In Erie, New York. they are having to reiterate to parents that co-sleeping with an infant is a bad idea, and can prove to be fatal. In January, six infants died when an adult either rolled over and smothered them or blankets were thrown up and blocked their airway according to The Buffalo News. Co-Sleeping though is not just a problem in upstate New York. Parents all across the nation may try to co-sleep with their babies without realizing the kind of danger it puts the infant in.
In Milwaukee there is such a problem with co-sleeping that one Wisconsin Representative is considering legislation that would mean jail time to a parent who co-slept and caused the death of their infant. While some health officials feel this particular bill is overkill, they all agree that something needs to be done to cut down on the number of co-sleeping deaths. In Wisconsin, according to CBS-58 there is a program called Cribs for Kids which launched in 2009. Since the program began there has been a slight decrease in the number of sleep related deaths.
University Wisconsin Milwaukee Professor Jennifer Doering spends much of her time studying why co-sleeping deaths happen. She states in an interview with CBS-58 her frustration over the ability to send astronauts to space, keep them safe, bring them back to earth, and yet “we can’t keep babies safe next to their parents.” In her opinion, and the opinion of a lot of medical professionals, infant co-sleeping is a bad idea because it can prove to be fatal.
According to Doering, there is three African-American babies that die for every one Caucasian child; in these co-sleeping situations, a trend that has been around and consistent for the last quarter of a century. The reason behind this she believes is a combination of a lack of education on the matter and a lack of space or proper bedding. In a lot of these situations Doering says families sleep four to a mattress.
What is the proper bedding? Alone on the back, in a crib, with no soft objects or loose bedding, and in a smoke-free environment, according to Dr. Greggory Swain, Milwaukee Health Department’s Chief Medical Officer.
Milwaukee and upstate New York are just two areas where co-sleeping deaths have made national headlines. The problem exists nationwide, with a lot of misinformation out there. Doctors nationally try to reiterate to their patients prior to babies arrival how important it is to have a safe sleeping environment. Hospital staff also try to talk to patients about the importance of baby sleeping alone in a crib instead of in bed with the parents.
Education is the first step in making sure that parents do not co-sleep with their infants. If parents are not made aware how dangerous co-sleeping is, then they may unknowingly risk their infants safety. Next is making sure they are able to get a safe place for baby to sleep. Some city health departments have programs like Milwaukee’s Crib for Kids program. Doctors and hospitals can also help parents with finding out the best resources for getting a safe place for their infant to sleep.
Another reason that parents get confused is by the safe “co-sleeping” options that are discussed by some doctors. When a doctor recommends safe co-sleeping, they are generally talking about a crib that attached to the side of the parents’ bed, or a bassinet that sets in the parents’ bed. Both of these options can be considered safe but they still have their risks. One of the reasons that babies die in a co-sleeping situations is because parents throw the blanket over the baby smothering them. Doctors warn that parents need to be careful of this situation. If a parent is using the bassinet that goes in the bed or the crib that attached to the side of the bed, then they need to be sure that their own coverings cannot be thrown over the baby and smother it.
The term co-sleeping can also be used when discussing having the baby sleep in the same room as Mom and Dad. This type of co-sleeping the baby has its own crib in the parents’ room. One that is safe, with a hard crib mattress and no loose coverings or soft objects that could smother the baby. This type of co-sleeping is encouraged by most doctors because it encourages the mother’s ability to breast-feed. This type of co-sleeping also can help cut down on the likelihood of SIDS because Mom and Baby are in the same room, with air circulating and they are more in-tune with each other, which makes monitoring the baby a lot easier for Mom. Moms do need to know and understand the difference between the two types of co-sleeping, and know that having an infant sleeping in the bed with parents can prove to be fatal.
By Rachel Woodruff