SIDS, SLEEPYHEADS, SUFFOCATION.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Let's start this with one fact. A very true fact, not a "off the internet" fact, but an indisputable, black and white fact:

SIDS IS NOT SUFFOCATION.

Suffocation is death via asphyxiation. Blankets, pillows, clothes, muslin, duvets, caught under a parent, between bed and wall, and so on. This kind of death is preventable, that much should be common sense to everyone. Don't use blankets and nobody will suffocate underneath one, don't put baby in your bed and you can't roll over onto them, don't use a pillow and it can't cover their face, don't use a sleeping bag that's too big and they won't get stuck in it.

SIDS is not preventable. I know that we talk about the "risks of SIDS" being bed sharing and so on, as if by not doing those you are safe, but that's not the case.




Let's pretend that we have a scale. This is how I like to think of it: 
0 is absolutely, guaranteed, 100%, not going to die – this is impossible.
10 is a baby placed on their own, on their back, with no blankets, as per safe sleeping guidelines.
+5 per blanket
+20 for each person in bed with them
+20 for being on a sofa instead of in bed
+30 for smoking
+30 for drinking
You see where I'm going with this?

You can be as safe as you possibly can be when it comes to sleeping but SIDS can still happen. But it works the other way, too, you can bed share and use blankets and pillows and smoke and drink and be perfectly fine.

As I'm sure many of you are aware I am adamantly against sharing a bed with your baby, especially if that baby is under three months old. So often I see on instagram that bed-sharing is encouraged. Now, I'm not trying to be a party pooper, but what the fuck? Why on earth would you actively chose to ignore the safe sleep guidelines that have been put in place for a reason? Anecdotes are not proof of safety – just as not everyone who smokes will get lung cancer, not everyone who bed shares will die. Every time you share a bed with your baby you are resetting the risk, within that first year it doesn't lessen or increase as the days go on, it stays static.

All over the internet, instagram and facebook, I see people talking about how great it is, how baby sleeps better and so on. If you have ever posted about it, look at the comments on that post, I'll bet you a tenner that 99% of the comments are some variation of "we did it with Our Kid(s) and it's been great!" What does this post achieve? It belittles the safe advice given by healthcare professionals which is backed up by scientific research, it makes a mother think that these healthcare professionals are hiding something, are lying to them, telling them that they shouldn't do this and for what? To make them suffer? And so off they go to share a bed with absolutely no idea of why they shouldn't and no idea of what steps to take to ensure the least danger. And this which then puts the onus on bereaved parents to step up and say "actually my baby died bed sharing" which none of us want to do. We don't want to do it because it's shameful, we feel as if their deaths are our responsibility, we caused it. It only takes one night of sharing your bed for the worst to happen.


Bed-Sharing (below) and Co-Sleeping (left), I believe, are different things. Bed sharing, is, as the name suggests, sharing your bed. Baby is in bed with you, in your bed. Co-sleeping, I believe, is more like cohabitation, close proximity, where baby has their own space, away from you, but not permanently, entirely separated, such as with a snuzpod or a cot with no side. This latter is how Ezra and I slept (and how Edith and I would have slept if my new bedframe didn't mean there was a large gap between the mattresses, so as it stands her cot is some four inches away from my bed).


If you are adamant about bed-sharing there are ways to lower the danger, this is by removing all pillows, duvets and loose clothing, thus lowering suffocation risk. Put baby in a sleeping bag (if it's cold obviously) on their back and away from you. If it takes cuddling for them to fall asleep then you should have them in a position away from your sleeping place, and once they're asleep move away. You may like to think that you, as a mother, won't do anything to harm your baby even in your sleep, but that's just not realistic.

When suffocation has occurred and baby isn't breathing CPR can be effective, I don't think that resuscitation is possible with SIDS, as I imagine it's 1) in the name (sudden infant death) and 2) if it works it would not be classed as SIDS. As far as I know, SIDS is pretty much a shut down of the nervous system and coming back from that is akin to coming back when the brain has been fatally starved of oxygen, resulting in a huge amount of brain damage. But, again, we don't actually know, so it's all speculation. All the information we have is CORRELATION, so of all the healthy babies that unexpectedly died many of them were in bed with their parents, or whose parents were smokers, or drinkers.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that babies can be difficult and sometimes all they want is a cuddle to fall asleep and to fall asleep with you, but if you're not going to do it properly just don't risk it. SIDS is rare, yes, but that doesn't matter when it's your baby that has died.


Now, what you're all here for. The sleepyhead.

As we've gathered, the sleepyhead WILL, as every single other thing out there will, increase the risks of SIDS. That's a given. By how much, though, we're not sure, because we don't actually know the cause of SIDS. It seems that there are environmental factors, but as of yet research has been unable to show anything more than that. (Something to do with newborn hearing tests is being researched at the moment).

The sleepyhead claims to be air permeable – which means that should an infant place their mouths against the side of the product then they will still be able to breathe in a good amount of air. They won't suffocate on it. Obviously there's been no research into it, the Lullaby Trust and other charities don't research into specific products, though I think it would be a good idea for them to put an anonymous survey out (wishful thinking). It's obviously not ethical for them to actually test these claims.

It also claims to comply with the BS4578 standard for infant pillows. Now, that doesn't mean much to anyone in general, The document is a paid document and so it isn't available to the public. I have managed to get a hold of it, though, and it's really not as comforting as one might think. The BS doesn't actually have any specification within it to manufacture or composition. It simply gives a way that the item should be tested for permeability, and that it should be tested again after being washed and dried. Despite this, I could see no result that the item should come to regarding permeability. I'd show you but it's copyrighted and I don't want that mess.

What I think is quite interesting is that there is no actual standard set for sleeping pods/nests. So sleepyhead is compliant to the standards for a pillow, but it isn't a pillow. And pillows are not recommended for use with children under the age of twelve months. I suppose you can take from that what you will.

When I started writing this I was hoping that the BS document would shed some light on the product, but in all honesty it hasn't. This was meant to be a much longer dissection of it and its safety, the only real information we have is what comes from the company itself and obviously they won't be putting out anything negative into the world.

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