2011.10.26 Baby, grow some fur

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Sometimes I wonder how our children ever made it out of infancy. Actually, I suppose it’s Ben that I wonder about the most. He arrived at his new home with two inexperienced parents and he survived their ignorance. 

Of course that happens over and over again every day of the year all around the world. There must be a lot of natural instinct involved that gets us all through the new experience.

I was thinking about Ben as a baby recently when I received an e-mail about the new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) about the expanded safe sleep guidelines for infants.

Scientists continue to try to understand the puzzling Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). There are several theories, and statistical analysis points to potential problems, but there’s still a lot of unexplained mystery.

Some people are convinced there’s no medical problem at all. It’s simply a matter of poisonous gases from a baby’s mattress. Wrap the mattress and the problem ends, they say.

When I saw this new recommendation:

“Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets, and bumper pads...”

I had to visit the AAP website to see where the organization was located. No blankets in the crib? The AAP must be from California or Florida. Someplace in the south. 

Wrong. The headquarters are located in a Chicago suburb, where it gets plenty cold in the winter. A baby in bed without a blanket? Come on, baby, grow some fur.

This issue brought my son Ben to mind. He was a September baby and soon experienced cold weather. Colleen had read the cautions about responding to babies every time they cry. You don’t want to spoil them.

One night Ben lay in his crib outside our bedroom crying and we tried to ignore him as the crying went on and on. One of us finally decided that this was nuts. Colleen got up and found a baby with his blanket fallen off, crying for some warmth.

He came to our bed and stayed there for a few years until he decided to go off on his own. Ah, the family bed. That’s definitely not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians due to the increased chance of suffocation, but all three of our kids survived it. So did us parents as the children grew and kicked. I think Rosanna was the leading night kicker.

I did a little Googling to see some reactions to the no-blanket rule. Some people tried to clarify the issue: the AAP guidelines are for safe sleep in general. Blankets aren’t part of SIDS, but they can  lead to suffocation. There was a lot of talk about toddlers and their blankets and I soon tired of reading the word “blankey.” Does-um have a widdle blankey? 

I learned about risk-free infant sleep sacks to keep a baby warm at night, so perhaps parents don’t have to keep the furnace blasting away all night for a blanketless crib. And be careful; the AAP also warns against letting your baby get too hot.

It makes you wonder how the human race has survived for so long. Think of the millions of years of human survival before the invention of infant sleep sacks, and before the invention of a furnace.

With our kids long gone, I now worry about SABS (sudden adult breathing stoppage). It’s still a family bed issue, but the family is down to just two people.

Babies are supposed to sleep only on their backs, and then spend ample “tummy time” while awake to prevent “positional plagiocephaly” which is a kinder way to describe a flat head.

I should check the back of my wife’s head because she prefers to sleep like a baby on her back. There’s a problem with that. Every now and then, I’ll be awake and hear her breathing come to a halt. I just give her a little Rosanna kick and her respiratory system kicks in again.

Here are my recommendations for safe sleep:

• Always place your wife on her side for sleeping. 

• A pillow can be used to wedge your wife into remaining on her side.

• Do not allow your wife to sleep sitting up.

• Overheating is fine; wives need more blankets than husbands.

• And even for snoring wives, supervised tummy time is always recommended.

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