Help for conversations about co-sleeping

Unicef have released a new guide on co-sleeping and SIDs. It recognises that half of all babies will have slept together in an adult bed, with a parent in the first three months.

22% of babies, 154,000, will be in bed with a parent tonight.

Is your baby waking frequently in the night?
Your baby is normal

This feature of your baby is not modifiable, they can not learn to defer their needs. This is just reality, and what babies do. They aren’t doing anything wrong. You don’t need a magic solution.

Its a warped 20th century notion, that ‘good’ babies should sleep through the night. It puts far too much pressure on parents, to fix their ‘broken’ baby.

My normal baby, who happens to wake in the night.
My normal baby, who happens to wake in the night.

I spent the first four months of co-sleeping, worrying, and afraid to share my experience. If you are a health professional or co-sleeping intentionally or unintentionally and worried about disclosing how and where you sleep, as a family, this is a must read.

Unicef Co-sleeping and Sids – Guide for Health Professionals

Co-sleeping why I feel empowered not ashamed.

Co-sleeping is happening, half of all parents will sleep with their baby at some point, be this planned or unplanned.

Consequently what really surprised me, given the stigma around co-sleeping, were the stats around SIDs.

212 babies died of SIDs in the UK in 2014. They all co-slept right? Wrong.

Previous UK data suggests – 50% of them died in a cot or moses basket.

The other 50% died whilst co-sleeping, however 90% of these could have been avoided by following safe sleeping practices.

So what are hazardous co-sleeping practices?

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Drugs / medication that may make you drowsy
  • Having other kids or pets in the bed
  • Heavy bedding, covering the baby with a duvet
  • Using pillows
  • Leaving them alone in an adult bed
  • Gaps between the mattress and wall / headboard
  • Sleeping on a sofa, chair, futon, water-bed.
  • Premature babies / low birth weight / have a fever
  • Co-sleeping if over-tired.

Normally, when you see sensational news headlines, there’s one of these contributing factors. What really annoys me are shocking, unhelpful ‘death by co-sleeping’ headlines.  But when you read the facts, it was suffocation / breathing difficulties caused by one of the above.

Bedtime reading with Daddy
Bedtime reading with Daddy

This leads me to this statement, which pretty much sums up my feelings on all advise to new parents, and I would hope all health professionals would aspire to do this.

“it isn’t helpful to tell parents what they must or mustn’t
do; instead, listen carefully and offer information appropriate to their needs.”

Telling parents never to bed-share is dangerous.

Babies wake frequently in the night, and need to be cared for. Giving advice to mum’s, never to bed-share, can push a mum, in to a more dangerous situation of feeding on a sofa and falling to sleep.

At the start, I also breastfed sitting up in bed, desperate not to fall asleep, and bed-share. Falling asleep like this is far more dangerous than laying down in the c position to breastfeed.

Read about our co-sleeping journey.

Breastfeeding in the c position
Breastfeeding in the c position

The advise to never bed-share can also lead to mums abandoning breastfeeding. I have been very vocal in saying co-sleeping has definitely empowered me to continue my breastfeeding journey.

Eleven months breastfeeding

The article closes with this statement.

“Remember, shocking messages that imply that all/any co-sleeping leads to death are not helpful. They do not reflect the evidence, and they frighten parents and staff, induce guilt and close down honest conversations.”

Hence, what we truly need are honest conversations. We need parents to understand the risks and be empowered with the knowledge how to co-sleep safely.

Therefore, if you are worried about talking about co-sleeping, print off the UNICEF guide and refer to it. This may help you to feel more confident, and give you support to advocate for yourself. It will also support you to have factual based conversations.

Have you found anything else to aid conversations with health professionals?

Why would anyone breastfeed?

How did we get 60 mums breastfeeding at once?

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3 Replies to “Help for conversations about co-sleeping”

  1. This is such a great, informative post, thanks writing it! There is so much ignorance about co-sleeping and you’re right, it’s putting babies at risk because people don’t have the right guidance to do it safely. I didn’t co-sleep with my first and I made myself so ill through sleep deprivation, I really regret it and have co-slept with my second from birth.

    1. I’m so sorry that happened with your first, but sounds like you’ve had a better experience this time. So glad you felt more confident to trust your instincts this time. Thanks for sharing your experience x

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