As a follow up to any paranoia I may have stirred up (mostly in myself probably) in regards to co-sleeping after Sunday’s post about the infant suffocation deaths in Detroit:
Jennifer Fletcher, a registered nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant for One Baby Place at Doctors Hospital wrote this in an e-mail:
I am glad you are tackling this topic. Of course, we know there is unsafe co-sleeping, and there is 100% SAFE co-sleeping. You may already be familiar with the work of Dr. James McKenna, but if not, please, please get to know this fellow. He runs an infant sleep lab at Notre Dame University, and he is, in my opinion, the absolute final authority on safe co-sleeping. The fact that the tragic deaths you heard about on NPR occurred in the Detroit area raised a red flag for me. Perhaps entirely erroneously, I think of Detroit as a kind of gritty urban area---lots of poverty, lots of unsafe or sub-standard housing, lots of large families where toddlers and pre-schoolers perhaps share beds with infants. Again, this may be an entirely unfair stereotype, but I would want to know a great deal more about the circumstances of these deaths before I would be willing to alter my opinions about the benefits of co-sleeping.
Also Lindsay C., mother of 11-month-old Cannon, offers up her experiences co-sleeping plus some good websites with info on how to co-sleep safely including this one: http://www.cosleeping.org/. See her comment on the July 30 post.
For an in-depth review of research related to co-sleeping, SIDS and other fatal sleep-related accidents (with McKenna as co-author), go to http://www.naturalchild.org/james_mckenna/cosleeping.pdf. The review is boldly entitled: “Why babies should never sleep alone: A review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharing and breast feeding.” Here by “alone,” McKenna means in another room. He suggests that bottle-fed infants should not sleep in the same bed as their mothers (see his quote in this July 25 article that ran in the Ledger-Enquirer: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/312/story/93048.html), that nursing infants are safe sleeping with mothers who take certain precautions, and that all babies are safer at least sleeping in the same room as their parents.
Among the findings cited and arguments made:
“After all, mother-infant co-sleeping represents the most biologically appropriate sleeping arrangement for humans and is both ancient and ubiquitous simply because breastfeeding is not possible, nor as easily managed, without it. The increased sensory contact and proximity between the mother and infant induces potentially beneficial behavioural and physiological changes in the infant.”
“Three major epidemiological studies have shown that when a committed caregiver, usually the mother, sleeps in the same room but not in the same bed with their infant the chance of the infant dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced by 50%.”
“… the overwhelming number of suspected accidental overlays or fatal accidents occur not within breast feeding-bedsharing communities but in urban poverty, where multiple independent SIDS risk ‘factors’ converge and bottle feeding rather than breast feeding predominates.”
And while we’re on the subject of SIDS, there’s been interesting news on that front in the past week too. Researchers in Seattle say that hearing tests given to 62 infants in Delaware show a unique pattern of partial hearing loss among those babies who later died of SIDS. If hearing loss can be established as a definite indicator of SIDS it could mean a major breakthrough in preventing the syndrome among infants at risk. Go to http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-sids28jul28,1,2214491.story?track=rss for the full story, which ran July 28 in the Los Angeles Times.