Is it okay to bring Baby into your bed?
“As a paediatrician, I’ve never encouraged bed-sharing,” says Dr Veronica Toh, specialist in Neonatology and Paediatrics at Raffles Children’s Centre.
“I was a medical officer in the Accident and Emergency Department and, one night, a frantic father rushed a lifeless infant into the emergency room and begged us to revive the child.”
The child never made it. It was a tragic story of the dad waking up and finding the infant pinned under him.
The health authorities and government bodies advising against bed-sharing have sparked heated debate in recent years.
Those who are in favour of this practice cite increasing success at breastfeeding, especially beyond six months.
In a recent study, babies who co-slept with their parents were found to have lower stress hormones at six to 12 months of age, Dr Toh shares.
But doctors worry about the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (Sids) – there are more than 10 studies in the last 20 years confirming that bed-sharing is a risk for Sids.
The risk increases exponentially when the mum is obese, smokes or co-sleeps with the infant on a sofa. There is also a small increased risk in infants below three months even when the mothers are non-smokers.
The main reason for the deaths is suffocation, usually from the mum’s sleeping position or blankets. It may also be as innocuous as a hand or a breast compressing the baby’s nose and mouth.
“Also, the mother’s super-attentive tendencies to pick up her little darling may do more harm than good,” Dr Toh adds.
It may cause potential problems later when the baby gets older and has to move out of the room, such as when a younger sibling arrives. He may have a tough time adjusting to a room by himself.
The lack of a good night’s sleep for months may jeopardise the mother’s health. A recent study has shown that sleep deprivation can lead to memory loss.
Share room but not the bed with baby
Dr Nirmal Kavallor Visruthan, consultant from Department of Neonatology at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), echoes the same view. He shares with The Straits Times that at KKH, babies rooming in with their mothers is instituted, but mothers are not allowed to share the bed or cot with their babies.
Bed-sharing, where the infant sleeps on the same surface as an adult is not advisable as there is insufficient evidence to suggest it is safe. What is recommended is that infants (less than one year of age) share the room with their parents, without bed-sharing.
Bed-sharing increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (Sids). Studies show that bed-sharing was associated with a fivefold increase in the risk of Sids in the first three months of life compared with infants placed in a cot in the parent’s bedroom.
For a safe infant sleeping environment, Dr Visruthan recommends adopting these measures:
• Share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns one year old, but at least for the first six months. This decreases the risk of Sids by as much as 50 per cent;
• Avoid using soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys to prevent these from covering the baby’s head and causing suffocation. Keep the crib bare;
• Avoid swaddling your child in thick wraps to prevent overheating;
• Breastfeeding is recommended as added protection against Sids. After feeding, the baby should be moved to his separate sleeping space.
In addition, mums and other caregivers caring for a baby should avoid smoking and consuming alcohol and illicit drugs.
Mum who are exhausted should seek support from family members to help with baby-sitting and household chores so that they will have time to rest.
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