CPS: Sleeping With Parents Kills More Kids Than Drowning

That’s a headline of a recent article in the Houston Chronicle. It says…

At least 198 children died after a parent rolled over and accidentally smothered a child sleeping in bed with them between Sept. 1, 2007 and Oct. 31 (2008), according to statistics released by Texas Child Protective Services today.

Of those deaths, 170 occurred since Jan. 1 of this year compared to 78 child drowning deaths.

That’s some scary stuff, right? I do not like those numbers. I do not like them at all. They’re enough to make a mom who co-slept want to buy a wig and dark glasses and join the witness protection program. Good thing I don’t know any.

Um….sigh….oh, well…I might as well admit it…..

My name is Bonnie, and I co-slept with my infant.

First things first. I am not advocating co-sleeping or bed-sharing or any other term used to describe bringing an infant to bed with you!.

I am just sharing my experience.

When I was pregnant, I had a lot of big ideas about how my baby would sleep. We bought a big, beautiful crib, and — just in case — we got one of those little snuggle nest sleeper thingies for if she wouldn’t sleep in her crib sometimes. I had all my bases covered!

Then we brought her home.

From the first night, my girl wouldn’t sleep in her crib, she thought the snuggle nest was vile, and would only sleep in my arms. So that night, that’s how we slept, when we slept. My baby, in my arms, generally with a boob in her mouth (what can I say, this is a blog for mommies…I’ll be talking about my boobs sometimes). I did not know this is the way it would be for months, but there you go. That’s motherhood.

My baby was very colicky, and didn’t sleep much. I tried swaddling, I tried bouncers, I tried her stroller…I tried everything, short of Jack Daniels. She would only sleep in my arms.

So that’s what we did.

I found, when I slept with my infant next to me, I was constantly aware of her presence. I really didn’t move much at all with her in my bed. That was bad news for a mom in her thirties. Boy was I stiff every morning! But she was safe. I found it so easy to feed her in the middle of the night when she was right there, and my boobs were right there (we won’t mention the time I dozed off and she lost my nipple and I woke up with an infant sized hickey on my breast). However, when she was a couple of months old I decided to try a different kind of seat that would elevate her head slightly. I put that in her crib, and — with her reflux tamed — she started to sleep on her own.

But the fact remains, we co-slept, we co-slept carefully, and it worked for us.

Now, not only am I not advocating co-sleeping, but I will include a disclaimer I already put in another post on this blog.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says don’t co-sleep. No way. No how. It’s not safe. Period. It does, however, suggest your baby sleep in your room with you for a year, in a crib right next to your bed, if possible. But not in your bed. No way.

Are we clear? ;)

But I know many of us are going to bring our baby to bed with us at least once. Can it be done safely? Ever?

Many experts say yes.

Notre Dame has an entire Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory. It does advocate co-sleeping. It advocates for it quite persuasively here. It links to a pamphlet with advice on how to do it safely. There is just a ton of valuable information on co-sleeping — and co-sleeping safely — here.

Experts say don’t co-sleep if you’ve been drinking. Not even one. Don’t co-sleep if you’re taking any kind of medicine that would inhibit your ability to operate heavy machinery. Don’t co-sleep in a bed with a bunch of pillows and blankets. Don’t co-sleep with your baby between you and the wall…in fact, pull your bed away from the wall. Never co-sleep in a waterbed, a recliner, on a futon or a sofa. There are other things to think about, and here are some tips for safe co-sleeping, if you think you may do it, even once.

You could also arm yourself with one of those side-car “co-sleepers“. I’ve never tried one, and they’re pretty spendy, but many moms swear by them and they seem like the best of all worlds.

Back to the Texas CPS story. I would love to read more info about these numbers. I wonder if, in some cases, the “overlay” occurred because someone had had a drink, or a Benadryl, or was simply fatigued beyond all reason. Maybe they were co-sleeping in a recliner, or on a sofa, or in a bed pushed against a wall and covered with pillows. I don’t know. I’m not an expert. I’ll leave that to the folks at Notre Dame. But how simply awful. I cannot imagine being that mom or dad.

That’s why, as with any choice we make as parents, we have to arm ourselves with the best information we can find from the best sources we can find, and go from there. Particularly in a situation like this, when the stakes are so high, you know?

Now, I know this post is bound to stir up a little controversy, and again, I am not advocating co-sleeping!

I’m sharing my experience, as a regular mom, just like you.

Now where are those dark glasses?

***Update 4/09 – Here is an excellent example of how people can play with numbers to make it sound like they got a completely different result than they actually got.

For much more on the challenges — including sleep challenges — you may face in your baby’s first year, please listen to our Pea in the Podcast on Baby Boot Camp.


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