Information. It is so vital to our survival. Misinformation, on the other hand is a killer. Can you imagine if you were told that a red traffic light meant ‘go’? What chaos would reign in your life, if you lived very long at all?
I have been sorely disturbed in recent months by the information and lack thereof surrounding the sleeping, feeding and care of our babies if it doesn’t fall strictly in line with the latest guidelines, based on the latest research.
As an example, I was at an event recently where a health visitor with 20 years of experience talking about infant sleep said the following (not a word for word quote, but along these lines):
I cannot recommend co-sleeping. It is dangerous and can lead to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Most mothers co-sleep at some point or another, even I did, but I cannot talk about it or recommend it.
And with that, she moved on. Now, I understand that she isn’t legally allowed to recommend it, and I understand that she has to cover her own back, but I find this approach incredibly pointless.
- I cannot recommend co-sleeping: fine. Don’t recommend it, but talk about it. Explain why you cannot recommend it
- It is dangerous and can lead to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Well, so can smoking in the house or residue smoke on your clothes, drinking, drug taking, too many blankets, too much swaddling, and a lack of serotonin in the brain and even formula feeding, but okay â€“ let’s blame co-sleeping.
- Most mother’s co-sleep at some point or another. Oh dear. Those terrible mothers again, being all pesky and messing with government guidelines.
- Even I did. Well, I never! Maybe you could give us some insights?
- But I cannot talk about it or recommend it. But where’s the help in that? What’s a new mother to take from that? What guidance or instruction or, heaven forbid, help is there to be gained from that?
Right, so my sarcasm isn’t helping either, but surely, surely, when you have a captive audience who have come to listen to you talk about sleep, there is no better time to educate.
Tell us you cannot recommend it. Tell us government guidelines strongly discourage co-sleeping. Tell us that you don’t know what causes SIDS but that there are things that heighten or lower the risk and tell us what those things are. Tell us not to co-sleep if we’ve been drinking or taken drugs such as antihistamines. Tell us that having a fan on in the room reduces the risks of SIDS and making sure the baby is not too hot reduces the risks. Tell us that babies who lie on their backs in cots sometimes die too.
Tell us that sometimes there just is no explanation. Tell us everything you know, then remind us that you cannot recommend it. But at least you’ve told us, so that we can make conscious decisions. So that if we do fall asleep in bed with our babies we know to make sure there aren’t pillows that can suffocate them. So that we can make sure they sleep above the blankets. So that we can make sure about what medication we take and whether they’re going to make us drowsy. Tell us.
Sticking your head in the sand doesn’t help. Pretending it doesn’t happen, doesn’t help. Hammering on about what we should do when you know the reality is often different doesn’t save lives. Education does. Information does.