Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sleep Safety Dance

This weekend the Trib took another look at the two-bit operation known as the Consumer Products Safety Commission, this time on the massive crib recall. Once again they show that children died unnecessarily -- after the Commission and the manufacturer had been warned by multiple parents about the dangerous flaw.

So here's what's sticking in my craw: Three infants died while sleeping in cribs. Something went wrong, and they died.

In Detroit this summer, five infants died while sleeping in bed with their parents. Something went wrong, and they died, too.

With the crib babies, people correctly understood exactly what went wrong. They didn't blame the whole act of putting your baby in a crib to sleep. I guess it's pretty easy to pinpoint what went wrong when you find your poor baby dangling between the crib mattress and the rail.

But with the bed babies, the experts' verdict is that it is not safe for babies to sleep in bed. No one is looking at these cases and asking, what went wrong? Was there a big crack between the bed and the wall that the baby could slip into? Was the parent intoxicated or smoking in bed?

I guess I'm the only one to wonder at the news of this recall: Is it really safe to leave your child in a crib all night, all alone? Would it be safer for the children to sleep in the same room as their parents, in a crib or in bed?

Actually, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in its controversial and non-unanimous advice against bed-sharing, did recommend keeping baby in the same room as the parents. If your baby is in your room in a faulty crib, chances are you will hear something and be able to save your baby, no? But I haven't seen that mentioned in any of the recall coverage.

Not that I want to point a finger at the poor parents whose children died. I can't say that I am with my baby every minute that she's sleeping. Pebbles is napping alone upstairs as I type this. But I do think we should talk about all the things we might be able to do to make babies sleep safer.

Yet, it seems there's been some tacit agreement in the public view of the problem: When a baby dies in bed, it's because babies sleeping in beds is wrong. When a baby dies in a crib, it's because something was wrong with that particular crib.

Never mind that your crib, too, might have some kind of fatal flaw that has killed a few other babies, and you might not find out about it until next month or next year or never.

Never mind that there is no real proof that any crib is safer than a parent's bed. In the AAP's own journal, Pediatrics, a 2006 piece stated that "The few controlled studies and case series that have adjusted for maternal tobacco and alcohol use have found little --or no -- independent association between bed sharing and SIDS."

I'm just sick of being told that the only way to keep a baby safe is to buy a product -- a crib, which is an expensive product, to boot. That this product is better at keeping babies alive than parents' own vigilance.

And I get especially tired of that message when the expensive product falls down on the job, and the people selling the expensive product don't do a thing about it for years.


Anonymous said...

I agree. It's so frustrating to see people's faces when we discuss co-sleeping with our baby. There are very safe ways to co-sleep with your infant. You can even buy products (of course) that keep the baby in place in your bed. I'd like the statistics on how many babies die each year co-sleeping versus in their cribs. This concept of chastising a practice because a few people (relatively speaking) are harmed is ridiculous. It reminds me of how in CA central valley, counties drop pesticides from planes each year to combat West Nile Virus. A virus that kills fewer than 10 people each year in the area and almost all of those people who die are very elderly. Maybe I'm cold hearted, but we all have to get poisoned because a few old people's immune systems aren't what they used to be? Silly.

Notta Wallflower said...

Hmm... I don't know what is best. I know H and I plan to set up a crib for Jellybean in our room. However, we decided not to buy a mattress until we get the crib set up so that we can measure correctly. But then, we can't use the crib right away - it will be too big. I've heard of these foam things you can put in the crib to "divide" it and make it smaller, but then that's not safe since it could technically shift and cover the baby and cause suffocation. I honestly don't know what we'll do in the beginning as far as sleeping. I can understand why you'd be frustrated. Personally, I'm afraid to co-sleep. Our bed is not that big and H and I are both heavy sleepers. I've heard that the chance of smothering a baby is small - that most parents adjust. Blech, I just don't know. I think parents need to find what's right for them and their baby and, of course, exercise caution, either way.

Carrie said...

Hi Notta --

You're very right to wait on the mattress purchase. And if you are not comfortable cosleeping then there is no point in doing that -- the idea is for everyone to be comfortable and sleep well.

As for the crib, I would stay away from those crib dividers too. But I don't see any worry about it being too big. I know some people say their infants seem to feel lost in such a big crib but I have not experienced that. You can always swaddle the baby and in my experience when they're tiny they don't know where they are.

But if you are getting a Pack N Play, most of those come with a bassinette that is also quite adequate for those early months.