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Do You Share Your Bed With Your Infant?

Posted by Lara Salahi  October 1, 2013 07:04 AM

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Within this first year of parenthood, we have already visited the pediatrician seven times.

Our pediatrician is wonderful – everything we could hope for in a doctor who will be with us for a solid decade or two (at least). At every visit so far she has asked us about our daughter's eating habits, and pooping habits; she even asks about firearms in the house and about how our marriage is doing.

These are all very important topics. But our pediatrician has consistently missed raising one subject that’s equally as important -- Not once has she asked where our daughter sleeps and whether we share our bed with her.

If she asked, I would've said she sleeps in her crib in her own room. She’s done so since she was 12 weeks old. Before that, she slept in a bassinet next to our bed.

But our pediatrician hasn’t asked – and that’s a problem.

That’s because a new study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that if doctors talked to parents about the risks of sharing a bed with an infant – some of which are fatal -- fewer parents would do it.

Many of us take a cue from our doctors. The study found that parents were less likely to bed share if they had a doctor who expressed he or she was adamantly against the practice. On the other hand, parents were more likely to try it if their doctor had a more laxed view on the practice.

I love our pediatrician. She and others have one of the most difficult tasks of all—communicating important life-saving health information to at times overprotective parents -- especially first-time ones -- without sounding preachy and demeaning and turning them off. I also know it’s difficult for pediatricians to cram all things important about our child’s health in such short visits. Still, it makes me wonder: Has she not brought it up because she doesn't find it to be important enough, or has she not really taken a stance on it?

In a few months we’ll be celebrating my daughter’s first birthday (I can’t believe I just wrote that). It’s a milestone for many obvious reasons – but an often overlooked one is that whatever risk she ever had for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, will be diminished. Totally eliminated.

While many causes of SIDS are unexplained, there is one known culprit in some cases: Co-sleeping. Besides SIDS however, infants who bed share also run the risk of other dangers like suffocating and getting trapped in bedding, otherwise avoidable accidents if they slept in their own spot, on their backs, with no loose bedding. That spot can even be in the same room as you, in their own spot next to your bed.

I can help blow out a first candle to that!

But it seems that not all of us feel the same. In fact, the percentage of co-sleeping infants has more than doubled since 1993, the study found. Now, nearly 14 percent of infants share a bed with a parent, another caregiving adult, or a child, according to the study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. 85 percent of infant bed sharing happens with parents.

Of course, not all of these cases led to accidents or death. Many practice bed sharing as a form of bonding, or as an easier method to breastfeeding. The good news is that there are better and safer ways to bond and breastfeed, without having to bed share but still keeping your infant within your sight and reach. It’s worth a conversation with your doctor to find out how.

Learn more about safe infant sleeping practices at the American Academy of Pediatrics website


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This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Lara Salahi is an award-winning multimedia journalist whose specialty is reporting health and medical stories. She has worked in local, network, and cable television, international print, and documentary film. She More »

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