Should It Be Illegal to Bed Share With Your Infant? Indiana Thinks So.

Thanks to Annie at PhD in Parenting for making me aware of a recent Fox News story about co-sleeping.  I was able to track down the ad from the Indiana Department of Child Services that is meant to “encourage” people to put their baby in a crib.

[flickr video=4581905626 secret=f836d05631 w=400 h=300]

This ad is positively outrageous!  Talk about fear-based marketing.  The fact is that many cities health departments are taking a strong stand against the time-honored1 tradition of bed sharing.  Handing out T-shirts like this to new parents:

Worst Onesie Ever

Despite ample research to dispel cosleeping myths and the proven benefits, the American Academy of Pediatrics still advises against cosleeping rather than acknowledging it and providing safe co-sleeping guidelines.  Some even believe it should be illegal.  This news story on a local Fox affiliate recently aired regarding the cosleeping debate:

First, I am really happy with the balanced approach in this story.  Usually the media doesn’t get an expert like McKenna to show the other side of the story and I applaud Fox for this (gasp! it was almost Fair and Balanced).  However, they never show the real comparison of children who died in a parents bed vs. children who died in a crib.  Reminds me of vaccination trials where the placebo is another vaccine as opposed to an unvaccinated individual.

Most shocking though was this question.

What did 100% of the cases in the story’s sample have in common?

Would you believe C?  That’s right, ALL of the cases were in formula fed infants. This isn’t to say that the formula caused the death or that formula fed parents don’t care but there are some specific circumstances that can make these kids more prone to bed-related deaths2.  The video mentions positioning and waking of the mother but also the frequent wakings of the child.  Formula takes longer to digest and thus those children sleep for longer stretches than breastfed babies and often sleep deeper – causing an increase in SIDS deaths as well.  Please note that A, B, and D are also dangerous situations for infants.

The other issue brought up in the piece is about socio-economic status.  Statistically, more bed-related deaths occur in poorer and often unstable homes.  Once again this is a correlation not a causal relationship.  I was flabbergasted at the health department woman’s assertion that she shouldn’t even have to think about different types of people.  Seriously? How do you serve a population and remain blind to the demographics?  I really liked the woman from the community program.  She, correctly, points out that ignoring the reality of the situations at home only drives these already underserved people further away from the services that can help them.  Not that Ms. Health Department Chick cares.

I’m just shocked at the lack of evidence-based advice that the AAP and various health departments are spewing.  This willful ignorance harms babies and children.  Did you hear the story in the begining?  I hear this time and again in such stories.  A mother brings her baby to bed as a last resort and falls asleep.  This is vastly different from the other family, who, like me, researched and then choose to cosleep.  It isn’t a last resort of the exhausted but a well thought out, planned, and safe situation.

By focusing ONLY on getting people to be afraid of cosleeping we don’t help save babies – we put them in further danger of unsafe sleep conditions.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Over 90% of the world co-sleeps – see Young, J. (1998). Babies and bedsharing…. Cosleeping. Midwifery Digest, 8, 364-369.
  2. I believe that with proper education a formula feeding family could safely cosleep.


11 comments on this post.
  1. Erin W. / Beatnik Mo:

    I saw this story this morning and was incredibly saddened. It's tragic, to say the least.

    I really enjoyed what Dr. McKenna had to say as well as the woman from the community program. The health dept. woman was just plain ignorant though.

    I hope that the AAP will change their views on this.
    .-= Erin W. / Beatnik Momma´s last blog ..Reminiscing: My Wedding =-.

  2. magicandmayhem:

    RT @babydust: [New Post] Should it be Illegal to Bed Share With Your Infant? Indiana Thinks So. –

  3. dad:

    excellent post, so informative and well researched. I remember the night we baby sat Aellyn, i have to admit that i was very nervous and didn't sleep very good worrying about her. but everything worked out fine except your mom got pissed at me because every time i woke up i wanted to play with Aellyn. she kept telling me to leave her alone and let her sleep. it was a great experience.
    .-= dad´s last blog ..Introductions are in order =-.

  4. Mom:

    Great post. How could government officials even think about passing a law that so infringed on personal rights? Unbelievable!
    .-= Mom´s last blog ..Introductions are in order =-.

  5. Lisa C:

    That video is horrible! I mean, it makes a good point not to sleep on the sofa with a baby, but to say you shouldn't sleep with your baby at all, even for a second! They might as well say, "don't listen to your instincts!"
    .-= Lisa C´s last blog ..22 months: 2 months till 2 years! =-.

  6. Maman A Droit:

    Ugh I hate stories like that. It's not helpful to anyone to lump sleeping on your couch or passing out drunk in with the safe kind of co-sleeping practiced by sober breastfeeding mamas in beds, often with bedrails!
    .-= Maman A Droit´s last blog ..NewsFlash! =-.

  7. FOX News says Infant Co-sleeping Deaths Linked to Formula Feeding | Crunchy Domestic Goddess:

    [...] blogger at The Babydust Diaries qualifies the formula finding: This isn’t to say that the formula caused the death or that [...]

  8. Why a 8-month old still wakes up many times at night? - Page 3 - Parenting Forums:

    [...] [...]

  9. LCJ:

    "By focusing ONLY on getting people to be afraid of cosleeping we don’t help save babies – we put them in further danger of unsafe sleep conditions."

    Please explain how our children are in further danger. Putting them to bed in their own bed abolishes the chance of us rolling over on our child. When we are sleeping, we have ZERO control of our bodies. We are unconscious and have no idea what the heck we are doing. Sometimes we don't wake up, sometimes we do. Why take the chance of suffocating our children?? This doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever. The child is safer in his own bed, on his back, and without blankets, pillows, and toys. My friend's 11 day old son died from this. Guess what? He was bottle fed. Imagine that. The irony. She wasn't drinking, she was in bed, she had her 3 year old on the other side of her infant BUT….she was the one who rolled OFF of the child and realized she suffocated her son. I had to see a dead 11 day old baby. Like I said up there, NO ONE knows what the heck they are doing while they are sleeping so by sleeping with an infant, they are taking the risk of taking their child's life.

  10. Paige:

    LCJ – I don't know why you say we have ZERO control when sleeping. If this is true for you then you must end up on the floor several times a night.

    I would agree that solitary sleep does "abolish the chance of us rolling over on our babies." However, it greatly increases the chance of apnea episodes that can lead to SIDS. There were 121 deaths in an adult beds due to overlying between 1980 and 1997 but in 1997 alone 2,700 SIDS deaths occurred in cribs, alone, on their backs. (Heinig, M. J. (2000). "Bed sharing and infant mortality: Guilt by association?" Journal of Human Lactation, 16, 189-191.)

    I'm so sorry your friend lost her child. That is just horrible! I would like to reduce those types of deaths by educating people about SAFE cosleeping. If the AAP gave your friend information on safe colseeping she would have known that formula feeding is contraindicated which may have saved her son. The AAP's silence saves no one while children die from SIDS.

  11. Emily:

    No, it shouldn't be illegal, but it should be better taught about the dangers of sharing a bed with an infant.

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