Posts Tagged ‘Babies’
Is bed-sharing harmful to babies? According to experts, it may be. There has been much concern about crib dead and they blame some of it on bed-sharing or sofa-sharing. They point out that the babies at greatest risk are those of low birth weight, have respiratory problems, or if the parents smoke or drink alcohol. Of course, their advice does make sense. However, the babies at highest risk of crib death from bed-sharing also seem to be those at highest risk for crib death in any sense. So, does bed-sharing really make a difference?
I will not go against medical advice in suggesting that it is OK, but even the experts say that a blanket warning to parents is not appropriate. I will say that we shared our beds with our babies and they did not suffer from it. Of course, they were and are healthy babies and we do not smoke or drink. Therefore, we were at low risk to begin with. I will not say that it was the most comfortable situation all the time, but we are no worse for wear.
There is still no explanation for much of sudden infant death. When it first came to light, there was suggestion of child abuse. Later, it was found to be much more mysterious, but sometimes showed signs of abuse from suffocation or “shaken baby”. As it received more coverage, attention turned towards diagnosing some undetected physical problem. So, we ended up with some heart and lung defects that can cause babies to suddenly stop breathing – called apnea. Other causes came to light, such as reflux. However, reflux came about (sometimes) due to medications given to treat apnea. But, people forget that many of these physical conditions had been around even before SIDS or crib death came to attention. Children born with birth defects were monitored carefully and if they did suffer negative consequences, it was not classified as crib death because there was a known cause for it. SIDS was a diagnosis given to those babies who died under mysterious circumstances.
Those circumstances remain mysterious, although multiple hypotheses have been forwarded. Some say that babies sleeping on their stomachs may accidently suffocate when they roll their heads into their pillows and cannot roll them away again. Or, when they roll their heads they compress arteries in the next that supply the brain. Prior to this, it was recommended that babies sleep on their stomach because they breathe better that way. The current recommendation is to keep them on their sides. Other hypotheses include the presence of bacteria due to a change in the manufacturing of crib mattresses, excessive mucous in the nasal passages. Other hypotheses include many medical conditions. But, again, if there is a medical explanation for the death, it would not be classified as SIDS. Until they can connect all the crib deaths with some distinct explanation, we will never know the real cause of SIDS. Perhaps, what is classified under the umbrella of SIDS may be more than one condition. But, surely, we should be able to start grouping these deaths into categories. Statistics suggest that thousands of babies die of crib death every year. Could there be that many different diagnoses to explain all these deaths in the end?
So, if we do not know the cause of crib death, what can we do to prevent it? Really, there is nothing that can guarantee our children’s safety. However, if expert advice does not sound harmful in any way, then it would be appropriate to follow it. If it goes against any of our fundamental beliefs, then it might be best to discuss it with the doctor before going against medical advice. But, what about bed-sharing? It is an individual decision and should be discussed with the doctor or midwife. Of course, if a parent crushes their child, causing suffocation and death, it really is not crib death, is it? It would be accidental death or neglect.
New mothers have always been encouraged to try breastfeeding. Among the many traditional benefits cited for breastfeeding is the ability to quickly shed that excess weight from pregnancy. Of course, it is believed that all women are vain enough to induce them to lose weight by breastfeeding. I breastfed my babies, but it was not because of the weight loss issue. The most I ever weighed during pregnancy was 116 lbs. so it was not a big issue. Breastfeeding was easy and enjoyable. It created a bond that I feel could not have been accomplished by other means. I loved it and wished I could have done it longer. My first one I breastfed until she was eleven months, but the second was for only six months due to my developing mastitis. Of course, I had to supplement during both.
Besides the emotional and psychological benefits of breastfeeding, there are numerous health benefits. Breast milk is supposed to contain natural antibodies to protect babies from infections. In addition, it is purported to protect babies from obesity (a major issue these days and this finding may change), diabetes, and asthma. Some claim that breastfed babies are smarter but intelligence is hard to measure. For women, breastfeeding produces extra hormones that protect against breast and ovarian cancer as well as osteoporosis. Now research shows that breastfeeding may protect against heart disease and strokes.
The research, done by the University of Pittsburgh was based on surveys of 140,000 postmenopausal women. It shows that the benefits of breastfeeding lasted even up to 35 years out from the last episode of breastfeeding. Of course, there is a graduated level of benefit, with those breastfeeding for at least a year showing the highest advantage, but even one month of breastfeeding conferred some benefits. Despite these wonderful findings, one needs to be careful how to interpret the data. Perhaps there are other underlying factors that play a role. After all, a 35-year lapse opens up many possibilities. What about the women who breastfed and died? There are no statistics on them. Perhaps the next step should be a prospective study of women who breastfeed and those who do not. They should be followed forward in time to see what they die of and when.
Despite the weaknesses in the study, there are the other benefits of breastfeeding to consider. Those already known should be enough to encourage women to consider breastfeeding.