in the Media: They're Still at It
By Linda F. Palmer, DC
The New York Times recently took the opportunity to provide
us with some great news from a new study: Cosleeping in the US
has doubled since 1993 --- from 5.5 to 12.8 percent. But, while
the NIH report was neutral in nature, the Times just couldn't
bring themselves to show us what good news this statistic could
The article also quotes that almost
1/3rd of Asian-American and African-American infants are regularly
beds, while only 10% of whites are. Overall, nearly half of all
babies were spending at least some time in adult beds. While
they quoted a couple of healthy-parenting experts on the cozy
and sleep-saving benefits of cosleeping, they still had to print
only this in regards to the safety issue: "The same results
worry safety experts, who say the practice causes suffocation."
While many of the so-called safety experts won't be changing
their croon due to ties with formula and crib industries, others
have little chance of improving their understanding when one-sided
information is constantly presented by the press.
The Times went on to quote a Dr.
Bradley Thatch, professor of pediatrics at the Washington University
of Medicine, as
saying he was "in the camp that thinks it's dangerous. In
50 percent of the sudden infant deaths in St. Louis, and 70 percent
of those among blacks, bed-sharing was involved."
Well, Dr. Thatch, if you were
to read other studies, you would learn that there is "good bed-sharing" and "risky
bed-sharing." When the adult-bed sleeping infant is not
accompanied by a conscientious, non-smoking adult, SIDS is higher.
It seems as though the Times had to look for someone experienced
with a high-risk population in order to find a good quote. The
population Dr. Thatch has studied is one classified as having
many more teenage pregnancies and many impoverished areas with
low education rates. More smoking, drinking, and drug use are
expected in these populations on the whole. Along with St. Louis'
large proportion of African-Americans, all of these groups are
typically associated with more formula feeding (another high
risk factor for SIDS). All of these populations have also been
shown to have very high rates of bed-sharing, but more often
with unsafe practices.
With a high level of risk factors,
cosleeping can result in higher SIDS rates than crib-sleeping.
to likely 70 percent
of the St. Louis infant population sleeping in adult beds at
least part of the time, many with higher-risk behaviors, it's
no wonder that 50 to 70% of their SIDS deaths are found to have "bed-sharing
Many studies have been performed to try to solve the puzzle
of the sad SIDS rates in African-Americans. These suggest that
the differences are associated with differing behaviors. African-Americans
are still placing their babies to sleep in the prone position
at very high rates. Prenatal care rates are low (a known risk-factor
for SIDS), and low-weight births are far higher. One study reports
that softer bedding and pillows are also more-often found in
this at-risk population. This high SIDS rates is not reflected
in many parts of Africa, where more natural parenting behaviors
While equal percentages of Asian-Americans are regularly cosleeping,
their SIDS rates are very low --- less than 1/4th the rate of
African-American populations. Clearly, cosleeping itself is not
It is important for us to know that certain populations typically
have riskier bed-sharing practices, (and these need to be addressed
in the proper frame of reference), but when worldwide statistics
demonstrate how much safer cosleeping can be than crib sleeping
--- when without smoke and drugs, and even better when accompanied
by breastfeeding --- there is no benefit to making a blanket
statement against cosleeping. Those who practice conscientious
cosleeping for the increased emotional and physical wellbeing
of their children (and for better sleep) should not be frightened
and misled by one-sided, sensational, and inaccurate information.
McNeil, Donald G. Jr., "More Babies Share Beds With Parents." The
New York Times, 2003 Jan 14.
Willinger M, et. al., "Trends in infant bed sharing in
the United States, 1993-2000: the national infant sleep position
study." Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2003 Jan;157(1):43-9.
Mathews TJ, et. al., "Infant mortality statistics from
the 1999 period linked birth/infant death data set." Natl
Vital Stat Rep 2002 Jan 30;50(4):1-28.
Johnson CM, et. al., "Infant sleep position: A telephone
survey of inner-city parents of color." Pediatrics 1999
Nov;104(5 Pt 2):1208-11.
Papacek EM, et. al., "Differing postneonatal mortality
rates of African-American and white infants in Chicago: an ecologic
study." Matern Child Health J 2002 Jun;6(2):99-105.
Palmer, Linda F., Baby Matters, What Your Doctor May Not Tell
You About Caring for Your Baby, (Lancaster Ohio: Lucky Press,
Palmer, Linda F., "Cosleeping
and SIDS Fact Sheet." Jan
© Copyright 2002 Dr. Linda
Folden Palmer, All rights reserved
Folden Palmer, DC, is the author of the healthy parenting
Matters, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Caring for
Your Baby. She provides telephone consultations for colic,
lactation difficulties, child nutrition, food allergy issues,
and infant sleep challenges. Promoting attachment and natural
parenting principles, she is dedicated to raising awareness
about how powerfully early parenting and healthcare choices
can influence a child's mental and physical outcomes. Find
her at www.babyreference.com..