New SIDS Info Still Points Finger at Co-Sleeping

baby sleeping on backIt was big news for new parents when the details were shared on how we're finally differentiating between SIDS and suffocation deaths (usually mislabeled as SIDS). The Baltimore Department of Health decided instead of doing lessons on SIDS, they instituted a lesson called "ABC" of sleep.

A: Baby sleeps alone
B: on the back
C: in a crib

I'm a huge fan side car cribs, but I'm NOT a fan of this ABC lesson because it actually isn't beneficial for babies and even goes against the AAP's recommendations.


Baby sleeping "alone" can mean co-sleepers, but often people take it to mean the "C" meaning Crib ... in another room. In my opinion, that's a dangerous assertion! The AAP and many European health organizations recommend that baby sleeps close to parents in their room for at least the first 6 months of life, which results in a drastic reduction in SIDS rates. I've read a lot about how moms with babies within close proximity (whether in their bed or near it) are much more aware if their baby goes into respiratory distress during the night and able to react. Also there's a lot of literature stating that some of the benefits of Kangaroo Care continue just by having the baby nearby, specifically the baby's breathing rate regulating by mimicking the nearby parent's. How cool is that? So that "A"? "Alone" is a bad choice of words, because they shouldn't be ALONE in the true sense of the word.

The back to sleep campaign has done nothing but good things, aside from the delay in motor control and head deformation, both of which can be negated by having the baby upright, held, or on their belly during as much of the day as possible. Even babywearing helps the baby build neck muscles! Many babies sleep deeper on their bellies, but that's honestly the issue -- they sleep too deeply and don't wake up during normal bouts of sleep apnea, especially common in preemies, particularly late-term preemies. Worse, a caregiver (like your well-meaning grandma) who puts your normally-back sleeping baby on their belly because she doesn't like the "new rules" puts your baby EVEN MORE at risk -- up to 18 fold. So I've got no beef with that "B".

But the "C"? The biggest risk to non-cribs is the lack of a safe sleep surface -- suffocation deaths (which isn't SIDS anyway). Cribs aren't inherently SAFE! You still have to have a firm mattress, tight fitting sheets, no pillows, blankets, or stuff animals. You can accomplish the SAME thing with your own bed, a co-sleeper, a side-carred crib. And let's not forget that almost all studies demonizing co-sleeping discuss how the biggest risks are from parents on the COUCH or waterbed (which is not a safe bed!), and are drunk, on drugs (Rx or not!), or smoke, or include other children. A safe bed with a safe parent is safe.

And most of all, none of this addresses the many studies that recognize SIDS as likely a brainstem/neural defect, or the result of cardiac arrhythmia, or that formula-fed babies were the only casualties in a co-sleeping bed in a large study.

Why aren't we focused more on that than continuing to try to banish babies alone in cribs by themselves, when there is much evidence to the contrary?

Image via Pink Stock! Photos/Flickr

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