My my! There certainly seems to be quite a controversy over cosleeping here in the states. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a statement, or as they called it, a safety alert, warning caregivers of children under 2 years of age not to cosleep1. They issue this statement based on a review of a study of infant deaths, which claims cosleeping as the cause of death for over five hundred children! Sounds like a pretty good reason to put baby in a crib, doesn't it (that's certainly what the cosponsors of the review, Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association want you to think2)?

Let's look at the study a little closer. First of all, this study was conducted over a period of eight years. Five hundred and fifteen deaths in a period of eight years, although quite tragic (especially since those deaths could have been prevented), is nothing to alarm the public about. That comes out to around 65 deaths per year. Each year, cribs kill 50 infants, while injuring twelve thousand infants to the point of hospitalization 3!

According to the study, the cause of death breaks down into four categories.

A Suffocation due to entrapment between mattress and other object. Okay, just like in a crib, you wouldn't put anything in baby's reach which could cause suffocation.
B Suffocation due to baby lying face-down on waterbed. Babies should not be put down to sleep on waterbeds. Not only is the "wave" effect dangerous for helpless creatures, but they could overheat if the temperature is set too high, which leads to a higher risk of SIDS.
C "Strangulation in rails or openings on beds that allow a baby's body to pass through while entrapping the head."
Groups A,B, and C all have broken the guidelines of safe cosleeping!
D Suffocation due to adult/baby cosleeping. "One hundred and twenty one of these deaths occurred because a parent, sibling or caregiver rolled over or onto the sleeping baby, causing suffocation." 1 Wait a minute! That means that people, other than mommy and daddy were sleeping next to the infant. The study doesn't report how many of these parents/caregivers/siblings were under the influence of alcohol, sleep-inducing drugs, etc. nor how many of them were overweight. These are all major factors of risk when cosleeping.

Okay, it's obvious that parents are sleeping with their infants. So, if someone (such as the CPSC or JPMA) really wanted to prevent infant deaths, maybe they should educate the public on correct cosleeping habits. Of course, it's unlikely to happen, because there's no money in cosleeping.

1. News from CSPC. Product Safety Commission.21 June 2004.
2. Alicia Bayer. Consumer Alert: The dangers of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 21 June 2004.
3. The Danny Foundation. 21 June 2004.