The “science” on sudden infant death has changed rapidly over the twenty-four years since I’ve been a mother. When my oldest was born I co-slept against midwife advice. By the time my now six year old was born the advice had gone from “no” through “yes” through “maybe” back to “no” to “definitely do it”. We are now back to “no” according to reports I’ve seen via the MSM. I don’t know what the latest study is based on and what variables were taken into consideration, but I do always remember the comment from one researcher some years ago who said, “Where there are no cots, there are no cot deaths.”
A recent story (and there’s been a few like this over the years) tells of a mother who held her still born baby skin to skin and the baby lived.
In light of this, and against the present advice, I thought I would tell you my story. I co-slept with all six of the children; some for longer than others. I did put the older three in a moses basket next to the bed fairly early on, but didn’t do that with the younger three. One morning I woke when Iona was only a few months old to find her lying in the basket, not breathing. I’m afraid I forgot I was a nurse and panicked. I confess, I slapped her and she started breathing, and crying poor kid. My GP was unconcerned and said this sort of thing happens occasionally. Really? Thankfully with Iona it never happened again.
With Avila, it was a different story. My, now 8 year old, daughter didn’t breathe through the night on a regular basis until she was just over 2 years old. I co-slept with her. There’s something in the wiring of a mother breastfeeding her baby that means we are very attuned to our baby. Every time Avila stopped breathing I woke up. There was a kind of silence that woke me and there she was limp and breathless. I would massage her and sit her up and lie her down, moving her around and offering milk until she took a breath. Some nights I would have to get her breathing again two or even three times. One truly awful night I was woken by her “silence” something like seven times. Despite how sick she was and how much time we spent in the Children’s Hospt. I was never offered one of those “alarm” things. They don’t work with co-sleeping anyway so, in hindsight, I am glad.
One day I met a midwife who had worked in Russia during the depths of Communism when the health service was at an all time low. She told me that what I had done with Avila was something that in Russia they called Kangaroo care. They didn’t have NICU facilities, and babies kept dying. I don’t know whose idea it was, but as an extension of skin to skin, the Russian midwives encourages mothers to hold their sick babies close at all times; c0-sleeping. She told me this saved countless little lives.
I am convinced co-sleeping kept Avila alive and the fact that I breastfed her for so long also helped. The time when she was tube fed and nothing was working, it was when I expressed and they gave her my milk, that at last, she started to show signs of making it.
I would do it again.
(In that photo she is just past her first birthday. We did a Christmas play with the HE group and then just after Christmas she was admitted, again, to hospital where we saw in the New Year. It was the most difficult admission she’d had. Tube and drip and being mostly unconscious or barely rousable. Nothing was working and I begged for a breast pump. Once I’d expressed the nurse came to see how a bolus feed would go. For the first time in a week a feed went down the tube and stayed there. A few days later she was awake and a few days after that, well enough to go home. There were numerous admissions after that – but none quite that scary).