Baby Dies From Co-Sleeping

If you follow this blog, you know all about my sleep difficulties and how wild I am in my sleep. It’s one of the reasons my husband and I sleep in different beds. It’s also one of the reasons that we never engaged in co-sleeping with Gus. I was too afraid of the possibility of hurting him while I was asleep or rolling over on him in some way. I would never have been able to live with myself if I had woke and found him dead.

My fears are not without merit. On Friday in South Carolina, a mother smothered her 3 month old baby boy when she rolled over on him while co-sleeping. I cannot even imagine what she must be going through. And according to reports, this is the sixth baby to die in their parents’ bed in this county (not country) in the last year. This is just in one county!

I’m a scientist so of course I found myself wondering how often this happens nationwide. Which of course led me to doing some research. What I discovered was absolutely shocking and disturbing. The statistics are staggering.

In Northern California, over a dozen babies died from being suffocated in their parents’ bed after being rolled over on. In Philadelphia over a two year period, 54 babies died from being smothered in bed. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study in the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2004 that demonstrated the number of infant deaths from being smothered had quadrupled over the last 20 years. It’s important to note that the researchers examined the rate of SIDS with infants sleeping in separate beds and these numbers remained the same. There was not a change in the rate of SIDS cases during this period. The increase in infant deaths was only demonstrated in situations where the baby was smothered or strangled while co-sleeping.

Co-sleeping is one of the central tenets of Attachment Parenting. We all know how I feel about AP. One of the many false claims made by AP proponents is that co-sleeping decreases the rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. However, this is simply not true or based on research. The reality is that over two thirds of infant deaths occur while co-sleeping.

Every single entity for infant care recommends against it. The American Academy of Pediatrics says no. The Consumer Product Safety Recall Commission says no. The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says no. Nearly everyone in the medical community says no. So, I don’t understand why so many say yes to co-sleeping.

It seems like such a huge risk. And one that is so easily avoidable.

Sure, I understand how much easier it is to co-sleep especially during the early months when the baby is nursing every few hours. But the chances of rolling over on your baby while sleeping increase if the mother is excessively tired and I’m pretty sure none of us have ever been as tired as we were during the first few months of infancy. I understand that it promotes infant bonding. But I felt just as bonded with Gus nursing him in my bed and then laying him next to me in his bassinet to sleep. I understand that it you are able to promptly respond to the baby’s cries and the baby’s needs. However, I responded to every cry just as easily with him beside me in a bassinet.

I know lots of you out there co-sleep. I am not trying to ignite controversy by this question, but I really do want to know.

How do you make sure you don’t roll over on your baby while you’re sleeping with them? How do you know for sure that you won’t?

My guess is none of the mothers who rolled over on their infants ever imagined they would do so. If they had, the baby most certainly wouldn’t have been in their bed.

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