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Letter to the editor in response to: "Co-sleeping fears prevented call for parents to abandon defective cribs"

Dear Editor,

I was dismayed but unfortunately not shocked by Sarah Schmidt's article Co-sleeping fears prevented call for parents to abandon defective cribs. Governments across North America, including the federal and some provincial governments in Canada,  have been waging an ongoing war against co-sleeping. Unfortunately, this is not based on sound science.

It is important to note that both bed sharing and cribs have safety risks. Both co-sleeping and cribs can be made very safe if certain safety precautions are taken (but neither one is completely safe all of the time - there is no such thing as a 100% safe sleep environment). However, when a baby dies in a crib, the Ontario coroner will determine whether it was an unsafe sleep environment (e.g. full of stuffed animals and blankets) or if it was SIDS (meaning they don't know why the baby died). When a baby dies in bed with its parents, the Ontario coroner simply calls it an unsafe sleep environment. This is unfair to parents who do make the effort to create a safe sleep environment and also unfair to parents who are scared out of co-sleeping by the dire warnings of the government.

Even if co-sleeping were more dangerous than sleeping in a crib (which I do not accept), parents are going to co-sleep with their babies. Some do it for cultural reasons. Some do it because of the benefits of co-sleeping, such as ease of breastfeeding and promoting bonding. Some do it to because their baby simply will not sleep in a crib. By telling parents that co-sleeping is dangerous, rather than providing them with guidelines on how to make shared sleep as safe as possible, the government is playing a role in the deaths of co-sleeping babies. Tell parents not to drink or smoke and co-sleep. Tell parents to do something to prevent falls, to avoid crevices where the baby could get stuck, to avoid thick bedding that can cause suffocation, to not co-sleep on a couch, and so on. Some governments, like Quebec and Nova Scotia, do provide such guidelines for co-sleeping parents. Ontario should do the same. Most co-sleeping deaths (like most crib sleeping deaths) are preventable.

Telling parents to use a crib instead of bring their baby into bed with them is like telling parents to take the bus instead of taking their baby in the car. It isn't convenient or even possible all of the time. In the case of cars, the government advises parents on the use of car seats, tells them not to drink and drive, not to use their cell phones while driving, to obey the speed limits, etc. If they can and do expect parents to follow those rules while driving a car, why not do the same with regards to bed sharing?

Calling co-sleeping dangerous is calling parents stupid. Give them some credit. Give them some responsibility. Give them some safety guidelines. Stop making parents feel guilty for getting some sleep and bonding with their baby.

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Reader Comments (30)

Other than the random capital O in co-sleeping, I'd say "perfect." :-p
I don't understand the vendetta against co-sleeping, unless there is someone making money off of crib sales, oh wait, that'd be the crib manufacturers.
I wonder if this safety talk doesn't have more to do with there being a tax-based revenue stream associated with the sales of cribs, and therefore the governments have a vested interest in demonizing co-sleeping.

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterslee

I don't see eye-to-eye with you on everything, but I do totally agree with you on this front. Better information on all the choices we have - more safety.
I co-slept for sanity when my kids were first born, enabling breastfeeding and bonding and some early sleeping through the night (woot!) and the government can tell me all they want to keep that baby in a crib, but neither of them would sleep on their own at first.

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

I'm sure every parent has co-slept at one point or another. Some will proudly admit it and others will hide their heads and not speak of such things because they fear what others might think. It's almost as bad as the whole breastfeeding past 1 year thing.

Society in North America needs to give its head a shake. The fact the human race is STILL HERE demonstrates we're doing something right. We didn't always have cribs. Babies slept with their parents, much longer than a month or so. And guess what? They survived!

I co-slept with both my girls. It was what was needed at the time. When they were ready (and I was ready) they were moved to their own space. As you said, parents aren't copletely stupid. We deserve SOME credit for being capable of making proper decisions based on facts, not fear mongering.

Great letter! Oh, BTW, I highlighted your site on my latest blog post :)

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

Letter to the editor in response to: “Co-sleeping fears prevented call for parents to abandon defective cribs” | PhD in Parenting...

Dear Editor, I was dismayed but unfortunately not shocked by Sarah Schmidt's article Co-sleeping fears prevented call for parents to abandon defective cribs....

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermomshare.net

I'm with you 100% on this one, and you have been much more eloquent in your protestations than myself, since I simply stated, Health Canada Hates Babies.

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkgirl

I have two daughters, and things are SO much different in the way that I am parenting my youngest. Gracie, my oldest, was formula fed, slept in her crib, I didn't babywear once (well, I did ONCE, but just to try out a front carrier that it turned out she was too big for)... I can go on and on. Not to say that I love Kairi, my 8 month old, more or that we are closer than Gracie and I, but between co-sleeping and breastfeeding, she and I bonded a lot more quickly and I am able to read her cues, which with Gracie it was always - ALWAYS - a challenge before she learned to talk. I attribute co-sleeping mostly to that ability to read her cues, as it was a solid 8-10 hour chunk of time that she and I were (are) right next to each other. There's a lot you can learn just from the way your baby sleeps and when she wakes up and for what. I hate that people dismiss co-sleeping as dangerous without taking a look at what's really going on.

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin W.

Great letter! Both of my boys prefer(red) to sleep with me.

(I have to say I found it interesting that after I gave birth to my first the nurses in the hospital encouraged me to bring the baby into my bed since the gov't advises against it (I was too scared at the time -- besides, I am not sure a high-off the ground, narrow hospital bed with a pillow and a post-epidural, freaked out mom with the shakes is considered safe co-sleeping... :) )

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I have to believe that the Powers That Be simply are pandering to the lowest common denominator here. Some people have brought their babies to bed when impaired, or in other dangerous situations. Perhaps those Powers think that it's better to simply tar us all with the same brush?

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJuliette

I lost a baby to SIDS in 2001. I've done my research in this area. It is such an important issue , as SIDS is still such a mystery and the guidelines might not seem to make sense, but we just do whatever we can to lower the risk. So I read and read about it and concluded that co-sleeping with the right conditions was just as safe, if not safer. And it also is what my gut screams at me to do. My instincts want my baby beside me all night. Humans are social beings and it is important to my baby's spirit to have contact with her mother while she sleeps. It is also important for her health to help her regulate her temperature and her breathing.
Thanks for this. I hope it turns some heads.

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNiecey

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank YOU for your comment.

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Co sleeping is safe if done correctly. As parents we all know that when you are tired you often pop baby in bed with you. Why not just buy a sleep solution that allows your baby to be close to you yet in their own crib? In the US The Arms Reach Universal Co Sleeper Cot is a widely available option.
My American clients tried to buy one when they moved here to the UK and found that there was no cot of this type available. They are now the official UK distributors of this safe co sleeping cot.
Suitable from birth until your child moves into a 'big' bed. It doubles as a travel cot and a playpen.

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSian To

Letter to the editor in response to: “Co-sleeping fears prevented call for parents to abandon defective cribs” | PhD in Parenting...

It is important to note that both bed sharing and cribs have safety risks. Both co-sleeping and cribs can be made very safe if certain safety precautions are taken (but neither one is completely safe all of the time – there is no such thing as a 100% s...

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermomshare.net

Thank you so much for writing this!

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

This is very well said, Annie. I have been in parenting groups where everyone talked about how they co-slept, sort of hanging their heads in shame. It let me know that in spite of the warnings, most parents are bringing their babies into their beds, at least some of the time. Because sometimes it's the only way that everyone can get some rest. So, let's help parents to effectively balance the needs of their family as safely as possible, instead of chastising them and treating them like children.

Really, we are capable of making informed decisions, but to do so we need information. And fear-mongering and blanket statements are NOT information.

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

Great post Anne. I think you made your points very clearly and succinctly.

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

yeah...when we have seen images of broken old cribs stuffed with toys etc....and then we hear about impaired parents sleeping with kids...are these not the extremes? And yes SIDS doesn't happen in these types of environments all the time, nor do any other accidents...most parents are trying to be safe for their kids and do the right thing....we all do our best and bad things happen...but I really wonder at the Zeal they bash co sleeping.
Why the hate oh manufacturers of nursery furniture????
I never really co slept with my babies. But their cribs and or bassinets were in our room beside the bed instead.

However THIS one..well she sleeps better that way..infact she sleeps best on her side curled up against my back!!

So mouth covered up and all..TOTALLY unsafe right??
Snuggled up against her mom....sigh...

I wish common sense and instinct would prevail in all of this.
And better made cribs of course!!!

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCrunchy

Yes, surely putting an infant into another sleeping environment, sometimes even another room altogether, is safer than keeping the infant next to the primary caregivers at night.

We are such a weird species.

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGuggie Daly

Great post. So sad that people are encouraged to stay away from their babes. ;/

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAl_Pal

We spent the past few days with my inlaws for Thanksgiving. At home, Birdie normally goes to bed in her crib first and then when she wakes up to eat around midnight she comes to bed with us. We brought the portable playpen with us to the inlaws mainly for show. I've already had the "you don't let her sleep with you, do you!?!" conversation. The bed we slept in was definitely not bed sharing safe, but because we've done our homework on what is safe, we ditched the gigantic comforter, stuffed pillows in the space between the mattress and headboard and basically set things up just like they would be at home. For me, having Birdie sleep in a playpen that is not necessarily rated safe for sleeping seems less responsible than putting her in bed with us. I absolutely feel safer having my baby next to me and she felt safer being next to us in a strange environment. During the night I'd catch her reaching out just to make sure that dad was there too. It seems unnatural to me to have my baby any farther away than arms reach

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary

I think Canadians are especially prone to the co-sleeping worry and I'm not sure why. Or maybe California parents invest their paranoia in different fears. I co-slept (recklessly) with my daughter her first night on Earth (reckless because I basically passed out in the dad-chair in the recovery room at the hospital and she was in the crook of my arm), and nearly every night thereafter until she was sleeping through the night. The same with my son.

But my father does criminal defense in Kingston, primarily legal aid cases, and his instincts against co-sleeping have everything to do with the demographic he is in contact with: poor, undereducated, alcoholic or drug-addicted. Suburban California parents, especially the more crunchy ones here on the Peninsula, just don't have the barrage of co-sleeping death stories in front of their faces that he does.

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBackpacking Dad

Superbly written! Bravo! I completely agree!

November 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRisa

I have been an out of the closet co-sleeper since day one. I am lucky to have a pediatrician who is supportive of this. She seems to be a huge annomaly- in fact the other doctor in the same office gives windy lectures telling new parents that co-sleeping is a death with. uuugh!!!! We had to be sneaky with the hospital stay when phoebe was born. An effective loophole was simply leaving her at the breast- when the nurse (who came just to make sure you weren't sleeping with you baby) came by she assumed phoebe was just nursing because of the way she was holding on those first nights. So sneaky teehee :) I had a drug free birth so I was well within my faculties so I felt safe in my decision to bedshare in the hospital.

November 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternicole

Here in the US, in my home state of Indiana in particular, there was a Public Service Announcement created to air on the local stations that is basically scare tactics to denounce cosleeping. The pdf link is a letter introducing the compaign. A link to the PSA can be found on the page in the second link.



There were a rash of "cosleeping" deaths earlier this year. The local one that bothered me was a baby that died while sleeping on the couch with his parents, who were high on meth and marijuana. The official cause of death had "caused by sleeping with the parents" in it, which sickens me to no end because it specifically called out cosleeping, but not the fact that the parents were high.


Of course with the recalled 2 million drop side cribs because of a suffocation hazard, it's the largest in US. The drop side could come away and the baby could slide down and become trapped and die. So we know that cribs are not safe either.

Where are we supposed to put our babies to sleep if none of the sleep environments are safe, including the recommended, almighty crib? I'm thinking of putting together a letter to submit to the state of Indiana regarding their video. It's sickening and designed to do nothing more than frighten young, uneducated parents. If they really wanted to make a difference, they'd create and mandate a free educational program for parents-to-be.

November 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertjwriter

I was raised in a co-sleeping household. It always just made sense to me, and even when we were older we'd drag our mattresses into my parents' room in the summer because they had air conditioning. Now my parents co-sleep with the dogs :)

However, my husband is an active sleepwalker, who talks every night and gets up and walks around at least once a week. I've been bumped, rolled over and pushed around by him, so I know that our bed will not be the safest environment for our baby. I plan to have a bassinet in our room on my side of the bed, and see how that works. Our baby's due in March, and perhaps I'll co-sleep with him during naps or when my husband isn't home. I think a big part of parenting (funny, since I don't have kids yet... but anyway) is thinking rationally and making the best decision for your family.

November 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAbbie

Here here!

November 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

I'm just back home from a visit with my inlaws, and my MIL was concerned that I'm spoiling my 10 month old by taking her into bed with me when she has trouble falling asleep after about 3 a.m. Doesn't worry me at all - I don't believe you can spoil a 10 month old with that kind of treatment. It's what she needs and it lets me get a bit more sleep, at least on those nights that she's willing to go back to sleep at all.

But then my MIL also took a long time to accept that I would breastfeed my kids back when my oldest was born, and now she's a fan... until I get past a year. Then she's fidgety again.

But concern about the possibility that parents might cosleep with their babies is a horrible reason to delay a recall! If the recall needs doing, get moving.

November 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I had a big long post about how my husband and I came into bedsharing with our baby, and decided against all advice that it was best for us, but never posted it as it rambled a bit. As I was lying in bed this morning with my sleeping husband and sleeping son, I realized something; when we lived with our shar-pei, no one thought it odd that he slept with us and shared our bed half the time. (Half the time he was on a pile of blankets on the floor, half the time in the bed with us.) Especially in the winter when it was cold, no one batted an eyelash when we spoke about sleeping with Jack. Even when my mother-in-law's dog would get lonely and join us in the bed and we would have TWO adults and TWO 60 lb dogs sharing a queen size bed, (boy was that crowded,) no one accused us of spoiling the dogs or having an unhealthy relationship with them.

And yet sleeping with our son is some bizarre, hurtful practice that must be stopped? What a messed-up little world we live in.

November 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterZellion

It makes me sick to my stomach to think that Health Canada actually delayed the recall. Your letter articulates my thoughts exactly!

November 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercoffeewithjulie

Great letter, Annie... I hope it got published? (And I'm sorry to say I don't remember if you've already told me the answer to this!) I too co-sleep, as you know, and I love it. In fact, I might even go so far as to say it is safer, in some ways - for instance, you can hear your baby breathing... you can sense/hear if something is wrong, etc. And besides, my baby (and my oldest son, when he was younger) LOVE(D) having me sleep beside them. And I love it, too. It's amazing, and it can absoslutely be safe!

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLoukia

Thanks Loukia. Unfortunately, it didn't get published.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

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