Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Another argument for insurance-backed postpartum support

Have you seen the article about how many parents secretly confess to putting their babies to sleep on their tummies?

The headline calls it a revolt but if you read the article, it sounds more like the proverbial cry for help.

"Increasingly, however, some new parents are finding that the benefits of having babies sleep soundly -- more likely when they sleep on their stomachs -- outweigh the comparatively tiny risk of SIDS. "

Parents are doing anything to get their babies to sleep. Have we not all been there, mothers? How else can you explain going for a drive around town at 3 a.m. with a howling baby in the back seat. Whatever it takes.

But if what it takes has been demonstrated to be a risk factor for death, why do it? After all, we don't take our infants for those graveyard-shift rides without first buckling them into their car seats.

A major factor of why new parents are so desperate for sleep is that they are not getting the postpartum care they need. My guess is the "tummy sleepers" mentioned in the article are not napping when their babies sleep during the day. They are not taking 4-6 weeks postpartum to rest and recover their strength before jumping into work inside and and outside the home.

Dream a dream of post-partum care provided to all new parents: someone they could schedule to help with child care in the middle of the night, someone to help keep the household running during the babymoon, someone to encourage the mother to rest and bond with her baby.

I suspect in that dream world, it would be easier to deal with a baby who balks at sleeping on her back. The need for sleep would not be so great that it outweighed potentially life-saving advice.

I am curious to know, readers, did you put your baby to sleep on her or his belly in his first six months?


Blogger I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

I OFTEN did, but my man boys are almost 21 and the other is 18 now.

Around the the new AAP "guidelines" came out about pacifiers, and when my second guy turned 18, I was blogging about his birth.

I started to look at the photos I pulled out of both the boys births and immediate postpartum, and as they grew.

I was surprised to realized I had photos of them mostly on their back. I think I took more 'cause you could see their face that way. :)

I do remember putting them on their tummy (especially the first one) though around the time number 2 came along back-to-sleep was something I was hearing.


2:10 PM  
Blogger Pink Lady said...

For the first 6 months of my sons life, he slept with me. He hated the cradle, hated the crib. He loved being close, and with all the troubles I had with my c-section, we co-slept in the recliner for the first 6 months. Around that time, he started sleeping in his bouncy seat. He then slept in his swing until he eventually went into a toddler bed, shortly before his 2nd birthday. We're strange folk though :) I always napped when he napped, he was just the type of baby who wanted to cuddle, and I was more then happy to oblige.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Coulter said...

I did, at about 4 1/2 months, when she could roll both directions. I soon as I put her in the crib on her back, she'd roll onto her tummy and wake up in the process. If I put her in on her back awake, she'd roll over too. If I just slid her in on her tummy, she'd stay asleep. The DH and I agonized over it at length, scouring baby books for information. The best we could come up with was that it's OK for them to sleep on their tummies once they can roll, but the discussion of this issue usually appears in the section on six month olds, not four month olds.

There was a period of time (very early) when she would not sleep at all on her back by herself, but I solved it by bringing her into my bed, where she slept on her back next to me.

2:32 PM  
Blogger doulicia said...

We used a side-sleeping positioner (discouraged by the new AAP guidelines), in part because I did not want our sons to have flat heads in back.

Our second son spent a lot of his first few months napping in a bouncy seat, where he slept better than his crib.

And -- confession -- I napped my first weeks postpartum with my boys belly down on my bare chest. They slept so well that way. And my breasts, even when filled with milk, were not large enough to smother them!

Now I guess that's putting them to sleep on their bellies. But somehow I thought I'd know if they were laying on me and stopped breathing. But when I think back on my state of fatigue (yes, I certainly could have used a PP doula), I was probably too zonked to notice anything short of a fire alarm.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Sandy said...

I put them to sleep on their backs. Luckily for me, they slept better that way than any other (though we did family bed it when they were 5-6 months old).

4:12 PM  
Blogger T$ said...

I saw this in the paper last week and tried to post about it. I had trouble finding a link to the article, so I gave up. I KNEW that you would post about it.

With our first, he slept with us for the first 7 weeks, then we found that he slept GREAT in his car seat (positioned next to our bed). Never really put him on his back. With #2 I found she slept best next to me with my nipple in her mouth.

On a side note, I have a friend who is a plastic surgeon who invented a device which helps prevent flat heads in babies. You can find it in those catalogs that all new parents are sent on a regular basis.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Shamhat said...

Well OF COURSE I put my firstborn to sleep on her belly. We were told that babies would spit up, aspirate, and die if they were on their backs! In fact, she slept in the crook of my arm at night, probably on her side.

For the second and third, I really don't recall obsessing over sleeping position. I had a toddler already, so most sleeping was in the sling, the car seat, or, once again, in bed with me.

I do recall being in La Leche League around the time of the changeover, and mothers were frantic about how to stop Grandma, who was afraid of the spit-up-aspirate-and-die thing, from turning the baby over and killing it. Also middle-of-the-night calls at around 4 months--"My baby rolled over! Is she going to die?"

6:12 PM  
Blogger I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...


Sometimes I wish I could repeat all the wonderful memories and re-do things I wish I had done differently--knowing what I know now.

The boys slept with me/us a lot...even though no one told me this and I'd had no exposure to co-sleeping I remembering doing what you said, doulicia, just sleeping with them on my chest or hubby's chest.

Thanks for the memories.

8:38 PM  
Anonymous RG said...

Hm, once my son started napping in the crib by himself, around 3 months, I usually put him on his stomach, although we still put him on his back at night. He really seemed to like it, and we were treating positional torticollis and mild plagiocephaly from three months of sleeping on his back with his head only facing one direction. It seemed a way to kill two birds with one stone: he slept better and his neck got a good stretch. And for some reason, I didn't think he would die during the daytime. Some of my friends really obsessed over SIDS, but it was just never a concern for me. I probably should have worried more. Between trying to recover from surgery (a whole other postpartum health issue) and new parent exhaustion, it never occurred to me to budge that baby. Once he started napping regularly on his stomach, we gradually became more lax about nighttime back-sleeping, and once he could roll over, the effort was finished. Now I'm really glad there was a good reason to use a pacifier all this time.

Of course, any reason to cover post-partum care is good enough for me. Let's use 'em all!

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Ahavah said...

My Ivy is 2 1/2 months, and I'll put her to sleep on her tummy sometimes. She's a tummy-sleeper, and has to be in the sling all the time when she's awake. If I try to put her down on her back, she'll wake up crying right away.

She's been colicky, which I did not have with my first, and I've found she really likes extra pressure on her tummy. If I put her down that way, I'll fold the sling up under her (or a little blanket) and have her cocked up. I don't leave her face down. She also likes to lay propped up on the pillow cushion at my mom's house, with her back patted. It's very firm and keeps her face up well, and she falls to sleep easily like that.

1:19 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

When we were nervous first-time parents the baby slept on his back. Our second baby slept on her back, but in our bed. Our third baby so clearly preferred being on his tummy that we let him. All my babies were big and healthy and clearly thriving, so I didn't worry too much about SIDS. I felt like I was just following the babies' preferences. Was that dumb? I don't know.

2:24 PM  
Blogger punchberry said...

I don't have a baby to put to sleep, but I just wanted to leave a general comment to say how much I enjoy your blog. It is really nice to observe such an honest passion for health care and education. I will come back and visit.

6:48 AM  
Blogger doulicia said...

Note to self: ask questions more often.

It's great to hear from all of you. Thanks for sharing. Clearly "back sleeping" isn't a black and white issue, even for those who know the risks...

Again, thanks.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first wouldn't sleep on his back AT ALL! Would wake up as soon as I tried to lay him down...every.single.time. No amount of post-partum help could have helped that situation...so what we did was put him on his tummy in a basinett in the room with us for naps and until we were ready for bed. Once we went to bed, he slept on his side in our bed. His new little sister seems to be the same.

Great blog, I really enjoy reading it.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was lucky that my son fell asleep fine on his back. I just wanted to chime in that it would be WONDERFUL to have someone to pitch in the first few weeks after childbirth. When my mother came to visit after my son was born, she wouldn't even eat unless I or my husband prepared the meals. We were both exhausted, I didn't know where anything in my kitchen was (I was on bedrest when we moved into our house seven weeks before my son was born).

11:58 PM  
Blogger The Mommy Blawger said...

When our first was born in the hospital - nearly 5 years ago - the nurses put him on his side, propped with rolled-up receiving blankets on either side. We continued doing that. Also a lot of baby sleeping on our chests.

Of course, while co-sleeping and breastfeeding, it seems natural for mom and baby to face each other. But if baby is alone in a crib or basinette, definitely on their back.

12:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really think it's a only a half-truth that tummy sleeping is a risk for SIDS. There are many other factors that aren't being studied.
There is a kind of hysteria out there about this - causing so many of us to try to do things that aren't natural in the name of science. Babies do tend to sleep better on thier tummies - and better in our arms or on our chests, nursing regularly throughout the night, being rocked on our shoulders at nap time...
Just my 3 cents.

Lesley in CA

1:00 PM  

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