Safe Co-Sleeping Is Safe

September 18, 2007

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I came across a news story about an infant who died while sleeping with his parents here. Honestly I don’t know if anyone will ever be able to prove scientifically that co-sleeping is safe because there are so many variables.

What kind of bedding the parents use in their bed
Whether the parents (and whether they admit to) are using alcohol or drugs, including sleep meds and cigarettes
Whether the parents are obese or have circulation problems that cause numbness in their extremeties
Whether the baby is healthy and the actual cause of death (if the baby was recently vaccinated his death could be related, babies often go into a deep abnormal sleep after a shot)

There are a couple of things about this article that stuck out. For one, the example given to supposedly prove the “co-sleeping is dangerous” argument goes like this:

In February 2003, Tucsonan Shawn Dallas Ramon and his girlfriend, Stephanie Molina, were charged with manslaughter and child abuse after their 7-month-old son, Shawn Dallas Ramon Jr., died in their bed. An autopsy report said the infant died of “probable suffocation due to overlying by adults while in bed.” Though the Pima County medical examiner ruled the death accidental, the couple were criminally charged. They admitted to being intoxicated the night their son died. Both later pleaded guilty to endangerment and in 2005 were sentenced to probation.

The article explains that the Mom drank a 6 pack of beer the night her son died. Hello! Having drunk parents increases the chance of a baby dying by ANY cause. This is not going to prove that co-sleeping is dangerous. Having alcoholics for parents is what’s dangerous.

 ”We live in a very complex society. We don’t sleep on the floor of a hut where there are no soft pillows,” said Dr. Marilyn Heins, a Tucson pediatrician.

Point taken. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bed. Get rid of the extra pillows and comforters and sleep on a firm mattress. Better yet, use a natural mattress that won’t offgas formaldyhyde and you and your baby will sleep better.

As Linda Palmer puts it in this article on,“The risk of death to babies who sleep with a safe parent is actually far smaller than that of babies who sleep in a crib in another room,” Palmer said. “In fact, for infants over 2 to 3 months of age, the studies show that letting infants sleep in the same bed as their parents protects them from SIDS more effectively than simply having them sleep in the same room.” 

Palmer decries the AAP’s conclusion that babies are at risk of SIDS simply by virtue of sharing a bed with a parent. “Infants are at risk of suffocation in adult beds, just as they are in cribs — this is a bedding issue, not a sleep-sharing issue,”The article goes on to point out that the studies that seem to point out risks of co-sleeping are flawed because they include all sorts of co-sleeping arrangements, including sleeping with a baby on a couch. It also includes smoking and drinking parents.   

The co-sleeping is unsafe just doesn’t seem logical in my opinion. Many people sleep with their pets. Do they accidentally smother their dogs? How come Veterinarians haven’t issued a policy statement condemning sleeping with your pet? Many people sleep with their mates. Do they accidentally sleep on top of a thigh (which would be roughly the circumference of a newborn baby)? No. Why not? Because we compensate for the other beings in our bed unconsciously.

I wonder if anyone has done a study showing how many babies die in fires each year because their parents couldn’t get to them in time? And the fact that babies and toddlers are more likely to be sexually assaulted while sleeping away from their mothers is certainly worth investigating. Some co-sleeping detractors say the opposite, but I love what Dr. Robert Mendehlsohn has to say about it: The late Robert Mendelssohn — well-known pediatrician and author of several books — noted that when confronted by mental health specialists who feared sexualization of the family bed, he sarcastically agreed that “psychiatrists should not take their children to bed with them, but it is quite alright for everyone else!”

I also have a problem with the supreme arrogance of the AAP in thinking they can tell people of various cultures and ethnicities that their age old practices are wrong. Co-sleeping is more common in Black and Latino communities, and it is also a common practice in China, Japan and Hong Kong, and in many other places around the world and has been since the beginning of time.

Another point of note: One of the most well known studies on co-sleeping was funded by none other than the Consumer Products Safety Commission. When babies sleep with their parents, nobody makes any money. Anyone smell a conflict of interest here?  


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5 Responses to “Safe Co-Sleeping Is Safe”

  1. Jenny on September 19th, 2007 4:56 pm

    I agree with what you’ve written. It’s very frustrating that deaths due to do overlying by drunk or drugged parents are simply portrayed as deaths due to cosleeping. Nothing could be further from the truth. James McKenna’s research clearly points to the safety of sleep sharing too.

  2. Abel on September 20th, 2007 2:52 am

    Well said, Carrie. It’s hard to rule out that co-sleeping is the culprit here. What is more important is what parents do to make sure the baby is safe. According to an interview I did with Dave Taylor of, he said one of the biggest myths about AP is:

    “…it’s dangerous because you can smother a baby when you’re cosleeping (do the research, the only time that happens is when the parent is very drunk)…”

    If you are interested, you may read the interview in full here:

  3. casual friday everyday on September 20th, 2007 5:02 am

    I never rolled over on them and neither did hubby. I didn’t get a good nights sleep…but, it was nice to just roll over, whip it out, and feed the baby. LOL

  4. Jen @ One Moms World on September 20th, 2007 10:10 pm

    I have been cosleeping since day one, people would probably panic to know I had a 21 month old and a newborn in my bed at night. It’s always been the three of us and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Your mommy instincts I believe are waaaaaay to strong in my opinion that will not not roll over on them unless you are drugged or under the influence of alcohol.

    Plus I could fall back to sleep while both girls were nursing LOL. So definitely more sleep for mommy.

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