There’s been a lot of talk about co-sleeping lately as a number of recent deaths are making headlines.
Public health officials are stating in no uncertain terms that co-sleeping is always dangerous and that babies should always be put to sleep in their cribs (on their backs, of course) no matter what. Attachment parenting types and those of us desperate for a few consecutive hours of shut eye claim that’s ridiculous. Co-sleeping can be safe, they say, and public health campaigns should focus on how to cosleep safely rather than on prohibiting it altogether.
I don’t know. I really don’t.
I know that every night I put my infant girl to sleep in her crib and every morning I wake up with her next to me. I then proceed to keep shoving a boob into her mouth while I continue to doze for as long as it takes her to get (literally) fed up. Well, until either the baby’s had enough or one of her siblings starts playing hop scotch over and around our bodies.
But I also put her down on a laundry basket full of clean clothes and carried the basket, baby and all, up the stairs yesterday. I absolutely do not support a public health campaign on how to safely cart a baby around on a pile of laundry. Even though I am quite sure that the low level of laundry, the angle of the basket and her limited range of mobility meant that she was safe on that particular trip up the stairs, I think it’s fair to say that carrying babies around on baskets of laundry is generally a bad idea. Don’t do it.
And while I know that my baby is safe in bed beside me on any given night because she is far from the edge of the bed and from any pillows or bedding that might suffocate her, and because I don’t smoke and haven’t been drinking and because I don’t move around in my sleep when I have a baby next to me, I also know that some babies have died while sleeping with their parents. Babies have died. Lots of them.
Oh, I know that in most of those deaths drugs or alcohol or some other particularly unsafe sleeping arrangement have been implicated. I understand that if strict standards of safe co-sleeping are abided by, the rates of infant deaths drops dramatically. I get that.
But I also think parents who have been drinking are way more likely to put their baby to bed in a crib if that’s what they always do. I think that when co-sleeping becomes normalized people are less likely to worry about meeting all the safety criteria. And I think that public health officials need to be concerned with promoting the number one, most safe way of caring for infants. That means breastfeeding, yes. It means putting a baby on it’s back to sleep. And, I think, it probably means putting a baby in a safe and secure crib or basinette.
It’s a public health campaign; it’s not a judgment. Feel free to do your research and make the informed decision to disregard the recommendations. The truth is that if you really care that much, this campaign isn’t aimed at you anyway.
Am I wrong? Convince me.