Wednesday, September 19, 2012

No sleep till... who the hell knows?

Posted By on Wed, Sep 19, 2012 at 1:37 PM

It’s been a rough couple of nights at the Arreaza household. Luki has a sinus infection that keeps him up at all hours of the night coughing, and Pau has recently figured out how to roll over onto his back, a skill he only likes to practice between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

Confession: I put baby Pau to sleep on his tummy.


If you haven’t had a kid in the past two decades, you probably don’t see anything controversial about the previous sentence. However, if you’ve given birth recently, then you know that putting your kid to sleep on his stomach is tantamount to sentencing him to sudden infant death. At least that’s what all the baby books, and the hospital nurses, and the childcare educators at the “how to keep your baby alive” class tell you.

You see, in 1994, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development launched the “Back to Sleep” campaign after discovering that having infants sleep on their backs reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. And, since the campaign was launched, the incidence of SIDS has declined by more than 50 percent. Putting babies to sleep on their backs has become standard practice.

The thing is... babies sleep better on their tummies. When their limbs are tucked in under their bodies, they are less likely to wake up by their uncontrollable reflexes. Parents have known this for generations, and Tony and I both slept on our stomachs, as did most American children who were born before 1994. Needless to say, when babies sleep better, parents sleep better, and there’s nothing, and I mean nothing, more important to new parents than sweet, sweet, slumber.

I looked at the numbers and found that, while it’s true that putting a baby to sleep on his back reduces the risk of SIDS by 50 percent, there’s still only about a 1 in a 1,000 chance that a baby will suddenly die even if he’s on his tummy. That means that baby Pau has a 99.9 percent chance of waking up each morning. And to me, those are pretty good odds.

We put him to sleep on his belly because it helps everybody rest better, but also because it fits in with our overall parenting philosophy, which can be summarized in one word: faith.

Look, if I were to buy into the mountain of statistics out there about all the hardships that can befall my child, I would be paralyzed by fear. There are car crashes and childhood cancers, random allergies and bathtub drownings, freak accidents and kidnappings... and they all have a one in a something chance of happening. Parenting in the age of Google makes us hyper-aware of all these dangers and it's easy to fall into a trap of anxiety and constant monitoring to make sure your kid hasn't forgotten how to breathe. But the truth of the matter is that we all have a one in a something chance of being here today and gone tomorrow, no matter how many precautions we take.

So, instead of spending my time worrying about every little thing that could go wrong, I do what works best for us as a family. And I keep the faith in God that things will turn out alright... and that somehow, some way, I will sleep through the night again.

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