By Zoe Butt
As a new mum, I came home from hospital with my tiny bundle of joy, with all of the expectations and knowledge gathered through antenatal courses and books. The problem was, none of that information covered what would turn out to be the most important of all. How to safely bed-share.
Now, this isn’t an article about how to safely bed-share. There are some great resources out there already – if you know where to look. No, this is an article about the real-life impact on new mothers in a Western World that treats bed-sharing with a zero-tolerance attitude.
In those early weeks, my little girl wouldn’t sleep anywhere but on me or in bed with me. I was so scared every night when we went to bed, terrified that I would hurt her. I was asking myself, “why?”. Tired, emotional, upset – I couldn’t fathom it. But everyone knows babies sleep in their cribs, right? Surely only a “terrible mum” would risk bed-sharing and risking their child’s safety?
…this is an article about the real-life impact on new mothers in a Western World that treats bed-sharing with a zero-tolerance attitude.
I had nothing to go on but my own thoughts as to what felt the safest at the time. I hadn’t found the right resources and at this point, I didn’t know where to look. I had already visited the government recommended safe sleep websites but sadly these offered no advice as to how to safely bed-share. This was at the age where she was MOST vulnerable. She was tiny.
I had one of those giant pregnancy pillows that goes the whole way around your body. My husband and I decided this seemed the safest option. I would wedge myself into the pillow and hold my tiny baby on my chest where we would both sleep. Thankfully, no harm came to her and it was okay. But with the knowledge I later gained, I know this wasn’t safe. The point here is that I had a days-old baby, and the reality meant she wouldn’t sleep anywhere else. So, in the absence of proper education being provided to new parents, I had to make my own assumptions. It is no surprise to me that they were wrong.
Thankfully, no harm came to her and it was okay. But with the knowledge I later gained, I know this wasn’t safe.
I spent every waking minute searching for answers that were so hard to find. I am a 35-year-old lawyer with a spirit which drives me to research and dig until I find the answers. I found James McKenna and the Safe Sleep 7. I found La Leche League. I found CoSleepy- a Mum herself providing accurate and accessible safe sleeping information via Instagram. And I learnt, bit by bit by bit what was safe and how to do this. But how many days was my baby placed at risk before I found the right answers?
How many others are at risk because their parents haven’t been able to find the answers, or they didn’t know where to look, or they simply didn’t even know TO look? The real risk to babies isn’t from bed-sharing itself being unsafe. It’s from parents unwittingly practising unsafe bed-sharing because the information and evidence simply isn’t made available to them.