Let me start this by saying that I have dealt with SIDS and SUIDS first hand. It is hard. It is tragic. I understand the pain, and I am not blaming you. Ever.
With that being said, articles like this are what hurt us. Articles like this are what make expecting mothers and new parents question the credibility of organizations that spend their lives researching and advocating for parents and babies, and that’s not ok.
I DO believe that women who are educated on the risks associated with co-sleeping or other sleep situations and are still doing something different, should be taught the safest way to handle their preferred sleep situation. Whether that is belly sleep, side sleep, wedges, or co-sleeping – especially co-sleeping. No sleep aids, no alcohol, no comforters. The fact of the matter is, some parents are not going to adhere to these recommendations and we need to be prepared to teach them how to handle their situation as safely as possible instead of condemning them and turning away.
It is said time and time again, safe sleep practices are put in place for a reason. They have proven effective. I can not think of a single parent that would prefer the AAP recommend anything BUT the safest options for our children out of convenience. As healthcare professionals, it is our responsibility to recommend only what we know is safest. It would be irresponsible and reckless of the AAP to recommend anything else.
I do understand the point of view the author holds in some aspects, the first point I understood was when she quoted,”…may be at least partly because of persistent cultural norms and beliefs.” This is absolutely true; if anyone over the age of 25 has their mother teach them how to care for an infant, they most likely will hear from their mothers that this was not the recommendation when they were raising their babies and their babies turned out fine. That’s great. We are glad! We as a society are smarter, we have more technology, and every day we are expanding upon the knowledge that we have to work with. It also blows my mind that fluffy crib comforters and bumpers are still legal in most states. There’s no evidence that proves that these keep baby safer during sleep, in fact we only have evidence that says that it hinders safe sleep.
I completely understand the desire to nurture and care for your child, no one wants to let their newborn cry themselves to sleep. This is why I am such an advocate of bassinets by the bed and co-sleepers for those mothers who just can’t put their babies in their cribs. The AAP actually recommends that babies sleep in the same room as an adult. The halo bassinet and arms reach co-sleeper are two of my favorite products for women that prefer to keep their baby at arms reach.
I like that the author mentioned that she did what she could to keep her bed sharing as safe as possible, I commend her for sleeping without blankets and kicking her husband out of the bed. But is this really what women want to do when they have a baby? Do they want their husband sleeping on the couch? Do they want to sleep without a blanket? No. I’ve been into homes where mothers get up in the middle of the night with their baby and her husband ends up on the couch. That’s not the dynamic we want to create in the home of new parents at all.
We still do not know the root of what causes SIDS, but we do know that the safe sleep recommendations put in place today are saving a lot of babies. It is not just about sleep, this we know. There are babies that sleep safely for every sleep that still tragically pass away. We are doing the best we can with what we know. Sleep standards may change in the future, but for now, with the knowledge we have, we are doing everything we can. As pediatrician Dr. Bill Bush puts it, “Taking that risk and saying ‘maybe it won’t happen tonight’ – it’s just not worth that risk.”
All in all, I think there are solutions to most, if not all, of the concerns presented in this article. A little creativity and knowledge of options is all it takes. There are absolutely special cases and I can’t say that I will never nap with my baby someday or let them sleep with me out of pure exhaustion. In my professional life, I will always stick to the AAP recommended practices. There’s a reason I have clients sign waivers when parents insist on other standards, unfortunately. In my personal life, like I said, I can’t guarantee that my kid will never sleep in my bed. I can’t guarantee that my baby will never nap in a bouncy seat. It’s unrealistic to think that way.