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Archive for the ‘Bed sharing/ co-sleeping’ Category

If you have a minute please check out my article on the My Zero Waste website.  It’s all about having a ‘Zero Waste Baby’.

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Isn’t this a crazy idea?  That a child can be too attached to his or her parent.  Just the thought that anyone could think that makes me react in two ways: slightly-too-hysterical laughter and deep resounding sadness.

I have come across two examples of this within the last week.  One was a friend whose mother thought that her grandchild was too attached.  The ‘warning’ signals apparently included clingy behaviour and that the child was still waking regularly at night. 

Why do people think that a baby preferring to be with her mother is an abnormal state of affairs?  Why might we have evolved as a species to be like this?  Why can’t we accept that this is actually totally normal behaviour for a baby or young child?  Why do women, especially, have such an issue with other women allowing their children to have a natural attachment?  I can hazard a guess but genuinely, answers on a postcard please.

Similarly, why do we consider a baby waking in the night to be unusual, strange or a problem that needs to be fixed?  It is common.  So common to be considered normal I would even put forward.  It’s been documented that the vast majority of one-year-olds still wake regularly at night.  So why are we so focussed on the sleep patterns of babies?  Why is this biological disposition attributed the deciding factor of whether a child is ‘good’ (shudder)?

The second was while waiting in a queue at the post office.  A woman with a girl of around two-and-a-half was in the queue with her sister-in-law.  The sister-in-law was talking to a family friend.  The conversation went something like this:

“Yes, this is my niece Mia” gesticulating at child.  “She’s driving me mad today” (Annoying Aunt – or AA)

“oh” (embarrassed friend)

The friend tried to bend down to say hello to this child whom she clearly didn’t know, the child hid behind her mum’s legs.

This prompted AA to launch a tirade of aggressive ‘advice’ against the poor mother.  Was Mia always like this?  Answer, no she’s fine at home and with people she knows.  Well she needs to get out!  She needs to socialise.  She needs to go to nursery.  Her mother is stifling her development.  She can’t stay home all the time, clearly she can’t cope in the real world.  She needs to mix with other people without her mother…. etc. etc.  And on and on. 

Clearly AA had no children.  She was young, and yes, clearly an idiot.  But by no means is this an isolated incident.  I’m sure we all hear and meet people like this all the time.  But where has it come from?  This strange and consuming idea that young children need to socialise away from their primary carers in order to develop properly. 

Just a few minutes of thought would render the very idea ridiculous and unworthy of any more consideration.  And if a few minutes of thought are not available then the stack of evidence that ‘socialising away from a primary carer’ is harmful to young children should stamp out this loony theory for once and for all.  Yet, it is so incredibly persistant.  Everyone continues with this theory as if it’s sensible and obvious … why?  What do ‘we’ get out of it?  Obviously it frees up women to go into the labour market, and further provides lots of jobs to other – mainly – women.  Oh and lots and lots of opportunities for nursery owners to make a lot of money.  But surely this can’t be the only reason for ignoring facts, evidence and instinct.  Can it?

Assigning babies, toddlers and young children the ‘problem’ of being too attached to their parents or too clingy seems to be a national pastime.  I just can’t help wondering why? 

It seems as clear as day to me that a baby and/ or young child needs to be raised by one primary carer.  This person is his or her rock.  They provide safety and security – a soft place to land.  The child knows this person and is utterly confident in their love.  They know that they are always safe when this primary carer is around.  And if this person suddenly disappears then surely a normal reaction is anxiety until they reappear?  Until such time as the child knows that this person will always reappear.  

Surely anyone knows in their heart that this is right and good.  Compare to a young baby or child who is left with a wide variety of people and has no strong attachment to anybody.  Yes, aren’t they ‘good’.  They can be left anywhere, with anyone.  They never cry.  This child never feels safe, they don’t have a soft place to land.  We know from scientific studies that these children have abnormally high levels of cortisol in their bodies which set the ‘normal’ level for the rest of their lives at a level that is too high.  This causes them difficulties for life which include attention-seeking behaviour, risk-seeking behaviour and relationship problems.  (Check out my shop for the Margot Sunderland book which contains all the evidence and scientific data that proves this pretty convincingly.)

Would anyone honestly choose an unattached childhood for their child if they knew the lifelong consequences?  Would anyone actually think that a child could be too attached or that a normal attachment could damage a baby?  I hope not, but I fear so.  Such is the crazy world we appear to inhabit.

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I have spent a fair while compiling a shop at amazon that contains only items personally tried and tested or recommended by trusted NAPfriends.

Please check it out, and let me know if you have any more recommendations for products or books that other Natural, Attached Parents might find useful.

Please visit the NAPshop from the menu above.

 

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While writing a guest blog post for My Zero Waste it struck me again how having a baby has become such a huge consumer and marketing event over recent years.Expensive baby?

Even 14 years ago when I had my first baby, the range of products was tiny compared to those that new parents are bombarded with now.

The undesirable side effects of this at first thought are pollution, waste and the financial burden on families at what is already often an overstretched time.  However, dig a little deeper and another worrying idea emerges.

Every time new parents see a ‘vital’ piece of equipment such as a playpen, nursery swing, pushchair, steriliser or baby monitor does it chip away at the value of the parent?  Here is a piece of equipment that only costs X amount, yet will do the job of nurturing, feeding or being with your baby as well as you can.

Is it any wonder that the role of full time mother or father is so undervalued?  Apparently we can replace them so easily and so relatively cheaply.

We see women who have no money spending what precious little they do have on the newest pushchair or designer clothes for their babies.  Instead of pointing the finger and criticising, maybe we should look again with a caring eye at the reasons why.

These mothers are so often criticised for not being ‘good enough’, for having children too young or without the money to support them.  When we as a society value ‘things’ over ‘parents’ then it is not too difficult to see why anyone struggling with money would buy ‘things’ to show that their baby is not going without, despite what people think.

If we valued the role of mothers and fathers sufficiently then maybe everybody could see this stuff for what it is – a marketers dream.  An unnecessary mountain of items that no baby would choose over their parent’s loving arms and a smiling, interested face.

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Positive and informative statement from UNICEF which has been seen and approved by the authors of the study.

Interesting comment in The Guardian yesterday who picked up the mis-reporting issues and the fact that the authors of the study are not happy with how the press have been picking it up.

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Once again the ‘risks’ of bed-sharing and SIDS is all over the news.  I am so tired of seeing

co-sleeping

co-sleeping

mis-reporting and poor methodology in these studies that I have taken some time to look over current evidence and advice.

“Over half of cot deaths occur whilst co-sleeping”

Or so says the study that is currently being used to scaremonger.  This is a retrospective study by a team from Warwick and Bristol Universities.  They looked at the evidence for 80 babies who died of SIDS in the SW region.  The BBC report that ‘sharing a bed is a factor in more than 50% of cases’ followed confusingly by the statement that ‘many of the deaths occurred when parent and infant slept together on a sofa’.  Hmmm.

So what did the study find? That in 43 out of the 80 deaths the parents were co-sleeping.  But in 7.31 (?) of those cases they were on a sofa.  In 13.3 of those cases the parents had consumed drugs or alcohol.   A further 16 out of the total of 80 babies were on a pillow or swaddled and the authors state that these risk factors were the same in either group  so we can assume that 8 babies were on a pillow or swaddled.  So around 28-29 of those 43 cases were definately not safely bed-sharing or bed-sharing at all.

The study makes no reference as to whether the parents were smoking – a contributing factor in the vast majority of cot deaths.  And there is no reference to breastfeeding – a protective factor in the vast majority of cases.

So what does this study really tell us?  That without the important information about smoking and breastfeeding 15 out of 80 of the babies who died of SIDS were sharing a bed with a parent who was not drunk or on drugs.  This doesn’t tell us very much.  I have contacted the team who authored the study asking for clarification about smoking and breastfeeding and will update the blog if I hear back from them.

Other Evidence

Moving away from this specific study, what other evidence abounds about bed sharing and SIDS?  The number of studies is huge.  To enable results that can be considered rigerous and therefore actually truthful:

UNICEF further recommends that all future research into infant death and sleeping environments should unambiguously record data on … the baby’s sleep surface, maternal and paternal smoking status, alcohol and drug consumption and infant feeding method. These factors should be recorded at the time of infant death (rather than relying on data for other periods such as feeding method at delivery or smoking status during pregnancy) and the results adjusted to control for them.

However it is very difficult to come across any study that actually takes into account these recommendations, let alone reports it’s findings within these guidelines and separates out the evidence as stated above.

The nearest I have found is a study published in the British Medical Journal entitled Babies sleeping with parents: case-control study of factors influencing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. The study was part of the CESDI (Confidential Enquiry into Stillbirth and Death in Infancy) carried out annually in the UK.

This study was published in 1999.  It was a three year, population based case-control study.  The authors studied all cases within a population of 470,000 births.  During the three year study the authors examined 325 SIDS cases, and also those of 1300 ‘control’ infants matched for age, locality and time of sleep.  They interviewed all parents.

Findings initially showed an increased risk for infants sharing the parental bed for the whole sleep, babies sleeping in their own bedrooms and infants who shared a sofa.

However, the risk for infants sharing the parental bed was found to be not significant for older infants >14wks or any infant whose parents did not smoke.

The authors concluded that :

There is no evidence that bed sharing is hazardous for infants of parents who do not smoke.

This study found that if parents don’t smoke and BED share (rather than sofa share) they are no more likely to suffer from SIDS than babies in a cot in their non-smoking parents bedroom.   However babies in their own rooms are at more risk of SIDS than babies in a cot in their non-smoking parents bedroom.  So, why is this fact so under-reported?

More information and analysis of this study can be found at the Mothering Magazine website.

Conclusion?

Given that bed-sharing has been shown to be crucial in establishing a successful breastfeeding relationship, is practised safely worldwide and is practised in the UK and ‘developed’ world by the majority of parents it is about time that it stopped being demonised by the authorities and the media.

There is no rigourous evidence that safe bed-sharing is related to an increased rate of cot death.  FACT.

Find out how to bed-share safely with the information from UNICEF or Dr Sarah Buckley.

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I am putting together a post about Gentle Parenting methods and would like some real-life tips and ideas from people out there doing it!

The main queries and questions seem to be on dealing with:

  • Regular nightwaking in babies, toddlers and children
  • Moving a child out of the parents bed/bedroom
  • Tantrums
  • Weaning a baby/child from the breast
  • Mean or violent behaviour towards other children (pushing, hitting, biting etc)

I hasten to add that many people posing these questions are more ‘mainstream’ parents looking for alternatives to things like naughty steps and controlled crying or disbelieving that anything else could work.

I’d like to put together an article showing that it can and does!

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