Sunday, 15 June 2008

Co-Sleeping 'Dangers'...and the bias of media and doctors article has been circulated around the Canadian media, lambasting the perpetrators of the horror known as co-sleeping.

Now, there is a lot wrong with this media release, and the spin within... and not surprisingly. 

The author of the piece, Dr. Lauwers, who is also chairman of the Paediatric Death Review Committee and Deaths Under Five Committee, has taken a number of things for granted with no justification at all. 

The very first unjustifiable thing being taken for granted is the idea that it is intrinsically safe to sleep in a crib. Just for fun, I googled 'crib recall' just to see how 'safe' these baby cages are...
Over 1 million Simplicity cribs recalled after the deaths of 2 babies... oops, no, three deaths...
About 20,000 Simmons Kids Crib mattresses recalled for failing to meet the tight fit requirement...
Munire recalls 24,000 cribs because the mattress cannot be moved to the lowest position, enabling children to climb over the railing and fall out...
With many duplicates of the same news stories (about these three)... that was just the first 10 hits.

Over at Health Canada a quick search for crib recalls pops up a list of more than a dozen on the first page, dating way back to January 2002. Which, of course, means that all the hand-me-down and second-hand cribs that have already been recalled because of their lethal danger to babies are not on the front page of that search.

Of course that brings up the question: how to compare the statistics for 'co-sleeping'- attributed deaths with those associated with cribs? Well, here's the quote from Canada's Consumer Product Safety folks:
In recent years, CPSC has received reports of about 30 deaths of infants and toddlers each year from crib-related incidents.* While these deaths have declined considerably from the yearly toll of 150 to 200 in the early 1970s, the number of deaths associated with cribs remains higher than with any other nursery product.
For the diligent reader, the * refers to this footnote:
Products marketed as portable crib/play yard combinations were included only if the product was used primarily as a crib. Deaths involving Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) were excluded.
Well... that's nice. This survey of crib-related deaths actually removes SIDS statistics... meaning a great many more deaths are on the list to compare to the co-sleeping ones, because those were not separated out for SIDS. Is that bias? Or just bad stats?

While it is obviously unsafe for someone who is obese to fall asleep in a drunken stupor on a couch with a baby on his chest (one of the deaths included in a study of the 'risks' of co-sleeping)... it is difficult to see how this is even considered co-sleeping. 

Not the least because the adult in question isn't sleeping, he's unconscious. 

Another of the deaths, upon searching for the facts in the case, was found to be a baby, alone on a bed, who was trapped between the mattress and the headboard.

So, let's clarify the spin a bit: 30 babies die each year in Canada in cribs not including SIDS. 

Between 2006 and 2007 (that's two years) 41 babies died in Canada outside of cribs, including SIDS (who knows how many of the 219 SIDS deaths from the same time frame are in that number?) some reason this 'study' included one child who died on the floor, which just makes this whole thing confusing. 

Those 'co-sleeping' situations include babies who die in any kind of non-crib sleeping arrangement, whether that is a temporary or how that family actually chooses to sleep. That means that babies who die entrapped in couches and alone in a parent's or sibling's bed are (because they aren't in cribs) 'co-sleeping'. 

Even if it is known that they actually died of SIDS.

Which is, not to put too fine a point on it, ridiculous.


  1. Very interesting thank you.

    One thing though, the quote about the "Canada's Consumer Product Safety" is from the US consumer product safety commission! In fact, I don't think there is a Canadian Consumer Product Safety thing here...

    That said, I'd love to know the numbers for Canada!

  2. Wow... I found that through the Health Canada site...

    I searched through Stats Canada (just now) and SIDS is not a 'cause of death' in Canadian statistics (what's that about?) nor is there any statistic I could find relating specifically to sleeping arrangements.

  3. How did we get this far in our evolution? Well, it was, for the most part, all sleeping together, actually. For warmth, for safety, for comfort, for ease of breastfeeding infants to name just a few good reasons.