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All mothers are not Kate Middleton.

November 1, 2016

Good news, all you new mothers out there!  Now you have something else to feel guilty about, because you needed one more thing to feel guilty about!  You already know that you baby must be put to sleep on his back in a crib with a firm mattress and no pillows, blankets, toys, or bumpers.   What, that sounds uncomfortable?  Your baby can’t sleep like that and screams bloody murder all night?  Did you know that you baby now has to share your bedroom?  For a year? Fun times!

Yes, folks, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in its infinite wisdom, has created a new recommendation in the list of things parents should do to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: (https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Safe-Sleep-Recommendations-to-Protect-Against-SIDS): 

  • Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.
  • Avoid use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare.
  • Share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months. Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.
  • Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.

SIDS is a serious problem, I get it.  More than 3,000 babies age 1 and under died of SIDS in 2010.  That’s not nothing.  If you are a parent to whom this tragedy has struck, you have burden that will last you your whole life.  It’s horrible.  However, for a little perspective, 4 million babies were born in 2010.  Now I suck at math, but 3,000 divided by 4,000,000 is… mumble mumble…divide by 2… scratch head… carry the 1… that’s like, what, 0.0005%?  The all-cause infant mortality rate in 2010 was 0.2%.  So clearly there are other dangers for infants in the first year of life besides SIDS.  Here are two:

Post-partum depression – According to the CDC, an estimated 15% of new mothers will have some degree of post-partum depression, or roughly 600,000 women per year.  The American Psychological Association (APA) lists some risk factors for PPD including… wait for it.. Yes! The stress of caring for a newborn! (http://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression.asp). The Mayo clinic says that:

When you’re sleep deprived and overwhelmed, you may have trouble handling even minor problems. You may be anxious about your ability to care for a newborn. You may feel less attractive, struggle with your sense of identity or feel that you’ve lost control over your life. Any of these issues can contribute to postpartum depression. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/basics/causes/con-20029130)

Uh huh.  And what are the consequences of PPD on children?  The American Academy of Pediatrics itself can tell you: (https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Managing-Maternal-Depression-Before-and-After-Birth.aspx)

Maternal postpartum depression can have serious adverse effects on the mother and child relationship, resulting in an environment that can disrupt the infant’s development. Infants who live in a neglectful or depressed setting are likely to show delays in development and impaired social interaction.

Sleep deprivation – Studies have shown that staying awake for just 17 to 19 hours straight impacts performance more than a blood-alcohol level of .05 percent (the level considered legally drunk in most western European countries). This level of impairment slows an individual’s reaction time by about 50 percent compared to someone who is well rested. Twenty-four hours of continuous wakefulness induces impairments in performance equivalent to those induced by a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 percent, beyond the legal limit for alcohol intoxication in the United States. Sleep deprivation may also impair learning, memory, alertness, concentration, judgment, problem solving and reasoning, as well as increase your risk of accidents. To make matters worse, lack of sleep hinders your ability to realize that your own performance is impaired, making you think you’re functioning well when you probably aren’t. healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/…/judgment-safety

I’m not discounting SIDS, nor am I questioning the accuracy of the AAP.  I’m sure their data is solid.  And in a perfect world, like in Kate Middleton’s for example, where childcare is plentiful and there is a hairdresser on call, I’m sure all mothers could blissfully adhere to this most recent instruction.  However, this is not a perfect world, nor is it the world of parenting in the 19th century, and thank goodness for that.  Mothers now work, their own extended family is far away, childcare is expensive, breastfeeding is hard when you’re away from home all day, there is no maternity leave.  Pressure from voices of authority like the AAP are just not terribly helpful.  By the way, this is not the first time that AAP recommendations have defied reality.  In 2011 the organization decided that kids should ride in rear-facing car seats until at least age 2 or to the weight limit of the seat, causing millions of parents to watch as their child’s legs grow slowly up toward the ceiling.  The breastfeeding recommendations have resulted in a profitable industry for Medela and the now-common sound of whirring and squirting, with the occasional “MOO”, from the bathroom stall next to you in the women’s restroom at work.  Breastfeeding, of course, also helps prevent SIDS, but even there you have to be careful.  Here is a hilarious quote from the AAP website:

“If you are feeding your baby and think that there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair,” said Lori Feldman-Winter, MD, FAAP, member of the Task Force on SIDS and co-author of the report.
“If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed.” 

Are you F*&^% kidding me?

 

 

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3 Comments
  1. Love this!!! So true! The AAP means well, but new moms are killing themselves to “do the right thing”, which in reality can vary greatly from family to family. I see a lot of moms and do a lot of counseling along the lines of “if it’s right for you and your baby, it’s the right thing to do”. In the end, risks/ benefits are a wash and moms need to feel sane and supported.

  2. FYI I cross- posted to my blog

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