Tuesday, September 28, 2010

You know you want one.... (Calling All Babywearers!)

Calling all babywearers!

Remember that lovely SweetPod Soft Structured Carrier I made awhile back?  You know, the one with the adorable print on the outside panel, comfy and convenient internal panel, and hidden sleeping hood?  The one that left you wondering where you could get something like it?

Well, you're in luck!

This Saturday, October 2nd, there will be a SweetPod for auction at the Safe Infant Sleep Symposium.  I finished this up this week and can't wait for it to find a good, loving home and a sweet, squishy baby to carry around!

Humor me as I post these pictures - I still haven't acquired a dress form and am making due with my dining room chairs.

Here it is, in all its glory!

You can see the internal panel here.  This panel makes it so you can put baby on and move him/her to your back easily if you want.  The contoured shape of the panel also still allows access for nursing.

And here's the sleeping hood.  An invisible zippered pouch hides it when not in use.

This handmade carrier can be yours for the low, low price of... well, whatever it auctions for.

There's only one way to get this carrier, and that's to come bid on it at the Safe Infant Sleep Sympsoium Saturday.

See you there!

*The SweetPod Soft Structured Carrier is made from this pattern.  Carrying instructions can be found here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Safe Infant Sleep ~ Symposium coming soon!

This is another one of those H got herself into something and now she's going to endorse it posts.  You are officially forewarned. 

So, what are you doing next Saturday?  You know, October 2nd?  Around 12ish?

Nothing?  Great!

Oh, you're doing something?  Well, you're still not off the hook.  The laundry can wait, the grass can be mowed this weekend (it won't grow much next week, I don't think), and the kids can visit with grandma (tell her I said so).

'Cause this is important.

On October 2, 2010 Birth Matters will host Fort Wayne's first Safe Infant Sleep Symposium.  The Symposium is free to the public and will provide evidence-based, up-to-date information and guidelines for safe infant sleep in cribs, bassinets, co-sleepers, and parents' beds.

In addition to the three speakers who will present, the Symposium will feature free giveaway bags to the first 100 families/individuals in the door, as well as giveaway items (Arm's Reach Co-sleeper, anyone?), and a silent auction featuring family friendly products such as Halo Sleep Sacks, co-sleepers, and baby carriers.

Speakers for this event will include Dr. Christopher Tallo, a Fort Wayne Pediatrician; Dr. Robert White, an Indiana Neonatologist; and Dr. James McKenna, Director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, Chair of Notre Dame's Department of Anthropology, member of the SIDS Global Task Force, and consultant to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Safe Infant Sleep.  Whoo!  That's a mouthful!

You're probably asking yourself, What's this all about?  Or Why is H so worked up about this event?

You are in luck: I'm going to tell you.

What's this all about?
In case you weren't aware, Allen County has a ridiculously high infant mortality rate.  Like, crazy high.  For example, among the African American population in Allen County, the infant mortality rate is comparable to several third-world countries.  Last I checked, Allen County was located in a developed nation where people have access to food, shelter, health care, etc., regardless of whether they have any money.  Even if Allen County was far more underpriviledged than the rest of the country, which it isn't, social service programs should fill in a lot of the gaps that contribute to infant mortality.

And yet, we have all these babies dying what are apparently preventable deaths.

Indiana Department of Child Services and an enormous chunk of Indiana officials have decided that a large number of these deaths are occuring because babies are sleeping in unsafe sleep conditions.  I have no idea how they came to that conclusion, but after working with Birth Matters on the symposium and hearing about conversations with local officials, I've no doubt that a lot of babies are dying because they aren't sleeping safely.  And that is a shame, mostly because these babies are so precious and because unsafe sleep deaths are so preventable.

There's a definate, documented need for families in our county to learn more about safe infant sleep.  Birth Matters is stepping up to educate and empower families about their safe sleep options.

Why is H so worked up about this event?
Here's where it gets a little tricky.

You see, when the Indiana Department of Child Services decided to get concerned about unsafe sleep deaths, their approach to preventing these deaths was to tell parents to never, ever, ever sleep with their babies.

Which makes absolutely no sense in light of the fact that in cultures where cosleeping is the norm, SIDS rates are minimal or non-existant.  Did you know, for example, that in China, where cosleeping is taken for granted, SIDS is so rare that they don't even have a name for it.

Now, a lot of babies are dying in Allen County while sleeping with another person.  But these deaths are taking place outside of safe bedsharing guidelines.  For example, of the 13 unsafe-sleep deaths in Allen County last year, one infant was sleeping in a bed with five other children, despite safe bedsharing guidelines that specify that infants should not sleep next to older children.  One infant was sleeping in a bed with nine other children.  Nine.  Multiple infants were sleeping with parents on sofas, which also goes against safe bedsharing guidelines.  Drugs and alcohol were involved in several other deaths, the use of which is advised against in safe bedsharing guidelines.  One of these babies died improperly strapped into a carseat, which isn't even related to bedsharing.  And so on, and so forth.  So it isn't that people should never, ever, ever sleep with their babies - it's that if they want to sleep with their babies, they need to do so in a safe way.

Unfortunately, most people don't know what safe bedsharing guidelines are - if they even know such things exist.  The Department of Child Services campaign last summer did nothing to help with that problem - in fact, they may have made it worse.  A lot of people in this county have no idea that sleeping with a baby on a sofa is much, much more dangerous than sleeping with a baby on a firm mattress, so they just plop down on the couch with baby.  Which is not good at all, for anyone involved.

Birth Matters believes (and I concur) that families have the right to full information about safe infant sleep so that parents can make informed safe sleep choices for their children.  And so, in addition to crib and bassinet safety guidelines (which are completely legitimate sleep spaces, by the way - we utilize a crib as well, so this isn't a crazy, cosleeping elitist thing), this symposium will provide guidelines for safe cosleeping and bedsharing.

H is worked up about this whole thing because she doesn't like to hear that someone's baby died, and because she believes that unless people are educated about their options, they can't make safe sleep choices.  And because she believes that the state is limiting that education and that is hurting babies, and the Symposium is doing something about trying to make that right.

But I'm also worked up about this whole thing because I value my right to choose how and where my child sleeps safely, and because I know that if I don't step up and make a big fuss about it, there's a decent likelihood that I (and parents like me) will lose that right.

Maybe that's way too much information just to promote this Symposium.  But this isn't just something I'm endorsing because I like it or because it seems cool or because it is going to help people or give me the chance to love people better (although those are all true).  I'm endorsing this because it affects my rights as a citizen and because I believe it is my responsibility as a member of this community.  I'm endorsing it because it hits me in a place that you can't hit a parent without getting a reaction - it hits me in the spot where I strive with all of my heart and with all of my very being to care for Norah and raise her up in the best possible way I can - which means she needs to be safe when she sleeps, no matter where she sleeps.

So, if you're not busy Saturday (and we've already established that you're not, right?), come along for the ride.  Hear the guidelines for all kinds of safe infant sleep, empower yourself to make safe sleep choices, get a goody bag (come early!), win a giveaway, bid on an auction item!  Or if nothing on that list interests you in the slightest, just pop in to say hi to me - I'll be there all day!

For more information about the Symposium, visit http://www.safesleepindiana.org/.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Baby, My Bed, My Business

Does anyone remember those shockingly disturbing commercials last summer depicting a father walking through the house with a hand-held video camera intent on videoing his wife and new baby girl sleeping on the couch, only to find that the baby wasn’t breathing?

Anyone remember how at the end of that extraordinarily disturbing PSA was a message telling people to never ever sleep with their babies?

Anyone remember spending a complete 10 seconds in silent shock and disgust before throwing shoes at the television and screaming, That’s bullshit! They aren’t even following safe sleep guidelines! Everyone knows you can’t sleep with a baby on a couch! Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit!! while your husband contemplated whether to physically restrain you before you found something heavier to lob at his television?

Anyone? Or was that just me?

I’m a bedsharing parent. What that means is that Norah has spent a decent chunk of her nights nuzzled into our bed, sleeping right beside me. Despite the indications of the Indiana Department of Child Services’ disturbing and extremely misleading PSA last summer, Norah has never gotten wedged between the cushions of my couch, smothered under a pillow, overheated by heavy blanets, rolled over on, or fallen to her death from my bed. No one has squished her, smothered her, tangled her up in the sheets, or forgotten she was there. She has been quite safe, sleeping in my bed.

Norah has never once been in anything that even remotely resembled danger in my bed, in large part because D and I religiously follow established safe bedsharing guidelines. This might seem like a no-brainer, but safe bedsharing guidelines basically outline all the things you should/shouldn’t do before you bring your baby to bed with you, so that hazards to your baby can be eliminated and your baby can be safe in bed with you.

They aren’t crazy requirements, either. No one is asking you to sleep on a bamboo mat on the floor of a bomb shelter, with the building facing east and a voodoo priestess safety spell firmly in place. It’s normal, common sense stuff – don’t sleep with your baby on a waterbed or couch, don’t put a bunch of squishy pillows by your baby’s head, don’t sleep with your baby stone cold drunk.

It’s possible these might be paraphrased.

There are more guidelines, and they are all reasonable, normal sounding, achievable things.  And generally, they keep babies safe. I personally have never heard of a case where a bedsharing infant died and parents were following all of the safe sleep guidelines. Which is not to say it doesn’t happen, but that it seems to me that if it happened very frequently, I would have heard of one. Every infant death I’ve ever heard of that was related to parent/infant sleep sharing involved infractions on safe bedsharing guidelines.

So when DCS aired their ever-so-misleading campaign against parent/infant sleep sharing, that did not fly with me. At all.

It is difficult enough being a bedsharing parent in a culture where bedsharing isn’t the norm.

It is difficult listening to people suggest to you that you might be stunting your child’s emotional growth, or that you sleep with your baby because there’s something psychologically wrong with you, or to hear people tell you you’re “asking for (your baby) to die”.

It is difficult to be put on trial over and over for parenting the best way you know how, just because it’s different from other people.

It is difficult to repeatedly clench your jaw, close your eyes, count to 5, force a smile, and non-confrontationally explain the benefits of bedsharing and the safe bedsharing guidelines to people who have more-or-less accused you of child endangerment.

All of that is already difficult. But when the state steps in and tells everyone that you’re parenting the wrong way, and, what’s more, they’ve used an outrageously unsafe example that not even the most hard-core bedsharing advocate would ever consider, that’s just enraging. Completely enraging.

I have to be honest here, I’m slightly pissed off about the whole thing.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t set out to bedshare. I bought a crib and set it up. I borrowed my grandmother’s bassinet – the one my mother slept in as a baby and borrowed from her mother for me to sleep in as a baby. I got swaddle blankets and a crib aquarium and borrowed “The Happiest Baby on the Block” video from the library. I got sleeping wedges to make baby feel snug. I was set.

But that didn’t really work out for me. My baby turned out to be higher needs than I anticipated. If you set her down awake she screamed bloody murder. If you set her down asleep, she slept… for 15 minutes. Literally. 15 minutes. I could set my watch by her. No amount of swaddling, heating up the bassinet sheets, gentle, gradual transfers to the bassinet, or white noise would keep this baby asleep for more than 15 minutes. I read every book I could find, scoured the internet, implemented every solution that seemed safe to me, and still she would not sleep. It was pure hell.

And so, I did what any desperate parent would do – I called someone who knows more stuff than me and asked for advice. Hallie from Birth Matters showed up at my door with 2 books, a giant list of resources, and advice to look through everything and make a decision that would work best for my family.

We started bedsharing that night.

Once Norah started sleeping next to me, she slept for hours. Hours. And when she woke it barely disturbed me – I’d just cuddle her, nurse her and drift back to sleep. It was like I’d traded my newborn in for an entirely different baby. People would ask me how she was sleeping and I’d open my mouth to respond that she was sleeping through the night, and then realize that she wasn’t actually sleeping all the way through – it just felt like it because we were so seldom awake for more than just a few moments here and there.

Bedsharing was a lifesaver for me. We slept, we nursed more happily and easily at night, we got to cuddle more, Norah cried less. Despite the claims of DCS, I felt better about her safety once she started sleeping with me, having read about the causes of SIDS and the ways that mothers’ and babies’ bodies react to one another during sleep. Norah wouldn’t forget to breathe and never wake up; she would be prompted by my breathing to start up again. She wouldn’t get into a deep sleep where she couldn’t rouse herself; she would stay in a lighter, safer stage of sleep and rouse simultaneously with me. Call it God or call it evolution – babies seem to have been designed to sleep next to their mommas.

I was happier. Norah was happier. Norah was safer. And, the thing that I think ties this all together for me, it felt right. Human intuition is a powerful thing.

Once we started bedsharing, I was so happy about how sleep was going for us. But on the flip side, I was also so incredibly angry that for 3 weeks I’d struggled and cried and fretted when I could have cuddled and napped and spent sweet time getting to know my baby better.

Nothing feels very good or works very well when you’re getting 15 minute stretches of sleep, and that includes new mommyhood. I was absolutely furious that those first 3 weeks had been so unnecessarily difficult. I didn’t even know who exactly I was furious at – the hospital that had signs up on the walls instructing me not to sleep with my baby?; the media that said I’d kill her if I snuggled up with her at night?; the baby sleep products supposedly designed to keep baby safe, which seem more likely designed to turn a profit? I was just furious that all these powers-that-be imposed themselves on the initial weeks of motherhood and made it so hard for me.

The subsequent campaign by DCS when Norah was 6 months old did not make me any happier. It would be safe to say it made me even more angry than I already was. And it continues to make me angry that people do not have ready access to information about safe bedsharing.

The problem is, if you don’t know what the safe bedsharing guidelines are – or if you don’t even know safe bedsharing guidelines exist – it makes it awful hard to follow them. This is what really irks me about DCS and their campaign – that families who could otherwise safely bedshare are now engaging in unsafe sleep practices because they don’t know safe bedsharing is an option.

Did you know, for example, that there are people I am related to who believe it is safer to put a baby to sleep on their stomach than to sleep with the baby in bed? And so their babies are sleeping alone on their stomachs; the single greatest SIDS risk factor that I’m aware of, while they remain blissfully unaware that in cultures where bedsharing is the norm, SIDS rates are miniscule or non-existent.

In essence, DCS is putting babies at risk by demonizing parent/infant sleep sharing and refusing to acknowledge safe bedsharing guidelines.

Correction: DCS is putting babies in my family at risk.

I am not currently a fan of DCS. I rather like the babies in my family, and very badly want to see them stay safe.

I’m not advocating for people to sleep with their babies at any time, in any place, under any condition. Clearly, there are situations that aren’t conducive to safe infant sleep.

I’m not advocating for people to sleep with their babies at all, actually. If people want to, and can safely do so, I’m happy to lend advice or talk about my experiences. But bedsharing isn’t for everybody. Some people don’t want to bedshare; some can’t implement the safety guidelines. Whatever. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Some babies like bassinets. Some babies hate them. Some parents can’t stand being away from their babies all night. Some parents can’t stand being touched all night. It’s an individual thing.

I’m not advocating for any particular sleep solution for any particular family, except to say that whatever families choose they should implement safely.

I don’t want to make every family sleep the way my family sleeps. What I do want is for safe bedsharing guidelines to be readily available to the public, the same way that safe crib sleeping guidelines are.

What I want is for the wide base of research supporting safe bedsharing to be acknowledged and accepted, the same way crib safety research is acknowledged and accepted.

What I want is for our officials to recognize the difference between safe and unsafe bedsharing, the same way they recognize the difference between safe and unsafe crib sleeping.

What I want is for our officials to believe that families are intelligent enough to make safe sleep choices when given full information.

What I want is for my researched, deeply thought out choices to be validated as the legitimate choices that they actually are.

Is that too much to ask?