I just LOVE waking up to misinformation and headlines that scream BABIES WILL DIE because that makes all new parents feel reassured and confident doesn’t it?
Please, please, please can the media and the State stop treating parents like little children who need to be told what to do and what is best for us. The bias I saw in the reporting of this story on the BBC news this morning was shocking and there are so many holes in this research – and it has been accused of missing out data - so why is it ok to report a story in this way, which will scare and confuse, rather than to inform and educate?
I would like to point out…
that this research is not new or recent – it is an analysis of data from 1987-2003 SO THE DATA IS 10-26 YEARS OLD.
The simple fact is…
bed-sharing is a good option for many parents who want to be close to their baby and it can serve a very practical purpose because it can be the difference between rest and exhaustion – if you have a baby who will not settle easily in a Moses Basket, you can then be faced with crying, stress and not know what to do for the best. Bed sharing can also be about breastfeeding and soothing our babies. So rather than being so dogmatic and saying no to bed-sharing, let’s look at finding out how best to bed-share, to reduce risks as much as possible and to educate new parents so they are informed and empowered with parenting options.
UNICEF UK is concerned that any guidance that recommends the total avoidance of bed-sharing could force parents into much riskier activities such as feeding in arm-chairs or sofas where the risk of suffocating the baby is far higher: “Closing down all discussion of the reasons why parents might bed-share with their infant by issuing a dogmatic recommendation inhibits health professionals from raising the topic, causes parents to lie about their behaviour, and stiﬂes the provision of information about hazardous sleeping environments and the degrees of risk involved.” (Fetherston and Leach, 2013)
Recommendations for health professionals on discussing bed-sharing with parents
Simplistic messages in relation to where a baby sleeps should be avoided; neither blanket prohibitions nor blanket permissions reflect the current research evidence. The current body of evidence overwhelmingly supports the following key messages, which should be conveyed to all parents:
• The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot by your bed
• Sleeping with your baby on a sofa puts your baby at greatest risk
• Your baby should not share a bed with anyone who:
- is a smoker
- has consumed alcohol
- has taken drugs (legal or illegal) that make them sleepy.
My personal thoughts
There is not one right place for a baby to sleep and there are minimal risks attached with cot sleeping as well as with bed sharing and what we must do as parents is minimise these risks, make the sleeping environment as safe as possible and to do what works best for us and our babies.
If bed-sharing is so so dangerous – how is the human race still here? It is the norm for many cultures around the globe to bed-share, just as it was within Western Society until we became Industrialised. Bed-sharing is not wanted or needed by everyone but if your baby is coming into bed with you – make it safe.
As outlined by Durham University:
- Don’t use heavy bedding and keep your baby away from pillows
- Keep your baby at breast level, rather than being near your head and near your pillows
- Assess whether your baby could fall out of bed, are there any gaps that your baby could roll into?
As someone who works with new and expectant parents, bed-sharing comes up in conversation several times a week. I love this because parents are talking about it and discussing it, they are finding ways to get some sleep and to stay sane. When I first became a mum in 2001, co-sleeping was a taboo subject, mums didn’t talk about it let alone admit they did. I don’t want it to go back to that, where mothers lied to their health visitors about where their baby slept and felt ashamed, like they were doing something wrong.
Some of the parents I meet co-sleep because it is their parenting choice and others co-sleep because they have no other choice to get some sleep. New parents need clear, supportive information to minimise the risks, not scary headlines and emotive case studies with mothers whose babies have died – one news story today included a baby who had suffocated on a sofa – incredibly tragic but this is not an example of co-sleeping.
Comments and analysis
This is Baby Massage Week so I want to focus on what baby massage is all about, its history, its benefits and why I love running baby massage sessions…
“I became aware of the importance of traditional Indian baby massage, both for its soothing effects and for its role in affectionate nonverbal communication. An Indian mother regularly massages everyone in her family and passes these techniques on to her daughters.”
Vimala McClure, Founder of the International Association of Infant Massage
History of baby massage
- Baby massage has been traced back to ancient Indian and Chinese civilisations. Baby massage is still used in these areas and it is seen as important in enhancing movement and coordination and increasing weight gain in babies. Massage is routinely used to heal and soothe babies as well as adults.
What’s so great about baby massage?
- In short, research shows that young babies may sleep better, cry less and be less stressed if they are massaged regularly.
- This one-to-one quiet time together can aid bonding between parents and their baby. Gentle touch is a great way to communicate love, safety and security to your baby.
- I see babies (and mums) who are chilled and relaxed after my sessions and I see babies filling their nappies after tummy massage so I know it can help babies.
My baby massage sessions
I trained as an infant massage instructor in 2010 and I love running my baby massage sessions as much as I love running my antenatal classes. The unique thing about my sessions is that they are about the mums, as much as they are about the babies. It is important to me to run small groups in a comfortable setting, so mums can relax and chat and their babies can feel warm and relaxed too.
Mums often mention how relaxed their baby seems in my room – it is a warm, relaxing space and I think babies are relaxed because they have a massage and their mums are able to sit back, relax and chat, they can talk, offload and laugh while I serve cake and tea and that makes for happy mums and happy babies!
An enormous well done needs to go to Ivan and Nadine Hollingsworth, who have raised over £300,000 for the Children’s Heart Unit Fund at The Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
Since the Unit saved the life of their son Seb in 2009, Ivan and Nadine have vowed to keep raising money. To date, Ivan and Nadine have undergone some gruelling physical challenges – a number of marathons and half marathons as well as the Coast to Coast – a challenge which the team seems to make harder for themselves every year!
Last year Ivan also ran 100 miles in 24 hours and there was also the time he skiied down a hill in a mankini!
The money raised by Ivan and Nadine will be used to rebuild the Unit’s playroom and outdoor play area – a much needed area for families to spend some time with their babies and children. Some babies and young children spend months in the Unit, as they recover from surgery – being able to play is an important part of their recovery and development, as well as normalising their stay in hospital.
For more information about Seb4Chuf and how to donate,
head over to their website