On SIDS, and Co-Sleeping

First, let me say that the very idea that there is such a thing as SIDS out there gives me the fantods. At night, sometimes, I’ll nod off and suddenly the horrible chilly fear of such a thing will flitter through my head, and I have to get up, right then, no matter how tired I am, and check on John.

John sleeps in his crib, in his room. But let me qualify this by saying his room is five steps from ours. There are babies sleeping in bassinets in their parents rooms that are farther away from mommy and daddy’s bed than John is from ours. And since I pump all the damned time, I check on him a lot.  We made the conscious decision to let John sleep in a crib because it works for our family. For other families, co-sleeping works. I would never judge a family for their decisions, when they’re made in the best interest of the family dynamic. If John could form words, I believe he’d tell you that he knows one peep will bring Mommy or Daddy into the room to check on him. He has never cried it out, and never felt abandoned. At night, he talks himself to sleep while watching his mobile and his fish aquarium soother, and sleeps from about 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

But that works for us. For other families, other things work.

But then this happened: A couple in Lufkin was charged with child endangerment after their baby died while they were co-sleeping. This was the second baby to die while co-sleeping with them.

The official ruling on the first baby was SIDS. The couple was ordered to attend parenting classes and learn about safe sleeping.

The couple was charged with child endangerment after the second death because officials felt they showed reckless behavior by co-sleeping after being given information about the risks of doing so, and after they had already had one baby die while they did the same thing.

But I have to wonder – what if the reverse had happened? What if their first baby died in a crib, and then this baby died in a crib, too? I’m not saying I’m for or against co-sleeping, because there are a plethora of studies on each side. I am confused, though, by the connotation that SIDS is something you can totally prevent. Yes, making sure the baby is sleeping on a firm mattress with little bedding will help. Yes, binkies apparently help. Yes, running a fan allegedly helps. And, according to leading authorities on baby care, not sleeping with your baby helps. But if this baby died of accidental smothering or crushing, wouldn’t the forensic evidence show this? Wouldn’t that mean the baby died of those things, not SIDS, which by its definition is an unexplanable infant death?

I’m just worried that this sets a precedent of blaming parents for SIDS, or giving the connotation to a parent who has lost a baby of SIDS that there was something they could’ve done better.


One Comment

  1. When I was maybe about 8 years old, there was a family across the street from us. The son and his young wife lived with the mother-in-law. Shortly after they had a baby, I remember waking up to sirens and flashing lights. The baby died of SIDS. I stood and watched it unfold. I was so young, but never, to this day, have forgotten the look on the mother’s face. They dismantled the nursery and put the crib and toys in the garage. It was eerie. No one talked about what happened. 18 months later, the baby’s mother rigged a dryer vent to the exhaust of her car and killed herself there in the garage, surrounded by the baby’s belongings. Of course, that set the local gossips on a tear…accusing her of killing her baby, and the suicide a result of guilt.

    This post brought up some powerful emotions for me, and great questions. Of course, that was a time before baby monitors, and stomach sleeping, and fluffy bedding. I think all you can do is the best you know how to do. As to the Lufkin family…wow…it begs a whole lot of questions, doesn’t it?

    You’ve seen the stats on co-sleeping (the US vs. everyone else)? We seem to be the only culture NOT doing it.


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