So, when I was pregnant and raising my kids, I have always just followed my heart on what works best for our family...home births, co-sleeping, attachment parenting, homeschooling, etc.
Now that I am working with many different families, I am confronted with numerous questions on the multiple debatable topics around birthing and children (vaccinations, circumcisions, etc.) There is a certain challenge to presenting information in a non-biased and honest way without pushing my personal opinions on them. Yesterday, a mom that I am working with mentioned how a pediatrician does not support co-sleeping because of the high numbers of deaths that it causes every year. He stated that there are around 100 deaths from co-sleeping each year in Texas alone!
So, I became curious about this statistic and started poking around the internet and asking questions. It turns out that the American Pediatric Association and Consumer Product Safety Commission state that co-sleeping is not safe. Well, this does not mean too much to me, but got me digging further. I started receiving lots of input from co-sleeping adovocates and some anti co-sleeping supporters. Needless to say, I was getting very confused. I finally received a link to the 2008 DSHS Texas State Child Fatality Review(http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/mch/pdf/Texas%20Child%20Fatality%20Review%20Team%20Annual%20Report%202008.pdf). This is a super comprehensive report of all the 2006 deaths of everyone under the age of 17. From this report, there are two sections of greatest importance as related to deaths from co-sleeping. The first one is on pages 47-48. It states that there were 83 SIDS related deaths in 2006 of children one year old and younger. 38.8% of these deaths happened in an adult bed and 32.8% happened in a crib (these were the highest percentages with bassinette being the next highest at 10.4%). This amounts to 26 SIDS deaths happened in an adult bed. Hmmmm....this still doesn't say if the child was co-sleeping in the adult bed. Another interesting statistic is on page 57. This chart shows the percentages of asphysxia infant deaths due to suffocation by sleeping place. An overwhelming 60% of the 38 deaths happened in an adult bed (22 deaths)! So, the total amount of infant deaths in 2006 in Texas in an adult bed is about 48. This still doesn't state if an adult was sleeping with the child or not. It also doesn't explain that if the parent was sleeping in the bed if the adult was intoxicated or on drugs.
Now every coin has two sides and there are multiple studies showing the benefits to co-sleeping. Dr. McKenna has done extensive research into co-sleeping. You can read all about his findings here:
Also, Mothering Magazine has multiple articles on the benefits of co-sleeping (http://www.mothering.com/search/node/cosleeping) Just some of the benefits listed are the baby sleeping better, the baby not crying as much, closer bonding, etc. There are also numerous articles supporting the idea that co-sleeping is safer than crib sleeping. All of the co-sleeping advocates reinforce the importance of co-sleeping safely (not being intoxicated, not having lots of bedding, etc.)
So, here is my not so scientific personal conclusion...I KNOW that co-sleeping can be safe. After all, our kids slept with us until they were 6 years old and they didn't suffocate. We were very mindful about sleeping with the kids, especially when they were infants. We didn't ever cover their heads, I always protected them with my arm and they didn't sleep on the edge of the bed. I never even considered the fact that they could die while sleeping with us. I only knew that it felt right. Did they benefit from sleeping with us? I believe they did. I think that it reinforced the bonding that we shared during the day and it allowed them to sleep better.
So, how do I present this information to the parents that I am working with now? I consistently tell them to do what is best for their family, be mindful of propoganda and FOLLOW THEIR HEARTS!