Bedsharing confession

We’ve capitulated to the lure of bedsharing.

We didn’t regularly co-sleep with the little dude until he was much bigger, because of all the Public Health Advice.

The little dude was in our room until last December when we moved house, and he’d always start in his cot and then move to our bed when he woke in the night. Once he started sleeping through (about 17 months), he still liked being in our room to be able to see us when he woke in the morning. He was fine when we moved him though, didn’t bother him at all, but he was almost two by then.

Bub goes down in a baske next to my side of the bed, but from his first wake up I bring him in with us. And then I get to doze the rest of the night, even though he’ll wake once or twice again. I’m getting so much more sleep – it’s amazing. We started this accidentally, falling asleep when he nursed, as with the little dude. After a few of these accidental bedsharing occurrences I decided it would be safer to do it deliberately – even though we didn’t plan to start until he was bigger (because of the Public Health Advice).

I lied to the Plunket nurse about it. It’s a great kiwi tradition, up there with forcing children to eat weetbix (it tastes like cardboard, but somehow I have an affection for that taste as an adult).

I’d already done all the research on safest ways to co-sleep, back when the little dude was 5 months or so. The only change I needed to make when starting the deliberate co-sleeping with bub is to wear a warm top so I can sleep with the blankets waist height, keeping his area clear of hazards.

Because I have too much time on my hands where I’m pinned under a sleeping baby, I did a search of the  past several years of coroner’s reports to see if there  were any cases of best-practice bedsharing causing suffocation, as distinct from bedsharing with other risk factors. I couldn’t find any. Interesting. Very interesting. Crystal clear case to not bedshare after drinking. Same for sleeping with a baby on a couch. One very sad case where the baby was suffocated by a toddler when they were alone in the bed together, I cried at that one. I couldn’t find anything where a baby died in a situation without other risk factors.

I posted once before about absolute advice and bedsharing and how problematic that advice is because people don’t follow it. Being uninformed about specific risks, like smoking or obesity, they can’t make safer decisions. I’ll find the link when I’m on my laptop and add it in later, too tricky on my phone (I’m trapped under a sleeping baby). The big thing that assuages my worry about co-sleeping safety is that my mum isn’t worried. Her take: we co-slept with you and your brother, it was the 80s, all the hippy lefty parents were doing it. This is someone who got anxious when we looked at a house for sale in Island Bay because it was below the blue line: “how will you run up the hill to safety when the tsunami comes, with a baby and a toddler, especially given your prolapse?” If she’s not worried about something, it probably isn’t cause for concern.

Anyhow…

It struck me forcefully when I was reading coroner’s reports to satisfy my lingering doubts at disobeying Public Health Advice, that not everyone has the resources to check out latest info about safe bedsharing, even if they want to do it deliberately and to do it as safely as possible. Most of the parents I follow online co-sleep to some extent, and most of my real life parent friends too. It’s a sample of people who all are used to doing research into things and making informed decisions. People who have opinions on stuff like which colour night light is best and which kind of baby carrier reduces risks of hip dysplasia. People who read safety reviews before buying a car seat. Etc. Especially in Wellington, this can seem like a big group – but we’re not the national norm.

Which makes me increasingly annoyed at the absolute advice against bedsharing, like I said last time. Reading the coroner reports, each time the observations and recommendations went broad – baby should always be in own sleep space. Some parents have the time and abilities to sift through conflicting studies on bedsharing and figure out that the big risks can be addressed. Others don’t. Others don’t even have the internet. Most of the babies die when there are multiple other risk factors present, and likely their parents likely have no idea about the studies that demonstrate SIDS risks compound each other (prem + exposed to cigarettes in utero for example). I think this makes the public health authorities kinda culpable, or at least they could do a much better job of getting information out there. There’s a major class problem: a widely spread message to never do the thing, a tacit realisation that certain parents break the rules and that not all rule breaking is equal, but no significant efforts to bring the information about specific risks to a wider audience. The kids that are dying on couches or next to people who’ve been drinking, they’re not the same kids whose parents read half a dozen articles about safe co-sleeping. Getting information out about the specific risks might seem harder – but it’s not, we convey specific information about driving risks (speeding, drinking, fatigue, not wearing a seatbelt, distractions), and no-one suggests that we tell people to not drive at all because it’s too hard to identify areas where risk can be significantly mitigated.

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2 thoughts on “Bedsharing confession

  1. My first wasn’t much of a co-sleeper (or sleeper), but we also ended up co-sleeping more with our second. Do what you gotta do to get sleep! Parents need sleep too, and in light of that NZ needs to do better. I had my kids in Australia and Denmark. In both countries they don’t recommend bed-sharing, but our health visitors provided information about safe co-sleeping. Including pamphlets showing safe co-sleeping arrangements. I had naively assumed NZ would do something similar. Failing our most disadvantaged kids, again.

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