I grew up outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I am sad to say that there’s been a rash of sad deaths of infants in Milwaukee. As of yesterday, 8 infants have died as a result of unsafe co-sleeping. Just to be clear, we are a bedsharing/ co-sleeping family. We have a queen size bed (and I’d love a King, especially when the Bear decides to join us) and we typically have the babies in bed with us until they show signs of wanting to leave. For the Bear… it was around 12 months, the Dragonfly is still cozy at 9 months.
We have rules for co-sleeping; if either parent is under the influence of alcohol or medication (NyQuil and the like) they are on the couch. Because the parents need to be 100% in control, especially when sleeping with an infant; I am the cold one in the house, so I sleep in long sleeves, pants and socks so that we are not worried about blankets on the bed; we never allow the children to sleep next to another because the Bear (35 months) is not aware of her sister’s positioning in the night/ while sleeping and would be a danger of overlaying.
But by far, the biggest key to bedsharing is whether the mother is breastfeeding or bottlefeeding. (This is not a rant of which is better as we all know where I stand on that issue.)
Studies have shown that breast-fed babies wake more frequently than formula-fed babies. The reason: Breastmilk is the natural food for infants. There is no harsh ingredient that requires extra digestion time. Breastmilk is “processed” quickly and efficiently by Baby, prompting the need for closer feeding intervals.”Babies are nocturnal animals,” says Jolenne Short-Porter, R.N., IBCLC from Exeter, N.H. “In the early months, they need to nurse frequently for their growing needs, as well as mom’s milk supply. Nighttime nursing is necessary. Unfortunately, in our culture, we want our babies to sleep at night.”
This is a huge reason why there was back lash against Enfamil’s Nighttime formula. Babies are supposed to wake up at night, they wake up a lot at night and there are theories that the excessive nightwaking is a survival mechanism
“Human children are designed to be sleeping with their parents,” says Katherine A. Dettwyler, Ph.D., an associate professor of anthropology and nutrition at Texas A & M University. “The sense of touch is the most important sense to primates. The expected pattern is for mother and child to sleep together and for the child to be able to nurse whenever they want during the night.”
Dettwyler reminds parents that normal, healthy breast-fed and co-sleeping children do not sleep through the night. She is a firm believer that parents need to dispel the myth of needing eight hours of uninterrupted sleep when children are infants. Parents should instead view these nighttime interactions as precious and fleeting.
Before the 19th century, most infants slept in close contact with their mothers – usually in the same bed – and had frequent nighttime feedings. In many cultures, this is still the norm for babies and parents.
It didn’t become “normal” for a baby to sleep through the night until the 1950s, according to Dr. James McKenna, an anthropologist and director of the University of Notre Dame Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab, when bottle-feeding with formula exceeded breast-feeding in popularity. Bottle-feeding and baby’s sleep McKenna said he found differences between bottle- and breast-feeding families when it came to the sensitivity and positioning of mothers with their infants. Therefore, for bottle-feeding families, “sleeping is best alongside the bed, not in the bed,” said McKenna. Co-sleeping furniture may be a viable alternative to bed sharing, but none has been tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Anti-bed sharing The AAP discourages bed sharing, noting that it “is more hazardous than the infant sleeping on a separate sleep surface.” Some physicians think the AAP (and several SIDS prevention groups) have gone too far in discouraging bed sharing. Japan has a very low incidence of SIDS, and they sleep with their babies, said Thomas. “So, the problem is not just bed sharing.” When deaths occur in a bed the whole practice is condemned, Thomas said. “We never say that about a crib.”
I tried to find information advocating bottlefeeding and co-sleeping and I couldn’t.
Going back to the issue in Milwaukee, I don’t have the stats but how much do you want to bet that all of the mothers involved were low-income and black? We know that the breastfeeding rates among low-income, minority women are low and this is the exact demographic that should be nursing their kids. After all, breastmilk is free and easy to come by. So, maybe instead of attacking the bed sharing custom, we should be attacking the fact that our children are not getting the best chance they can to survive.
(OK, so I lied. It did become a breastfeeding rant.)
Prayers for the souls of the eight infants in Milwaukee and all infants who are now in the Father’s arms.
As always, I welcome your thoughts, but keep it clean!