Thursday, 3 March 2011

SIDS: dangers of "co-sleeping"

Doug Staley
Feb 23, 2011
Although some parents may use co-sleeping to bond with or comfort their young children, local pediatricians say the risks outweigh the benefits.
The danger of infants sleeping with adults was highlighted by two recent deaths in Massillon. Last week, a 6-month-old boy died after his father apparently rolled over on top of him while they were sleeping together.
A 26-day-old infant died last November when a mother fell asleep while cradling the baby in her arms.
“Certainly, it is more common than we would like. A lot of times it seems to be an issue where the risks are not fully appreciated by parents,” said Dr. Jeff H. Shaw, of North Canton-based Canton Pediatrics.
“... To some degree, it is educational. There are lots of guidelines of what to do and not to do with your baby and sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle.”
Co-sleeping advocates say the practice allows parents to bond with their children and facilitates breast feeding. But there are risks involved when a parent allows a child to sleep with them, said Massillon police Det. Bobby Grizzard.
“A lot of people believe they sleep lightly. In both of these situations (recent deaths), there were clear indications that the parents’ sleeping patterns weren’t what they believed they were,” Grizzard said. “... There are some parents who say they are light sleepers but we really don’t know what we do when we are in a deep sleep.”   
There have been 48 sleep-related deaths reported in Stark County since 2000, including three last year. Most of the deaths were attributed to sudden infant death syndrome or asphyxia, according to the county health department.
The risk is greatest among infants 6 months old and younger because they are at risk developmentally and physiologically and often lack the mobility needed to reposition themselves, according to Shaw.
In addition to accidental suffocation, the rate of SIDS is higher among infants who share a bed with an adult. Shaw added exhausted parents sometimes fall asleep while holding their children.
“When parents are stressed and overworked, the easiest thing to do is to take the baby and they accidentally fall asleep with the baby in their arms,” he said.
Co-sleeping on a sofa also is extremely dangerous, said Dr. Michael McCabe, of Perinatal & Pediatric Services at Aultman Hospital. McCabe said a baby needs a firm sleeping surface free of objects such as pillows and blankets in which they could become entangled.
“A baby needs a safe, protected environment,” McCabe said.
Co-sleeping also can occur when caregivers do not have access to a properly assembled and maintained crib.
“The assumption that we make is that everyone has access to this bedding and that is not always the case,” McCabe said. 
The county’s Safe Sleep Task Force, which seeks to provide education to the public, offers cribs to low income families through its Cribs for Kids program. Families are provided a Graco pack ‘n play crib at a discounted rate of $20 as well as educational materials outlining safe sleeping. Cribs are purchased with community donations.
For more information, visit or call the county health department at 330-493-9914.

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