolling over onto the child, crushing or suffocating it. Opponents also point to the risk of death and injury from falling off the bed or becoming wedged between the wall and the mattress.

Beyond the physical risk, opponents claim that bed-sharing or co-sleeping create stress for a child once they are expected to sleep alone. Another claim is an unhealthy dependence of the child upon the mother or father. Finally, co-sleep may interfere with a healthy relationship between the mother and father, as it reduces sexual intimacy and communication at bedtime.

The Advantages of Bed-sharing

One of the most cited arguments for bed-sharing is that sleeping outside the parental bed is a relatively recent phenomenon – it had its onset in Europe and America in the 19th century. Bed-sharing then had another peak in the 1990’s. Beginning in 1992, a global SIDS awareness campaign effectively cut the rate of SIDS deaths by over 50%. Whilst there are studies showing a decrease in bed-sharing, many researchers believe bed-sharing is underreported due to social stigmas involved. The current reported rates in various studies range from 12-45% of parents engaging in the practice of bed-sharing with infants and young children, from routine to occasional. Yet despite this rate, the incidence of SIDS has continued to decrease.

Proponents of attachment parenting cite scientific studies showing reduced levels of stress hormones (especially cortisol) in both mothers and babies who co-sleep, and others that show a more stable physiology in co-sleeping babies, including more stable temperatures, fewer long pauses in breathing and more regular heart rhythms. Additionally, psychological and emotional health has been shown by numerous studies to be higher in co-sleeping children. This includes increased happiness and self-esteem, less anxiety and fear about sleep, fewer behavioural problems and more independence as adults.

Finally, co-sleeping and bed-sharing help mothers get more sleep, especially when breastfeeding. Older infants and toddlers are able to breastfeed without waking the mother.

Balancing Risks and Benefits

Much of the risk specifically applies to bed-sharing. Co-sleeping using specialty products can help reduce the risk of proximity between parent and child while promoting the benefits. Parents can purchase bedside bassinets that attach to the bed and are open on the parent’s side, bed-top sharing surfaces that keep baby from rolling off the bed and are raised enough that the risk of parents rolling over is reduced, and infant enclosures that are placed on the bed and prevent rollover, suffocation and wedging.

Remember that you can have the advantage of proximity through a co-sleeping arrangement as opposed to a bed-sharing arrangement.

October is SIDS Awareness Month, it is important to help create widespread exposure about SIDS. As safe baby sleep habits are just as important as healthy sleep habits, detailed in this article are facts about with SIDS facts, risk factors and actions to reduce the risk.

What is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly known as SIDS, is the leading cause of death in infants and children age one month to one year. Despite advances in research, the cause of SIDS is still not thoroughly understood. The diagnosis is given to children under one year who die in their sleep without any other known cause. Research shows there is a strong correlation to breathing and oxygen levels during the sleep cycle.

Safe Sleeping

While there is no way to prevent SIDS, there are ways parents can reduce the risk of infant death. Infants who are placed to sleep on their backs are at a much lower risk for SIDS than those placed on their stomachs. Babies sleeping on their backs are in less danger of experiencing restricted air flow.

The crib itself should also be free of anything that might unintentionally obstruct breathing. For instance, stuffed animals and pillows should be left outside of the sleeping environment. Mattresses should be firm and sheets tight. Crib bumpers, while cute, can also pose a risk to your baby.

Your baby’s comfort is also important. Many parents fret over whether their infant is warm enough during sleep and like to pile on blankets that not only pose a danger for restricted oxygen flow, but also make the baby too warm. There are various authorities that state the ideal room temperature for safe sleep is between 18.3 and 21.1 degrees Celsius. In fact, placing a fan in the room may decrease your infant’s risk of SIDS by 72%.[1]

Outside the Crib

There are several other ways you can reduce the risk of sudden infant death as a result of SIDS. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to suffer from SIDS. Good prenatal care is also important and may play a role in reducing risk further.

Mothers who smoke during pregnancy are three times more likely to have infants that die from SIDS. Even passive smoke exposure can double your infant’s chances of death. The top priority is to quit smoking if at all possible. At the very least, refrain from smoking in your home and car, or anywhere near your infant.

Finally, it is vital that all caregivers be aware of the risk of SIDS and understand the necessities of safe infant sleeping. Relatives and daycare providers should all practice safe sleeping procedures:

  • Baby should sleep on his or her back
  • No smoking in the home, car or immediate area
  • No loose sheets, stuffed animals, pillows or blankets in the crib
  • Keep baby comfortable and not too warm
  • Use a fan in the room if available

 

Following these important tips can significantly reduce your infant’s risk of suffering from SIDS and make your time with your baby a less worrisome experience.