Sunday, February 10, 2008

The curse of SIDS

You may have noticed that the photo with the pink cushion shows my 3 month old sleeping on her tummy. She is, without doubt, a natural tummy sleeper. So was my eldest child. The middle one had no truck with occasional tummy time, let alone any desire to sleep that way.

I have been lamenting the need for Elissa to sleep on her back, in consideration of SIDS, to most anyone who will listen, because it is the sole cause of any issues we have with her at the moment. If I could leave her to sleep on her tummy, she would take moments to settle and would no doubt be in her bed for all daytime sleeps too.

What has been interesting is the responses I get. Some clearly think I am a Bad Mother for ever letting her lie on her tummy, some sympathise, some had babies like my middle one and so the issue never came up, and some recommend, or allude to, rebellion.

My obstetrician asked if I was one of the "rebel mothers" who put their babies to sleep on their tummies. I could not quite tell from her tone what her opinion was of these mothers, it could have gone either way. Others have told me about a growing number of mothers who disregard the SIDS advice, mostly in an approving sort of way. Since the risk is small, it is argued, and babies like Elissa are definitely more comfortable on their tummies, we should just let them sleep that way. They make it sound almost like I am torturing my child for my own peace of mind. OK, possibly a little overly emotive, but that seems to be the vague idea. After all, I am reminded, there are no guarantees.

The last person who said this to me is someone who's opinion I respect, especially as regards medical-type things with kids. And so I gave it due consideration after the conversation. I figure the only way I can validly address it is to translate it to myself. The base rate of SIDS (without following the guidelines) is about 1 in 500, following the guidelines reduces it to about 1 in 1200. Boys are about one and a half times more likely than girls to succumb, but I am not factoring that in. So, imagine a doctor said to me that I had those odds of dying if I continue to sleep in my preferred position for the next 12 months, or I could more than halve those odds by sleeping in a more uncomfortable position. I am pretty sure I would do what it took to survive the 12 months of uncomfortable sleep.

So I don't find myself agreeing with the "rebel mothers" on this point. At the same time, I still wish someone could wave a magic wand and divine which kids are at risk so all the others could sleep in their preferred position without fear. Looking at the realities though, the chances of this ever being possible are vanishingly small.

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