The doctor responsible for spearheading Sudden Infant Death Syndrome funding and education since the 1970’s is calling for doctors to stop saying that co-sleeping is dangerous.
Dr. Abraham B. Bergman, who was the first president of the National SIDS Foundation, published an editorial in JAMA Pediatrics,“Bed Sharing per se Is Not Dangerous.”
In it, the respected doctor calls out the American Academy of Pediatrics for making unfounded claims against bed sharing with babies, and calls for consistency in how infant deaths are classified. He writes:
“Since 1998, it appears that medical examiners and coroners are moving away from classifying deaths as SIDS and calling more deaths accidental suffocation or unknown cause, suggesting that diagnostic and reporting practices have changed. Inconsistent practices in investigation and cause-of-death determination hamper the ability to monitor national trends, ascertain risk factors, and design and evaluate programs to prevent these deaths.”
He goes on to say:
“The National Center for Health Statistics receives its information about causes of death from a potpourri of US coroners and medical examiners in 2185 different death investigation jurisdictions. This lack of uniformity means that the personal beliefs of coroners and medical examiners determine the diagnoses written on death certificates.”
Dr. Berman notes that these coroners and medical examiners often mislabel SIDS deaths as accidental suffocation because many of them don’t believe that SIDS is an actual disease entity, and don’t take into account “the devastation this terminology inflicts on the surviving family members.”
He also notes that many doctors themselves practice bed sharing with their babies, writing:
“I detect a note of irony in the AAP’s position. Are we advising our patients against a practice that many of us follow? Colson et al show that bed sharing is reported among 12.2% of caretakers with some college education and 9.2% of caretakers who have graduated from college and/or had post-baccalaureate education. Many pediatricians’ families seem to be among those who ignore the AAP recommendation, with or without guilt.”
Dr. Bergman wrote the editorial in response to advice published elsewhere in the same issue of JAMA Pediatrics against co-sleeping, noting that there was no evidence that co-sleeping was dangerous:
“Elsewhere in this issue, Colson and colleagues report that from 1993 through 2010, the overall trend for US caregivers to share a bed (also known as cosleeping) with their infants has significantly increased, especially among black families. Because of their belief that bed sharing increases infant mortality, the authors call for increased efforts by pediatricians to discourage the practice. I find the report disquieting because evidence linking bed sharing per se to the increased risk for infant death is lacking.”
Bergman ends the editorial with a plea for pediatricians to recommend safe bed sharing, writing:
“Equal time in counseling should be given to the benefits to bed sharing, such as more sleep for the parent, easier breastfeeding when the infant is nearby, ease of pacifier reinsertion, and the intangible satisfaction of skin-to-skin contact. In its admonition against bed sharing, the AAP has overreached.”
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