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SIDS and Safety

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Moms do it, dads do it, even monkeys in the zoo do it.

The other day I went to the Central Park Zoo and saw a mother monkey sleeping tightly together with her little baby. Reading the headlines about a new British Medical Journal study connecting SIDS and co-sleeping keeps bringing me back to this image and I keep asking myself, “How can something as natural and instinctive as sleeping close to your kids be dangerous?”

When it comes to something as devastating as SIDS, it is hard to take lightly any potential evidence about what might cause it. But it’s also important to be level-headed and use common sense when analyzing the various factors.

The researchers conclude that sleeping with your baby greatly increases the risk for SIDS. This is a striking statement based on a large study published in a medical journal. But flaws in the research have already been highlighted by members of the medical community in many forums online. As far as I can see the biggest issues with the study are that bedding safety is not included as a factor, and what constitutes “breastfeeding” (a little, a lot, etc) is not established nor are the uses of drugs and alcohol properly examined.

This is a shame because bedding safety, breastfeeding and drug-use are huge factors in infant sleep safety. Most of the time alcohol and drugs are the culprit and this study only took into consideration illicit drugs (not more common narcotic painkillers and sleeping pills). It also didn’t look into the use of drugs by both parents, only by mothers.

When these factors are not properly included, it’s impossible to determine whether co-sleeping, on it’s own, is inherently dangerous. We will see if the BMJ or study authors respond to criticisms. In the meantime, the news headlines can be misleading and unnecessarily frightening.

Now I have to confess that we had our three girls in our bed when they were babies and to this day I remember how keenly aware I was of their little presences and the happiness I felt being close to them. If I were in that situation now—having read this study—I would not change a thing. I would still cautiously sleep close to my babies, just like the monkeys in Central Park.

 

– Michel Cohen

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