Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Co-sleeping and SIDS

Oooohh...hot topic. There are two very opposing sides to this, so a debate over co-sleeping ALWAYS gets nice and steamy. I will attempt to separate facts from feelings, which is what I always try to do, and which always tends to tick the emotional people off.

Here's the thing... I understand why people like to sleep with their baby in the bed. I've done it. It is nice, especially when you are exhausted and too darn tired to put the baby in her bed. It is comfy, it is sweet, it is nice to wake up to a sweet smelling, peaceful little person that you are finally able to touch, stroke, and snuggle with after 9 months of waiting. I get co-sleeping. I do.

Let me clarify terms I will use going forward so that this makes more sense. Co-sleeping includes bed sharing, but also includes having baby in a co-sleeper next to the adult bed. Bed sharing is actually bringing the baby into the adult bed. The difference is important. I will use the term "co-sleeping" to define a sleeping arrangement whereas the baby has his own sleeping environment next to the adult bed, such as a co-sleeper. I will use the term "bed sharing" to define a sleeping arangement whereas the baby actually sleeps in the adult bed.

That said, bed sharing is NOT safer than placing your baby in her crib. Co-sleeping CAN be safer than any other type of sleeping arrangement, but only under certain circumstances which I will explain in a minute. When it comes to bed sharing and SIDS, many proponents who defend bed sharing usually don't know what they are talking about. Not all. But many. For instance, some say that no babies have died while bed sharing, which is absolutely untrue. Others will blame bed sharing deaths on SIDS, with the idea that if it wasn't caused by suffocation or overlying, then the baby would have died in her crib, bassinet, or co-sleeper anyway, since, "SIDS is not preventable, detectable, yada yada..." and they feel that this exonerates bed sharing. Well, it doesn't.

How so? If you cannot (for whatever reason) accept the toxic gas theory for crib death, you are never going to be able to grasp the concepts pertaining to bed sharing and crib death (SIDS). This is where so many proponets of bed sharing go wrong. They are too busy "but"ing that they miss the facts. Set the emotions aside, peek your head out of the natural parenting- defend it 'til death- world and take a look at what's really going on.

The toxic gas theory states that toxic nerve gases permeate from crib mattresses when a naturally occuring fungus eats away at elements in the mattresses. These elements are phosphorus, arsenic, and antimony. Sleeping a baby face up helps keep these gases away from babies' breathing space, but it is not always enough. IMPORTANT NOTE: These gases are also found in adult mattresses. Many parents, having heard that bed sharing is not safe, have lost babies during sofa-sharing. Sofas and other furniture also contain the same elements and are just as dangerous as a baby or adult mattress, if not more dangerous. (On a side note, infant car seats and swings contain the same chemicals that can produce toxic nerve gases. The chemicals are used as preservatives and fire retardants.)

Proponents of bed sharing say that it helps prevent SIDS because of information presented by Dr. William Sears such as http://www.askdrsears.com/html/7/T071000.asp. There are other articles out there, by different authors, and other studies, but generally, Dr. Sears' article is full of speculation and guess work about SIDS and what causes it. Oddly, he gives credit to the Back to Sleep campaign which was started in the UK by the very scientist who discovered the toxic gas theory! Similarly with the results in New Zealand: the co-discoverers of the theory helped diminish SIDS in the UK and New Zealand, but oddly, Dr. Sears has no idea how or why. Same with the US SIDS "experts." They tell you that you should put your baby on his back, but have no idea why. Or maybe they do, but that's a whole other can of worms not to be opened just yet.
Okay, so let's assume that Dr. Sears and other "experts" don't know what they're talking about, and Dr. Sprott and Barry Richardson, the co-discoverers of the toxic gas explanation for crib death, were 100% correct and toxic gases are in fact the sole cause of SIDS. (More proof on this later!) A mattress wrap was developed by Dr. Sprott called the BabeSafe mattress cover. This cover has been used on approximately 200,000 babies' sleep surfaces with NO crib deaths. The cover prevents the toxic nerve gases from permeating into the baby's breathing space. The covers are available in various sizes for babies' bassinets, co-sleepers, and cribs. They are not available in adult bed sizes, and now we come to the secondary problem when it comes to bed sharing. (And this is why Dr. Sprott does not condone bed sharing).

Since most people aren't aware of the toxic gas theory and the danger of mattresses, usually the main concern with bed sharing is suffocation, parent overlying, strangulation, and falls. There is such a thing as "safer" bed sharing by removing ALL pillows and blankets, putting the baby in the middle so she doesn't roll off, not sharing with an older child, etc. But not only will you still have the initial risk of SIDS from sleeping your baby on an unwrapped mattress, you have the secondary concern of things or bodies in the shared bed which can harm the baby during sleep.

The absolute safest sleeping environment for a baby until 14 months of age is in a co-sleeper with a wrapped mattress, next to the parents' bed. The mattress cover prevents SIDS, and the separate sleeping environment prevents the additional bed sharing risks. It is worthy to note here, that with a mattress cover on the baby's co-sleeper, your baby can now sleep on his stomach. Since I personally purchased a mattress cover because both of my children were tummy sleepers, I wonder how many other parents purchased one for that same reason...and yet there are STILL no SIDS deaths on wrapped mattresses!

Yes, I *know* that bed sharing has been happening since the beginning of time. So has overlying. There is no sense in putting your infant at risk rather than placing him a foot or so away into his co-sleeper. Dr. Sears can go on and on about how well babies sleep with their mommies. What about all the babies who are held frequently throughout the day, nurtured, breastfed, etc. who sleep perfectly well in their own space in the parents' rooms? He didn't ask ME! My daughter slept wonderfully from day one. She didn't care where she was, she slept fine. And talk about THRIVING! The thing is, most co-sleepers/bed-sharers practice other attachment parenting idealogies, so there is no way that Dr. Sears can speculate on just the sleeping arrangement. He even admits that. I shouldn't pick on Dr. Sears, and I'm not really. I just wish he would be more open about what he doesn't know rather than stating things that appear to some readers as fact.

Back to my point. The safest environment for baby is sleeping on a wrapped mattress, whether it is a bassinet, co-sleeper, or crib mattress. There are other steps you should take to provide a SIDS safe bed. These are VERY important.

So no matter how good it feels to snuggle with your baby in bed, it is not the safest place for baby to sleep. Imagine the feeling of all the moms who woke up to a cold baby. I cannot imagine the guilt I would feel if I took my chances and something happened to my baby. If you were proactive enough to search out this information, keep using your head and place your infant on a wrapped mattress where she is safest of all. Do not allow other moms who have not done the research to convince you that bed sharing is safer. It is simply not true.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Pacifiers Do NOT Prevent SIDS

21 February 2006

MEDIA RELEASE FOR PUBLICATION

SPROTT TELLS PARENTS: IGNORE PLUNKET AND MINISTRY OF HEALTH ADVICE ON COT DEATH PREVENTION

New Zealand cot death expert Dr Jim Sprott is advising parents to ignore cot death prevention advice issued by the New Zealand Ministry of Health and the Plunket Society.

His advice follows news yesterday that in the wake of a US study claiming that use of a dummy reduces cot death risk by more than 90%, New Zealand health officials are considering whether to add dummies to their cot death prevention advice.

The US researchers suggest that dummies may assist in keeping babies' airways open if they get into a face-down position in their cots or become covered by bedding.

According to a Television New Zealand report, Plunket's General Manager of Clinical Services has described the US research as "particularly important knowledge".

"Certainly dummy use is associated with reduced cot death risk," stated Dr Sprott, "but not for the reason suggested by the US researchers. The reduced risk comes about because in order to sleep a baby with a dummy, a mother will often use the face-up sleeping position so the dummy stays in place. And face-up sleeping reduces the risk of cot death, because the gases which cause cot death are more dense than air and babies sleeping face-up are less likely to ingest them."

The US study does not mean that New Zealand parents should be advised to use dummies for cot death prevention, stated Dr Sprott. "Any notion that increased dummy use would reduce the New Zealand cot death rate is incorrect. Face-up sleeping is already so widespread in New Zealand that adding dummies would not affect the cot death rate."

Instead, Dr Sprott considers that telling parents to use dummies could cause needless parental anxiety. "To those parents who feel anxious because their babies won't sleep face-up, and those who feel anxious that face-up sleeping might give their babies flat heads, a new group could be added: those who are anxious because they don't wish to use a dummy or their baby won't accept one."

Parents should ignore the advice of Plunket and the Ministry of Health on cot death prevention, stated Dr Sprott.

Dr Sprott advises parents to wrap babies' mattresses in accordance with a specified protocol, and sleep the baby in the alternating side-sleeping position. "That way cot death is prevented, and the baby doesn't develop a flat head," he stated. "And whether or not a dummy is used is irrelevant."

Mattress-wrapping for cot death prevention has been publicised in New Zealand since late 1994. Since that time the New Zealand nationwide cot death rate has fallen by 62% and the Pakeha ethnic rate has fallen by around 76%. There has been no reported cot death on a "wrapped mattress".

Dr Sprott describes Plunket's response to the US research regarding dummies as ill-considered. "New Zealand babycare advisers need to be careful when it comes to overseas cot death research," he stated. "In particular, US cot death research can be highly contradictory and inconsistent.

"Last week a US research study claimed that cot death is caused by a genetic brain defect resulting in a non-function in the baby's breathing. This week a US study is claiming that dummies will prevent 90% of cot deaths. Yet these claims are patently incompatible: using a dummy would obviously have no effect on a brain defect which caused a non-function."

Issued by:T J Sprott
OBE MSc PhD FNZIC
10 Combes Road
Remuera
Auckland, 1005
New Zealand
Phone/fax: 64-9-5231150
sprott@iconz.co.nz
www.cotlife2000.co.nz

P.S. My favorite part of this release is the last paragraph. SIDS researchers in the US are grasping at straws. None of them are on the same page, even though billions of dollars are being funneled into this industry to find a "cure" for SIDS. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Our tax dollars at "work."

The Truth About SIDS

I love a great debate. But sometimes, you know...it just gets old. The worst thing when it comes to people arguing with you are people who don't know what they are talking about, are too lazy to research the info, but continue to insist that they know better. Isn't it the WORST?!

Here's the thing...people who have lost a baby to SIDS insist that there is NO way to prevent it. They can't look at the information objectively. They can't imagine that there is something that they could have done to prevent their baby's death. They argue that if there was a way to prevent SIDS, it would be all over the news. Why? Why would they think that? Maybe 10 years ago when I was naive and didn't understand the way this world works, I might have believed that, too. I didn't realize that we were only supposed to believe what was on the news. That we couldn't learn anything other than what is mentioned on the news. I'm sorry, someone must have forgotten to tell me somewhere along the way!

The TRUTH is that a SIDS prevention technique practiced for over two decades has resulted in 0 baby deaths. The technique is mattress wrapping, which has been promoted in the UK and New Zealand with amazing results. It is estimated that well over 235,000 babies have slept on wrapped mattresses with NO infant deaths. With a moderate SIDS rate of 1/1000, two hundred babies statistically "should have" died. So how can anyone say that SIDS is not preventable? Lack of knowledge? Refusal to see the truth? Too many "buts..." to look at the entire picture?

I do have sympathy for parents who have lost their babies. That is why I tell everyone I can about mattress wrapping for SIDS prevention. It is very unfortunate that parents have not been educated on mattress wrapping and continue to suffer loss across the US and abroad. But even worse are those parents who learn it and don't want to believe it, or are convinced by SIDS moms that it is rubbish and a waste of their money.

I will continue to post SIDS information here when it becomes available and every reader who comes across this site can decide for themselves. For more information, please take a look at Prevent SIDS.

Article updated May 2016