Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Co sleeping and baby suffocation.

I was on the 2nd tri board today and we had a discussion about sleeping arrangements. Many women said they'd keep the baby in their room, at least at the beginning, because of breastfeeding. So I asked why having the baby in the room made it easier, since I breastfed both my babies for an entire year and they ~never~ spent the night in my room.

Before I get into this, I am NOT making this into some co-sleeping debate. If you want to co-sleep or you have co-slept, I think that decision is totally a personal one. I wouldn't do it, but I would never ever tell anyone else they shouldn't. I will explain my own reasons for my choice, but this is not a debate of the subject.

First of all, I am a big proponent of personal space. I am Nancy and a mother. To keep these two separate, I need to have my personal space. I love being a mother, but being a mother doesn't drown out my own identity. Therefore, my bedroom is my bedroom. Kids can come in if I give the okay, but that's it. This also applies to my newborns. No bassinet in my room. No co-sleeper in my room. They have a room and that's where they go from the very first day at home. Plus, babies make noises when they sleep. If I had one of my babies in the room with me, I'd never get the few moments of sleep I'm even allowed!

Secondly, I'm scared to death of accidentally killing my own child. I watched an "Ask Dr Baden: Autopsy" show on HBO once. There was a woman who had 2 previous children, one whom died suddenly of SIDS. Then, she had twins who tragically both died on the same night. Being it the same night, all kinds of allegations were brought up against her, which she was finally cleared of. SIDS was given as the reason of death.

This woman was broken up over the deaths, as any woman would be. She went to Dr Baden for answers. The twins were exhumed and a full work up was performed. Dr Baden spent months on the case and finally called her back with his results.

He determined the twins died from suffocation from her rolling up on them while sleeping while nursing. He explained that babies, especially newborns, don't struggle or cry when this happens, instead, they just go to sleep forever. This is why she never noticed it happening. Also, you don't even have to roll on top of them to suffocate them. Just rolling up too close can cut off enough oxygen supply. Also, this is obviously a freak, but common occurrence. Just because you can successfully sleep-nurse 7 other children, doesn't mean it won't happen to the 8th child.

This is why cribs were even invented in the first place! A little bit of trivia for you. Cribs were created to help with this very issue. Crazy. And here the "new mom" comes, thinking it's best for bonding.

I think if you are going to co-sleep, great. Totally your choice. But I would hope that you take precautions to prevent this accident from happening. Have a co-sleeper that attaches to your bed. Or, if the baby is in the same bed as you, have one of those dividers that won't let you roll close enough for this to happen. Then, when you wake to nurse, you should sit up ~or~ get up and sit in a chair. Don't lay with the baby right next to you. I nursed in a chair and while I fell asleep accidentally sometimes doing this, I had a blanket under my arms, so if I did fall asleep, I wouldn't do something stupid like drop the baby.

Again. This is not against co-sleeping. I'm only stating the dangers of sleep-nursing. I simply don't know how I could live with myself if I accidentally killed my baby. I read 22 babies die each year, in Minessota alone, from a parent accidentally suffocating their baby while sharing a bed. If you use that as a state average, that would account for 1,100 deaths per year nationwide.

"The parents either partially roll over on top of the baby or put just their an arm on top of the baby's chest and end up killing the baby," said Thomas who is a forensic pathologist. "In 2006, 95 percent of the 60 plus infant deaths are related to unsafe sleep environments." was found in the article "Parents Warned Not To Share Beds With Infants" by Caroline Lowe, July 13, 2007. That's scary!

When I looked at pro co-sleeping sites, I saw a quote from James J. McKenna, Ph.D. stating: "To claim that there is NO chance of an adult overlaying a baby would be irresponsible, but so would it be irresponsible to claim that an infant could never be killed while traveling in an automobile." But to me, getting killed in a car accident and having a parent roll over on a baby are two totally different ballgames. Hell, they are two totally different sports!

So when making your decision, make an informed decision. Your baby's life depends on it.


Geohde said...

Hi Nancy,

I'm so tired I can't be coherent, and it's entirely my fault because things are shite this end, but I wanted to at least leave a comment so you know I read,



Not in the Water said...


The New York City Metro area is begun airing commercials/PSA on the major networks regarding co sleeping. It's run on ABC, NBC, CBS etc etc etc.

It's a PSA by the state health dept or something like that and it's ANTI co-sleeping.

It dramatizes how easily it could happen..it has a mom just rolling on her side in her sleep and pulling the comforter under her chin and her newborn in on the other side. BUT the angle she pulled it covered the baby. And it honestly looked exactly as I curl up with the blanket when hubby has the AC on 65 degrees.

Another point with cosleeping...in this day and age of pillow top and memory foam matresses, the baby can suffocate that way b/c the mattress conforms to the baby's head (including the face!!!!) The baby might not smother but would rather not have a clear anyway and not have good oxygen exchange. The Carbon Dioxide (CO2) released on exhaling would get trapped by the mattress nook near the babies nose and then on inhalation, they breathe in you guessed it! CO2. So it's like breathing in and out of a paper bag...you get dizzy and pass out.

Sorry I wrote a book! Good Post!


MrsSpock said...

I had no intention of ever co-sleeping. I have fibromyalgia and am a very restless sleeper. I've knocked my husband, as big as he is, out of bed before. But nursing J, plus sleep deprivation, would put me in a coma. Even worse, the first week or two I was on Perc.ocet for my c/s, and that was not safe! I have a co-sleeper that attached to our bed, but it ended up being a couple inches higher than the level of the bed. The plan had been to use that, but I kept falling asleep every time, with J on my chest. I'd wake up 4 hours later and he would still be there. Mind you, it would freak me the f*** out. It was kind of weird, but I would wake up in the exact position I started in. I was hyper-alert of his presence, though sleeping.

I know some folks feel OK with this, but I didn't trust that it would always be that way. I eventually was able to ease him to the bassinet once I got him to sleep- that made for better sleep for me. At 6 weeks, I was finding him on his side with his leg thrown over the side of the bassinet, so we switched to the crib. WOW- that made for even better sleep for all of us. J started sleeping the whole night from that night on.

If I get a next time, no more sleeping on me!

Anonymous said...

ITA with you, Nancy. Neither of my babies ever shared a bed with me. DH and I consider our bed to be our private space, but even if I didn't feel that way, I'd never share a bed with a baby. A baby in my city died a little while back because his mother rolled over on him while sleeping and suffocated him. People say "oh i'm a light sleeper, I'd never do that", but this mother thought the same thing. I could never live with the guilt.

Lisa said...

I completely agree with you. My twin boys never spent a night in our bed and I am nursing them exclusively. I always got up and nursed them in their room. At times they slept on the nursing pillow in the chair, but there was no danger of me suffocating them that way.

If I was able to nurse two babies at once (not always at the same time) and still get some sleep, there is no reason to believe that someone with one child can't. I slept so much better in my own bed without having to worry about rolling over on them. As you said, babies make so much noise when they sleep that it is almost impossible to not want to listen for every breathe (especially for a new mother)!

The biggest problem is sleep deprived moms don't necessarily have any control over when and where they fall asleep, especially when nursing. Who wants to run the risk? Besides a few night s of sleeping alone with the baby safe and sound in a crib can help reduce or even eliminate the fatigue. Some babies cry when they stir in their sleep (Zach does that all the time). The fact that I have to get up to get him allows him the chance to fall back to sleep. If he were right next to me in bed, then chances are I would wake him up unnecessarily to feed him.

Like you stated, it's a personal choice but one that needs to be made after having all the facts. Great post Nancy! I hope you are doing well...

Agata said...

I completely agree. Not just about the co-sleeping but about wanting privacy and your own room. We tried the bassinet in the room thing for 2 nights. It was horrible - everytime she made a noise (which was all the time) we were up checking on her. 2 nights later she got moved to her nursery. Hey, we made her a nice nursery for a reason, didn't we? :) Co-sleeping freaks me out due to the risk and the sharing a room thing is too clingy for my taste. I like having my own room and my own bed. My child has a whole room to herself and I made her use it - even as a newborn.

Great post!

Jen said...

I'm so glad just to hear you say that you didn't co-sleep, breastfed, and survived. It's always been my intention to have Jillian sleep in her crib for a wide variety of reasons, but the breastfeeding book I was reading made it sound like such a decision was selfish and not feasible. We'll see how it goes once she actually arrives, but it's good to hear from somebody who has actually been there.

Kaci said...

Great post. Seems most of your readers think along the same lines on this one. I angered my MIL when I told her our babies would sleep in their cribs from the time we got home from the hospital. She thought they should be in my room so that I could watch them all night. Geeze - I needed rest! My sister co-slept and knew I didn't understand. My main reasons for not doing it:
1. I wanted to sleep better & thought I wouldn't sleep well with a baby in the room.
2. I wanted our room to be for hubby & me.
3. I figured if the babies slept in their cribs from night 1, I'd never have to worry about transitioning them.
4. I was paranoid I'd roll over on them! This was probably the main reason. Should've put it #1.

Trace said...

I'm in agreement. We would never get a good nights sleep that way, and hey, my husband has to get up and go to work being semicoherent. I'm mulling over the bassinette in the room, but that's it. I'm still undecided. Our room isn't that big and the potential nursery is just across the hall.

Rachel Inbar said...

I've never had a baby sleep in my bed, but the last 3 have slept in our room for many months - for some reason, it doesn't bother me at all. One of the reasons is the convenience of breastfeeding without having to get dressed (I have a 12-year-old boy, so I have to wear something decent) and another is that he doesn't wake the others early in the morning (I know they'd never wake up in the middle of the night, but being up with 3 little ones at 5:30 wouldn't be that fun for me).

My first slept in my room for a week, which was plenty - and the twins went straight to their own crib.

Tara said...

To comment a little bit off topic of co-sleeping, I wanted to comment on these words: "I am Nancy and a mother".

This is soooo important to me. I spent a lot of years (in my 20's) wondering if I ever wanted to be a mom because I knew so many women who I thought had great personalities - UNTIL they had a baby. And then they became a mom and nothing else. They lived, breathed, ate and slept being a MOM. It was like they had a labotomy while they were giving birth and underwent a complete personality change. (or as one single girlfriend puts it - squeezed out their brain with the afterbirth).

I never want to be that kind of woman. I still want to be Tara. And a mom. Can't I have both???

I love to hear of - and meet - women who have managed to have children, are good moms - yet still manage to keep their own identity.

So here's to you Nancy for being one of those ladies. You give me hope! ;)

As a side note: I happen to totally agree with you on the co-sleeping.

Anonymous said...

My Mom always tells me the story about when she woke up from her nap and went to check on me in the crib in her bedroom and I wasn't there...I was a little baby at the time. She panicked and then remembered that she had been nursing me in bed...She went to the bed and found me tucked down at the foot of the bed underneath all the covers, sleeping soundly. Obviously everything turned out okay, but she was so upset and it could have been much worse.

Is there a way that women have found not to fall asleep while nursing? maybe turning on the tv or something? I have heard so many awful stories about women dropping their babies b/c they fell asleep while nursing. That would be awful:(

Christina said...

I totally agree. There's no way I could co-sleep with a baby. I roll over and toss and turn way too much. I would crush a child in a second. I've actually had one of the dogs bite me because I rolled over on him in the middle of the night and didn't realize it!

Kara said...

Here, here! I'm all about my personal space. I didn't let DS sleep with me and I don't plan on letting this one when it gets here. DB wants a crib in our room, but we'll be in the basement, kids upstairs, so I'm ok with that. Otherwise, no!! How am I supposed to get back to being a woman if a kid is always in bed.

Dr. Grumbles said...

yes, I am all about having a co-sleeper bed but not placing the baby in the big people bed!

Anonymous said...

I have co-slept with each of my three kids, and they are all perfectly healthy, normal, adjusted, and very good sleepers. I was so hyper-aware of their presence near me, that rolling over on them or losing them in the bed was never an issue. I had a bassinet in the room each time, but co-sleeping actually gave me more rest. I did this until they could sleep thru the night, and then they went right to the crib with no problems. I would do it again in a heartbest.

Krista said...

I used a co-sleeper. I went back to work 6 weeks after my baby was born. I was having milk supply issues, so it was more important for me to nurse at will at night to make up for the low amount of milk I got pumping. I'm also the type that once I'm up, I'm up, so being able to stay in bed and reach her to nurse, was helpful for me. It definitely would not be the right choice for everyone, but it was for me. I was able to get sleep and make up for the milk supply issues.

JamieD said...

I can only imagine when I am a new Mom it would be so tempting to co-sleep. Assuming my baby is so cute, sweet, precious and well-behaved I can't stand to put it down (which I am sure it will be!)

Only I am so paranoid about rolling over on one of my cats in bed, I can hardly sleep. I still insist on leaving all toilet seats closed because I am afraid on them will try to drink out of it, fall in and drown. Forget the fact that all of my cats are so fat they couldn't fit through the toilet seat if they wanted.

Yeah, co-sleeping isn't going to happen.

Topcat said...

My name is Topcat ... and I'm a co-sleeper ... heh.

Seriously, I've had bubs in his bassinette next to me for three months now. It's winter, it's freezing, hubbie is upstairs in his chemo-wing anyway. Plus, Monkeys sleep was just bullshit at first. SO unsettled. I got sick and tired of getting up 25 times to put his dummy back in, and God knows I needed sleep.

I have a king size bed, he is always swaddled with his own wrap and blanket, and is about a half a metre away from me, never next to me or under my covers. It feels safe.

Searching said...

Good points and sad stories. I try my best to inform parents wen I go over the 3 pg of SIDS info we give them before they leave. I hate it when they insist that they don't need of the info on crib safety because their baby is always going to sleep in bed with them. I do my best, but know when they go home they are going to do whatever they want. It's frustrating.

Anonymous said...

I just had to add one thing, something ALOT of new moms need to concider. The om on the Baden special who sufficated her twins while co sleeping was drinking that night. I am not condeming her for that but it DOES affect your sleep. That being said, how many new moms are on pain meds so soon after birth when the urge to co sleep is prolly at its strongest. I will admit I have let my baby co sleep before but never ever ever when either me or my hubby could be concidered intoxicated by alchol or medications at all.

NJTOM said...

Interesting stuff about cosleeping. Co-sleeping is sort of like "6 in one" and a "half dozen in the others". Babies who co-sleep with their parents arouse from SIDS-like events easier than babies who don't sleep with their parents which is good. But, the downside is a parent can roll-over on their babies (typically when they are intoxicated).

Regarding some of the SIDS advice. I'm against Back Sleeping for infants because it inhibits Deep Sleep (stage 3 and stage 4 Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep). Plus, I'm concerned about the epidemic of plagiocephaly and torticollis we see today which is mainly caused by back sleep.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Canada, and a friend with a new baby told me recently that she wasn't going to co-sleep, primarily because her doctor told her that she'd seen "Lots of deaths" from co-sleeping.

We co-slept, and so I got interested in the statistics. What I found is that there are a ton of warnings, but not many breakdowns of the real risk. This site


references the CPSC, saying that there were 515 deaths between 1990 and 1997 where infants 0-2 suffocated in a parents' bed. Of those, only 121 were attributed to rollover suffocation, then spread that over the US infant population (around 8m), and do the average per year, it looks to me like about a 2/1 million chance. The point being that rollover suffocation is the risk added by a co-sleeping arrangement: bad mattresses, covers, plush toys in the crib can contribute but that isn't true of parents beds only: you can find all that in a crib.

Granted any risk you can avoid is a good thing, the chance of your baby dying this way is very low: if those stats worry you, you shouldn't look at the stats for traffic deaths, because you aren't going to drive anywhere, especially with your baby.

Now, given these stats, what are the chances that my friend's doctor has seen that many such deaths? Quite besides the fact that doctors don't see crib deaths, coroners do, I'd say the chances are pretty low.

I think that a lot of cover-your-ass scare-the-mom goes on around this issue, because just scaring the mother off the idea is easier than saying that if you're going to do it, you need to change your mattress, get a large enough bed to allow space for everyone, get covers that aren't going to overheat the baby: in short, cover all the risk factors that relate to SIDS and beds in general.

Doctors know that if they say, "go ahead and do it," with those conditions, plenty of parents are going to take shortcuts or misunderstand. Then, if something happens all that the parents are going to say is, "the doctor said we could do it.".

BTW, we loved co-sleeping, but I have to admit that the damage it did to our sex life wasn't good...

Anonymous said...

We're a cosleeping family and love it. I believe cosleeping can be very safe, it just takes common sense.

In our family DP takes medications at night that really knock her out. So the baby is never ever next to her. I also make sure I am between the baby and the 5 yr old. I don't drink or do drugs (legal or otherwise) and don't smoke, which are dangers that often lead to death, but are not necessarily reported properly.

I have also read that a lot of the deaths are not from intentional cosleeping. Mom falls asleep nursing on the couch for example, which is NOT a safe cosleeping scenario.

Anyway, I think parents need to have facts not fear, and do what's right for their families.