Safe co-sleeping tipsTuesday, December 13, 2016
BY PENDA HONEYGHAN
NO doubt experienced mothers will tell you of the many benefits of co-sleeping — bonding time for the mom and child, and breastfeeding and monitoring the baby made easier. But then there are the rare horror stories of babies having their airways blocked by sleeping parents, a situation that has caused authorities in countries like the US to discourage the practice.
But is co-sleeping such a terrible idea?
"Co-sleeping, also called co-sharing, refers to infants sleeping with parents. When looking at whether or not this is a safe practice, a thorough analysis has to be done of whether the infant is sharing the same bed space or surface, or is in his/her own bed surface in the same room. Regardless, it is a controversial subject, but the experts agree that the decision is a personal choice that should be an informed one," reasoned Dr Anona Griffith, paediatrician at Gateway Plaza, Old Harbour.
Citing the recommendations of renowned psychologist and infant sleep specialist Dr James McKenna as reference, Dr Griffith proposed some basic measures to take before engaging in the practice. Among the recommendations were:
• Provide a "safe sleep environment". This is in order to prevent ‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome’ (SIDS).
• Provide appropriate bed surface and environment.
• Use a firm, clean, uncluttered bed surface, free of stuffed toys. A large bed is preferable in order to allow free movement. ‘Blankets and pillow’ beds, couches and waterbeds are unsafe.
• There are commercial co-sleepers or sidecars (cribs that can be attached to parents’ bed) available.
• Each person sharing the space with the infant must be aware of the infant and take personal responsibility for the infant’s well-being. Additionally, the infant should be placed alongside mother and not in between two people.
Dr Griffith said that there are particular instances in which co-sleeping is discouraged since in one way or another they could cause harm to the baby. These include:
• If the baby is premature. Premature babies should be in their own space on their own surface.
• If the parent or caregiver smokes. Practices such as smoking during and after pregnancy are known contributory factors to SIDS.
• Use of some medications or drugs.
• Caregivers taking sedatives, medications or illicit drugs including marijuana should not share the same sleep surface with infants.
• Extreme tiredness. Where caregivers are extremely tired, this could mean that they are more likely to be unaware of what they are doing.
• Parent or caregiver is obese. The obese caregiver should avoid co-sleeping with infants to decrease the risk of lying on the infant.
• Other children should not be allowed to sleep with infants.
Dr Griffith said that she is cognisant of the benefits of sleeping next to your newborn; however, based on the specific guidelines, she advises parents and caregivers to make informed decisions so as to prevent harm to or death of their babies.
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