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Don’t sleep on it. Sharing the parental bed is a leading cause of SIDS.

Despite its growing popularity in Canada, co-sleeping with one's infant increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
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Rita Silvan, May 22, 2013 2:21:44 PM

Sleeping together—and by that I mean actually sleeping, not canoodling, is a low-maintenance, high-satisfaction way of bonding with a loved one. In our hyper-techno, speed-freaky lives, it’s one of the few remaining legacy pleasures—a primitive physical gesture that says, “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back and I know you’ve got mine.” Whether it’s a catnap with your cat, a long, afternoon snooze with your dog, or a leisurely week-end sleep-in with your inamorata/inamorato—or, depending on your inclinations, all of the above—the family that sleeps together, stays together. Except, that is, if there’s a wee one in yours. In that case, the family that sleeps together might just shrink together.

A recent study has shown that SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, is three times as likely to occur when parents tuck in with their children. The cause of SIDS remains a mystery, yet sharing a bed with adults is a proven risk factor. According to a predictive model based on a survey of 1,500 SIDS deaths in Europe and Australasia, 88% of these deaths would not have occurred if the child had been placed on its back in a cot next to the parents. Computer-generated models are not an exact replica of real life but this one does make a point and and it’s pretty unequivocal: Go to IKEA. Buy an infant cot. Put it next to your bed. Place your kid on its back. Turn off the lights. Go to sleep.

Back-To-Sleep campaigns that discourage co-sleeping with infants have been credited with reducing SIDS rates by up to 90%, according to a Public Heath Agency Canada report. Oddly, co-sleeping seems to be on an upward trend in Canada. No doubt some parents find it more convenient for frequent feedings or more economical in terms of space. Others may adopt the practice as a New-Agey way to increase parent-child bonding. Immigrant families may attempt to replicate the sleeping arrangements of their own early childhoods. Former deputy Ontario coroner Jim Cairns has called for a ban on it. It’s hard to argue with the numbers which come down firmly against co-sleeping.

Despite whatever broody feelings lead to wanting to sleep with one’s infant, commonsense would dictate that it’s a hazardous practice. Think about it: You’ve got a pair of fully-grown humans weighing in anywhere from 100 to 200 pounds each. If they happen to be Hell’s Angels, or there’s a thyroid situation or an issue with water retention, the numbers go up from there. That’s a lot of human heft up against a wee one that’s clocking in around 10 pounds, less than my holiday turkey. It would be like sharing a bed with the Incredible Hulk X 2! Then there’s the matter of nocturnal emissions. During sleep, the fasting body removes a lot of debris through its pores and elsewhere. Skin and hair are shed, digestive gases are released. Yeah, it’s not pretty. Thank god we’re unconscious. If you’re a smoker, heavy drinker or junk food aficionado, your body eliminates even more potentially toxic crapola. In fact, if you’re a smoker, the risk of SIDS increases dramatically.

Add it all up and, for the little one, it’s like being tossed on a stormy sea every single night. It’s no wonder some of them don’t make the crossing.

Readers, what’s your take on co-sleeping? Let us know in the comments below!

Image credit: Melissa Eleftherion Carr via Flickr.com


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