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Wow, there was a story in the newspaper this week that really made me crazy. It was in the Sacramento paper via the Washington Post, and the message was that moms shouldn’t bring their infants into the bed to sleep with them. It cites statistics showing that suffocations, etc, are on the rise, but guess what? The article didn't cite any studies-- not even one! -- that connect those suffocations to family beds. Rather, the story says: “The trend roughly coincide with a sharp rise in bed sharing, which has become more popular to help mothers bond and breast-feed.”

Roughly coincides? Sorry, but this sounds like the same malarkey that was spouted to discourage the resurgence in breastfeeding over bottle-feeding back in the 80’s. We were told that inadequacies in the mom’s diet could deprive the child of needed vitamins – whereas formula contained everything they needed. Formula was healthier. Bottles were more evolved, and fostered independence. Breast-feeding was actually selfish according to these theories.

We all know how that worked out, especially in poor regions of South America, where companies chastised the moms for breastfeeding, convinced them to switch to formula, and then discovered too late that impurities in the water supply (impurities that the mothers’ bodies had been filtering away for the breast-fed infants) were now being mixed into the formula and causing infant mortalities.

Meanwhile, breastfed babies were ultimately proven to be radiantly healthy. Their teeth were stronger and straighter. Their immunities were stronger. Common sense, really. But the campaign against breastfeeding was borderline vicious in its time.

And now, it’s bed-sharing that is under attack – another natural impulse maligned as dangerous.

I can personally attest to the fact that I never got a decent night’s sleep as a new mom until I dragged my baby into bed with me from sheer exhaustion. The result was nothing less than a miracle.

At first, I was terrified that I would roll onto the baby and suffocate him. But do you know what? That just doesn’t happen. The only "documented" case in history of a mom accidentally suffocating a baby by rolling onto him/her in bed was in Solomon’s time, whereas reports of babies getting their heads caught in crib bars, or other horrific crib tragedies, abounded. But the propaganda was strong, and as I said, I myself only resorted to taking the first baby into our bed from primitive need to get a couple of hours sleep.

My husband was worried too. He had heard the Solomon story. And we had all been raised to think cribs were necessary equipment for proper parenting. Sophisticated. Evolved.

But guess what? That first night in bed together, we all slept “like babies.” The colic that had plagued our infant went away. The congested nose and chest that had prompted the doctor to recommend having him sleep in his car seat (head elevated) went away too, because as it turned out, his little head was naturally elevated in the crook of my arm. (Can we really believe that I’m less safe than a cold plastic contraption with a synthetic mattress?)

For my second baby, well – she was in our bed from the very first night, because one short hour after she was born, I checked us both out of the hospital, and we went home to get some real sleep. She was as safe as a baby could possibly be.

Did I ever roll onto them? Nope. Did I ever almost roll onto them? Nope, not ever – not even close. Did they get wedged between the mattress and the wall, as the news story implies? Seriously, no. Did my husband almost roll onto one of them? Why no, he actually has pretty strong paternal instincts. And in any case, that baby was curled up with me – the mother of all maternal creatures, instinct-wise.

Okay, so I’m hot on this topic. But the truth is, if that study had presented proof that there was a serious risk of death in family beds versus cribs…. Well, I adore babies, so I would have forced myself to admit that maybe the practice wasn’t quite as wonderful as I’d thought.

But “the trend [in infant deaths] roughly coincides” with an increase in bed-sharing? That’s useless pseudo-information that could discourage an exhausted mom and baby from getting some safe, warm, loving sleep.

Oh, and the best part of the article? It says that while "more-affluent" parents might take a baby in the bed “to bond and breast-feed, poorer women often share a bed for other reasons...” The example is that maybe the poor family can’t afford a crib – sheesh! Once again, when did cribs become so universally-adored?

My point isn’t that everyone should take their baby into bed with them, or that cribs aren’t safe. My point is, the practice shouldn’t be disparaged when there’s no proof that it’s a problem, especially when it can solve a problem, and promote a lovely lifestyle that works for certain moms.

All of my nieces and nephews slept in cribs from the day they were born until the day they graduated to kiddie beds, and they are perfect specimens, health-wise and emotionally. It was clearly the perfect approach for them. Meanwhile, the family-bed concept worked in my household, and I wish, wish, wish someone had advised me to try it. Instead, I stumbled into it, almost literally, after weeks of walking the halls with a crying infant. And it worked like the natural charm it was always intended to be.

P.S. I did hear once (possibly an urban legend) about a drunken man rolling onto a sleeping infant and smothering the poor child. If it’s true, all I can say is, if you’re letting a drunken man within 6 feet of your baby, you’ve got a bigger problem than bed-versus-crib. Seriously. Would you let a drunken man put your baby to bed in a crib? What if he didn’t put the side up? What if he accidentally covered the baby’s face with a quilt? What if he left a bottle in a crazy position?

Take the baby in bed with you and send the drunk guy to the couch. Now everyone’s safe! Problem solved.

Okay, that’s the end of that rant. [this is what I get for reading the newspaper, right? Back to fiction for me…]

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
ttnette38
Feb. 2nd, 2009 02:59 am (UTC)
Kate,

This is a wonderful post. My fondest memories are of laying on my mom's breast in her bed. In fact, to this day, whenever us girls go home, we make it a point to bunk with mom and lay on her tummy, at times! I wish I were there now.

Jeanette

What malarky
katedonovan
Feb. 4th, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
Motherhood is challenging enough without deluging new moms with scary/unfounded advice. My experience was (1) you get way too much unsolicited, conflicting advice, and (2) a mom's natural instincts are almost always the right choice for that particular mom and her baby. Oh well...

Thanks for commenting, Jeanette!
ttnette38
Feb. 5th, 2009 12:40 am (UTC)
Kate,

I think some of these "experts" rolled out of their cribs and onto their heads! See, if they had been nurtured by their mamas, they'd not have had these unfortunate accidents, eh?

Jeanette
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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