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Is it really OK to sleep with your baby?

Here is a post I am most eager for you all to read. It is submitted by Vanessa Freville, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital. She is a former PICU nurse, pediatric Emergency Department NP, and currently works with the hospitalist group in the in-patient area. Vanessa is very passionate about keeping our infants and children safe. She is an active member of the Roanoke SafeKids alliance. In honor of SIDS awareness week, she wrote this post to encourage conversation and exploration of the practice of SAFE SLEEP in infants. I suspect this one may engender many comments. Please let us know your opinions, positive or negative.

How many parents have shared their own bed or fallen asleep with their baby at some point?

Most people I imagine!

There has been a lot of talk recently about co-sleeping with infants in the prevention of SIDS which has brought about much controversy. Many cultures and societies believe that co-sleeping is beneficial for bonding and development despite concerns raised by the medical community. Breastfeeding advocates often argue that one of the main pros of keeping baby in bed with them or “co-sleeping” is that it makes those “middle of the night” feedings much easier. Newborns often feed very frequently if not seemingly constantly! In addition, the closeness of having baby near is thought to improve bonding and emotional development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, however advises against co-sleeping in the prevention of SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. They further advise that if you do choose to sleep with your newborn, avoid doing so while drinking or when “excessively tired”. I don’t know many new parents who aren’t “excessively tired” as a baseline, though! Recommendations by the AAP do encourage baby to sleep in their own crib close to or in the same room as their parents. It is agreed among all communities that bonding and closeness during the crucial newborn period is important for both baby and parents. Most pediatricians educate families routinely in the prevention of SIDS which involves numerous recommendations such as back to sleep without blankets or soft toys, avoiding the use of bumper pads and much more including the avoidance of co-sleeping.

The controversy however remains… have we gone too far in the prevention of SIDS that we are risking normal development and bonding in infancy?

I can tell my readers that I have personally seen a number of infants over the course of my career who have been smothered to death by co-sleeping. When you are exhausted, you may not recognize that you are rolling over on the infant, or that he or she has become smothered by the bedclothes or pillows routinely present in an adult bed. My strong feeling is that you should keep your baby close, but in his or her own bed. And remember, early on, they just need a safe place. They wiggle, they scoot, even at very young ages. Your infant is the joy of your life, you want them to stay alive!

This Friday, April 20, is Spring for SIDS day

In honor of the day, the SW Virginia Alliance for Safe Babies is hosting a display at the corner of Jefferson and Elm (right near Carilion Roanoke Community Hospital. We will have 2 mattresses displayed encouraging people to avoid co-sleeping and to followthe A-B-C's of SIDS prevention.

A-alone

B-back to sleep

C-own crib

We would love to hear your comments, questions, thoughts and feelings about this issue.

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