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Co-sleeping attacked in media

965 Views 1 Reply 1 Participant Last post by  Janice in Canada
I just sent this email out to the over 500 members of the Moms For Milk Breastfeeding Network in Canada. I thought I'd share it here.
Janice Reynolds
Founder, Moms for Milk Breastfeeding Network
email [email protected] to join (no cost, and no sharing of email addresses)

The "dangers" of co-sleeping is are all over the media again.
We all know that co-sleeping can be very supportive of breastfeeding,
especially in increasing breastfeeding duration.
Unsafe sleep situations can exist in cribs AND adults beds, where there are
soft mattresses, soft covering, pillows or stuffed toys. Just as we learned
to make cribs safer, by removing suffocation hazards and improving safety
features, we can make co-sleeping safer.
The message needs to be clear that co-sleeping, done SAFELY, will reduce
suffocation and SIDS risks to children, and will improve their health and
happiness overall.
I hope this summary of the situation is of help in supporting families who
choose to co-sleep.

Janice Reynolds
Moms for Milk Breastfeeding Network

Below, you will find:

1. THE ABSTRACT and link to the study that sparked the media interest.
2. LINKS TO MEDIA COVERAGE stories and coverage in Canada, with feedback
links to let them know what you think.
3. Links to DR. JAMES MCKENNA'S RESEARCH and writings to help inform
parents and public of how to safely co-sleep.
5. More information about Dr. James Kemp's research.
6. Health Canada, Canadian Pediatric Society positions.


AAP news release:

PEDIATRICS Vol. 112 No. 4 October 2003, pp. 883-889
(The abstract is free, copies of the full study cost $10 US)

Where Should Infants Sleep? A Comparison of Risk for Suffocation of Infants
Sleeping in Cribs, Adult Beds, and Other Sleeping Locations
N. J. Scheers, PhD*, George W. Rutherford, MS and James S. Kemp, MD

* Office of Planning and Evaluation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission,
Bethesda, Maryland, and Loyola College, Baltimore, Maryland
Consumer Product Safety Commission, Directorate for Epidemiology, Bethesda,
Pulmonary Medicine Division, Department of Pediatrics, St Louis University
School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri

Objectives. To ascertain whether the number of sudden infant deaths as a
result of suffocation in cribs, in adult beds, on sofas or chairs, and on
other sleep surfaces was increasing whether attributable to increased
reporting, diagnostic shift, or an actual increase in suffocation deaths and
to compare the risk of reported accidental suffocation for infants on sleep
surfaces designed for infants with the risk on adult beds.

Methods. We reviewed all accidental suffocation deaths among infants 11
months of age reported to the United States Consumer Product Safety
Commission from 1980 through 1983 and 1995 through 1998. We compared infants
' ages and other demographic data, the sleep location and surface used, and
the reported mechanism or pattern of death. For 1995-1998, we used data on
sleep location from an annual survey of randomly selected households of
living infants younger than 8 months, collected as part of the National
Infant Sleep Position Study at the National Institute of Child Health and
Human Development, to calculate risk for death as a result of suffocation in
cribs, in adult beds, and on sofas or chairs.

Methods. The number of reported suffocation deaths by location were compared
between the 1980s and 1990s using logistic regression modeling to calculate
odds ratios (OR), 95% confidence intervals (CI), and P values. Comparative
risks for suffocation deaths on a given sleep surface for infants in the
1990s were examined by calculating rates of death per 100 000 exposed
infants and comparing the 95% CI for overlap.

Results. From the 1980s, 513 cases of infant suffocation were considered;
from the 1990s, 883 cases. The number of reported suffocation deaths in
cribs fell from 192 to 107, the number of reported deaths in adult beds
increased from 152 to 391, and the number of reported deaths on sofas or
chairs increased from 33 to 110. Using cribs as the reference group and
adjusting for potential confounders, the multivariate ORs showed that infant
deaths in adult beds were 8.1 times more likely to be reported in the 1990s
than in the 1980s (95% CI: 3.2-20.3), and infant deaths on sofas and chairs
were 17.2 times more likely to be reported in the 1990s than in the 1980s
(95% CI: 5.0-59.3). The sleep location of a subset of cases from the 1990s,
348 infants younger than 8 months at death, was compared with the sleep
location of 4220 living infants younger than 8 months. The risk of
suffocation was approximately 40 times higher for infants in adult beds
compared with those in cribs. The increase in risk remained high even when
overlying deaths were discounted (32 times higher) or the estimate of rates
of bedsharing among living infants doubled (20 times higher).

Conclusions. Reported deaths of infants who suffocated on sleep surfaces
other than those designed for infants are increasing. The most conservative
estimate showed that the risk of suffocation increased by 20-fold when
infants were placed to sleep in adult beds rather than in cribs. The public
should be clearly informed of the attendant risks.


CTV TV ran this as a featured news item on the 11:00 p.m. news Monday night.
Study notes risk of putting baby in adults' bed
You can view the actual vide news clip also - it is less balanced than the
web item. Elisabeth Sterken of INFACT Canada is shown giving a brief
rebuttal, saying that generations have slept with their infants, and can be
safe by eliminating excessive cushions, pillows and soft coverings.
Contact them at CTV News/Newsnet: [email protected]

Globe and Mail newspaper
Monday, October 6, 2003 - Page A10
"Babies in bed with adults are in peril, study says"
Send Letters to the Editor to: [email protected]

Science Daily
Deadly Decision: Where Should Baby Sleep?
ST. LOUIS -- Babies who are put to sleep in an adult bed face a risk of
suffocation that is as much as 40 times greater than babies who sleep in
standard cribs, a Saint Louis University researcher says in this month's
issue of Pediatrics.
or try:


Dr. McKenna's website: the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab

From the website, these are good pages to check out and use:

FAQ include:
Guidelines to Sleeping Safe with Infants
What is the "proper" sleeping arrangement for me and my baby?
Cosleeping and Overlaying/Suffocation.. Is there a chance I'll roll over and
crush my child?
What are the advantages of having our baby sleep with us?
What are the long term effects on my baby of sharing a bed?
Will our baby sleep through the night sooner if he or she shares our bed?

Cultural Influences on Infant Sleep


Safe Cosleeping / Bedsharing Pamphlets

Bed-sharing: a sample policy


James Kemp was a co-author of the 2000 study that stated: "The impact of
bedsharing on risk for sudden infant death remains controversial. Three
case-control studies suggest that bedsharing increases risk for sudden
death,24,26,45 but the risk is lessened when the high rate of maternal
smoking in these studies is considered"

Interesting that if you go to the original news release, it was talking
about African American babies, NOT all babies.

More quotes by Kemp from Saint Louis University


In August 2003, Health Canada issued an advisory against infants sleeping
on air mattresses that included the statement that infants should only
sleep in a cradle or crib.

This booklet for parents is hopefully what will be included in the Canadian
Pediatric Society's statement this year:

We are waiting for the Canadian Pediatric Society's statement.

(Thanks to Janet Vandenberg RN,BScN,IBCLC of Newmarket, Ontario for
compiling some of the above information and links)
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Yesterday I sent an email to address the current issue of co-sleeping being attacked in the media.

I have just received Dr. McKenna's comments on the current study and situation. He made the following comments in email conversation with another breastfeeding advocate. This advocate had contact Dr. McKenna for clarification on the recent Pediatrics article entitled "Where Should Infants Sleep?" which was the basis of the media coverage this week.

Dr. McKenna has given permission to share some comments from personal communications.

(October 6, 2003): Referring to the article mentioned above, DR. MCKENNA said "It does not distinguish between different types of bedsharing death--it collapses any death--regardless of parents being drunk--drugged, etc. etc... or babies sleeping alone--into one--prone sleeping while bedsharing--is not considered.... These statistics do not apply to breastfeeding mothers who sleep with their babies who practice safe bedsharing"

In an additional communication from DR. MCKENNA (October 7, 2003):
"while a relative risk was calculated---from the recent survey published by Marian Willinger at NICHD last year, ---the calculation used by Scheer et al. likely underestimates the numbers of parents, especially middle class whites--who actually bedshare for part of the night..This would raise the number of bedsharers to well over 50-55%.
Moreover, and more seriously, the problem with this study is that it treats bedsharing as a coherent and uniform behavior that can be assigned a fixed-unchanging, universal relative risk, when in fact the odds ration changes over a continuum to [sic] safe and protective--to risky and dangerous depending on whether or not (or if) any number of specific adverse rick factors are associated with the bedsharing. Such factors not distinguished in the infant deaths statistics on which these odd rations are calculated include: was the infant sleeping prone, did mother smoke, was the baby alone, was the mother breast feeding, was the baby overlaid by a sibling, was the mattress soft, was the baby sleeping on a pillow, was the baby found underneath duvet blankets, did the mother smoke during the pregnancy, was the bed made safe (ledges and gaps eliminated), was an adult co-sleeper drunk, desensitized by drugs. Moreover, as many scientists and researchers have continuously pointed out to Scheer and Kemp, (many published this material in pediatrics in 2000) when a baby is found in a bed, coroners often simply assume that the baby was suffocated, but if the baby is found in the crib, it is not suffocation, but the death is labled as SIDS. Moreover, infant deaths in poor communities are more likely to be assumed suffocation than they are in richer communities." End Dr. McKenna.

The correspondent with Dr. McKenna adds:
"Dr. McKenna asked for a favor. If those of us in a position to be a voice for properly researched scientific studies could address the issue of this poorly conducted study on every parenting site, forum, etc. and also write to the CPSC and the Editorial office of the AAP, challenging the "quality and validity of this science." There have already been, and will continue to be, stories through the popular news outlets that will pick up this poorly researched data and trot it out to tell parents they'll be killing their babies if they cosleep!

He suggested that our protests come from our hearts and minds, from our personal feelings as well, and not to throw his name out in every communication. We should respond to all sources, radio, TV, newspaper articles (hey, this might be a great opportunity to be proactive in suggesting a story to local media and helping them find the appropriate data instead of having to fight back against something already released!)."

AGAIN, DR. MCKENNA from a personal communication:

(October 7, 2003): "The important thing is--no one person can reduce the impact of this...everyone in their own way must take a stand.... Each person--i hope, can use their own networks to spur their friends and associates and family members on--to write and communicate...And please--I am unimportant here--What matters is all of you--YOUR opinions.. Speak in your way. It is most powerful!!"

Janice here again:
So, what can you do to get the truth about co-sleeping out? If your local media picked up the story, contact them and suggest a story idea that will show your point of view and life experience. Write a letter to the editor. Print out the safe sleep brochures. Pass on these emails.

Need help in getting the word out? Check out this good site, its a great primer for learning how to work with the media. For example it has guidelines for writing letters to the editor, sending press releases, writing opinion editorials, and a list of email addresses for all major newspapers across Canada.


There is more media information here, and also how to lobby Ottawa (save for other issues!)
The Advocacy Tool Kit

Janice Reynolds
Moms For Milk Breastfeeding Network
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