I thought this was a great article discussing the preventative nature of co-sleeping and breastfeeding against SIDS. Check it out!
Night-waking Protects Against SIDS
The first time I heard of the benefits of co-sleeping (or co-sleeping at all, for that matter) was in a class in primate anthropology that I took in college. The professor was talking about the fact that all primates, barring 1st-world humans, slept with their infants, and she mentioned non-co-sleeping as a probable causative factor in SIDS. It has always made sense that the stimulation of sleeping next to the mother would help prevent apnea in infants or simply help to keep them stimulated by the mother's breathing patterns and movement. Thoughts, anyone?
The author says:
"In order for the body to function there must be a balance of just the right amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. In order to maintain this balance, tiny sensor cells called chemoreceptors are located along some major blood vessels. During sleep, the body is particularly dependent on these chemoreceptors to keep breathing going.
"In the first few months, the infant's automatic breathing mechanisms are immature. When watching a sleeping baby breathe, you will notice that his breathing lacks a regular pattern. Periodically he appears to stop breathing, sometimes for as long as ten to fifteen seconds, and then self-starts without any apparent problem. This is called periodic breathing and is normal for the tiny infant. The younger or the more premature the baby, the more irregular the breathing pattern and the more noticeable the periodic breathing. As the baby matures (around six months), breathing patterns during sleep become more regular and periodic breathing lessens. The episodes when the baby stops breathing are called apnea. Sometimes they are prolonged for more than fifteen to twenty seconds, and the heart rate drops significantly (greater than twenty percent). As a response to this sleep apnea, either automatic start mechanisms click on or the infant awakens. Either way, normal breathing resumes.
"Sometimes the apnea is prolonged, and breathing fails to start again. Infants who are hooked up to apnea monitors show signs that the oxygen in the blood is at a dangerously low level: the heart rate becomes alarmingly slow, and the infant turns pale, blue, and limp. An observer must intervene and arouse the infant. Sometimes a simple touch will trigger the self-starting mechanism; sometimes the infant must be aroused from sleep in order to breathe; sometimes mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is necessary to initiate breathing again. Infants who have experienced an apnea episode that required outside intervention to restart their breathing are called near-miss SIDS. In other words, they would have died had someone not intervened. Tragically some infants stop breathing permanently, succumbing to SIDS.
".....Obviously, this [her study] was a very small sample group, from which it is impossible to draw statistically valid conclusions. However, it does suggest a theory that needs further testing: a baby who sleeps next to mother is likely to experience fewer apnea episodes and thus may be at lower risk for SIDS. While again, this is not scientifically tested evidence, I have had many breastfeeding and co-sleeping mothers in my practice tell me that they have noticed that their infants breathe more rhythmically lying next to mother in bed than they do in a crib. One mother, whose baby was monitored with an apnea monitor during sleep because of breathing difficulties, found that the alarm went off frequently when the baby slept alone, but not at all when the baby slept with mother."
Good stuff. When one notices that all primates and all mammals and most humans co-sleep, it becomes harder and harder to dismiss co-sleeping as a valid sleep solution for infants and mothers. Thoughts?