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Confession of A Co-Sleeper, A Cautionary Tale

May 26, 2015

I Should Know Better

I have been at Owlet since the beginning. After about a year of being at Owlet, my wife and I got pregnant. So I, unlike many parents, knew waaay more about babies, birth, and sleep than your average pre-parent. Working in such a tender industry, I also knew a lot about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, and safe sleep habits. I would read hundreds of sad stories about infants who had been accidentally suffocated in many different ways or who had passed away in their sleep from SIDS. So when it came to choosing safe sleep with my newborn son James, I should have known better.

Bad Habits from the Hospital

It all started in the hospital after our son was born. The nurse let my wife sleep with James in her arms. I remember thinking “You are a NURSE! You should know better!” After the nurse left I picked my child out of my wife’s arms and put him back in his clear sleeping pod next to my wife’s hospital bed. Feeling like I had done the right thing, I went back to sleep on the couch in our hospital room. After being woken up to feed our screaming baby 7 more times in the night, the nurse came in and helped my wife, but this time she said “Daddy needs some snuggle time too” The nurse picked up our little boy and brought him over to the couch that I had made into my bed. I started to sit up and she said, “No it’s ok,” and she laid him next to me. This time, the nurse’s actions, even though they were wrong, were very different. It felt so right to have my son a few inches away so that I could protect him. Instead of feeling that helplessness as he lay alone in his hospital bassinet, I felt secure, like I could control and prevent any problems. It felt like I was fulfilling a sort of primal urge by sleeping close to my son.

When my wife and I came home we set up the bedside bassinet, but the first night he only lasted a few minutes in there. “We have a king sized bed!” we justified. “We have slept with Marley for 2 years, and never rolled on top of her!” (Marley is our 4lb Yorkie-Chihuahua that had shared the bed with us since she was just a puppy.) We told ourselves: “Just for the first few nights”. It felt so right to co-sleep that I looked online for any kind of research that supported co-sleeping. We justified a lot so that my conscience would let me sleep (or I guess, co-sleep…). I did not tell anyone at Owlet that my wife and I co-slept. In fact, many of them will find out for the first time by reading this blog post.

The Big Realization

Owlet paid for my wife and I to have a Dropcam wifi-connected camera because in the early days of testing the Owlet Monitor we wanted to go back and see what baby was doing in the case of an alarm. The Dropcam was also fun to have and see how we all slept at night (my wife felt vindicated that she could finally prove that I sometimes snore at night). One morning, I faintly remembered that during the night I had picked up the baby and moved him on my side of the bed, and then put him right back in between my wife and I. It felt like it all happened in less than a minute. When I checked the Dropcam the next morning I was appalled at what I had done in the middle of the night! It turns out, that I had not moved him for a few seconds and put him back. I was actually in some kind of sleep-walking- baby-moving-state that lasted a large part of the night! Here is what I had done:

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 10.17.47 AM

I remember picking him up and moving him. My sleepy self had a good reason for it as well. Although, I can’t remember that reason anymore to be honest:

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 10.18.39 AM

Now this next part I have no recollection of doing. What really freaked us out is that I kept him on my chest for about 30 minutes! After reading hundreds of accounts of SIDS and co-sleeping suffocations, I know that soooo many things could have gone wrong in this situation.

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 10.19.19 AM

Now I do remember putting him on this side of the bed. That is all I thought I had done though, and I thought it only lasted a few seconds.

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 10.19.47 AM

I put my son back where he was after about an hour and a half, but then what freaked me out, even more, was that our dog Marley had even jumped in the bed! We had not been letting her in our room at nights ever since I had read an article of a cat cuddling up to a newborn for warmth and suffocating it. To our knowledge, this sneaky dog had never been this close to our son James while he was sleeping. This of course freaked us out even more.

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 10.24.33 AM

That was the last night that our son co-slept with us. Looking back, I feel like an irresponsible parent. I wanted to co-sleep for me, not for him. I did it because it made ME feel safer, and it made ME feel warm and cuddly, not because it was safer for my son.

We never used extra bedding or let my son sleep on his stomach but those are just parts of safe sleep. Now after this experience, I am a proponent of ALL the safe sleep guidelines. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has reviewed multiple studies on SIDS and accidental suffocations, there might be a lot of debate as to what is the cause of SIDS, but every organization agrees on the ABC’s of safe sleep, because it reduces SIDS and accidental suffocations.

Have your child sleep Alone on his Back and in a Crib.

abc

[clickToTweet tweet=””every organization agrees that the ABCs of safe sleep save infant lives” www.owletcare.com/blog ” quote=”every organization agrees that the ABCs of safe sleep save lives”]

I know co-sleeping is a really touchy subject and so I don’t judge those of you who choose to do it. I did it too! I completely understand that deep need to be close and feel like you are protecting your child. However, I hope you take a minute to consider my story, the risks, and the research that has gone into discovering safe sleep.

This was a really embarrassing story to share. I almost did not do it, but it is not often that moments like this are caught on camera. I felt this was a compelling story that could help people make safer decisions. Most examples of why people should not co-sleep are too traumatic and depressing to share, because there is often a loss of an innocent little life. Please share this article so that more people can realize the risks of co-sleeping. 

 

*Readers have pointed out that some parents, while in an attempt to not co-sleep with their child, end up sleeping on the couch or recliner with their child instead. However, this is significantly MORE dangerous than bed sharing. I hope my post does not steer parents toward co-sleeping in a chair or couch. *

** I have gotten some feedback that above I use the term co-sleeping a little too broadly.  Newborn bassinets that are close to mom and dad’s bed is still technically co-sleeping even though it is a lot safer than bed-sharing. I am not talking about using a bassinet in my post above. Remember though, a crib is the safest place for your child to sleep and is recommended by the AAP **

***Remember, Owlet is not a SIDS monitor. Always choose safe sleep. Owlet does not function properly if you co-sleep with your child. See our disclaimer here.*

Author Info

Jordan Monroe

Jordan is a co-founder and lead experience designer at Owlet. He is the proud parent of a smiley little boy named James and a 5 lb. chorkie named Marley. Part scientist-part dreamer, Jordan loves working on making the Owlet Vision a reality (I promise they didn't pay me to say that).

Products in this Article

The Smart Sock comfortably wraps around your baby’s foot to track heart rate and oxygen levels using clinically-proven pulse oximetry. The base station glows green to let you know everything is okay but will notify with lights and sounds if something appears to be wrong.

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54 thoughts on “Confession of A Co-Sleeper, A Cautionary Tale

pinuppenny@gmail.com'

L & R

Extremely odd that all of this movement occurs with dad, baby and dog, yet in every photograph, mom lays in exact same position over this period of time, unresponsive to baby. I find this more alarming than anything else in this narrative. As stated before by other commenters, dads are not in the mix of safe co-sleeping, nor should the baby ever be placed between both parents with all of those blankets everywhere. Cribs have only been a common household item since the 19th century in western cultures, yet the planet has remained populated since human existence with co-sleeping practices… Co-sleeping is not for everyone. When discussing this controversial topic, it is important to holistically examine global, peer-reviewed research, not just one or two studies by one organization. The rest of the world has been doing just fine with this being primary practice.

We have had the Owlet since we brought our micropreemie home after 66 days in the NICU, best purchase ever.

Anonymous

Disagree, cosleeping is so beneficial if you do it the right way … just like buckling your child in correctly …. unnecessary blog in my opinion .. no offense.

Anonymous

Your wife was pregnant, not you.

aguilar.naytee@gmail.con'

N. A

I breast fed my daughter. She slept in her own crib. I woke up to nurse her and fell asleep while she was nursing. I woke up to her lifeless in the bed right next to me. Her father was no where near her, the blanket was no where near her. So for the people saying breast feeding mother are more in turn or cosleeping prevents SIDS you need to read all the research. You are completely wrong. And all research does follow the ABC’s. Co sleeping is not worth the ricks. I now have 4 other children, breast fed them all and not one has ever slept not one second in my bed. Guess what they all cried at first and we spent several sleepless nights but eventually they slept and I slept.

annvdb@live.be'

Ann

I am a sleepwalker and a sleeptalker… so I would definitely keep my baby in a crib when we have one. I wouldnt feel safe because I filmed myself multiple times sleepwalking and its just not safe. I jump up super fast, I open certains, I go to another part of the bed ettc…

melanie.bae@icloud.com'

Melanie

Baby in between two parents, the blanket, the dog…this is when co-sleeping becomes dangerous.

Minekac@hotmail.com'

Mineka

So I’d love a recommendation on what to do. I am not a fan of cosleeping, because I want my baby to be as safe as possible, and pre birth I was a very mobile sleeper.
The last half week she’s been cosleeping with me, not just bed sharing, but she’s been falling asleep at the breast. Everytime I try to move her to her crib, two feet away, she wakes up and guides and eventually cries in under five minutes. She’s got a clean diaper, is fed (bottle until she says no) but still won’t sleep in her bed. Swaddling and white noise maker don’t seem to help.
The only way I’ve gotten sleep, and it’s terrible sleep, is by letting her use me as a pillow. I’m horrified she’s going to get smothered, but all she does is cry in the crib. She just doesn’t fall asleep in it!

bullet_chick@yahoo.com'

Holly

If research had been done you probably would have discovered that the husband isn’t supposed to be sleeping near the baby anyway. It’s only recommended for breastfeeding mothers because they tend to be more aware. There are many studies by other reputable sources that say bedsharing within certain guidelines is fine- if not safer and better for baby. Many other cultures bedshare and they have lower SIDS rates.
Dr. James McKenna has excellent articles on the topic.

Anonymous

Get the book ” The secrets of the baby whisper” Tracy Hoggs

That one person

It’s not s at e for breastfeeding mom at all ether I know a person who did this and she bedsheets becouce of thar reason and she lost her baby not safe at all so don’t suggest it

Sarah

I had to take my shirt I had worn that day and used it to swaddle my new born. Once my scent was wrapped around him safely I was able to sneak out and go to my own bed while I kept waking to look a t his monitor.

Doug

Wow, this was a pretty interesting story. My sister is adamant about co-sleeping, I get it because nothing is funner than cuddling with your baby, but probably is not worth the risk like you said.

angeladlanham@yahoo.com'

Angela

Thank you for sharing!

Jordan Monroe

Thanks for reading! 🙂

michaelaglade@yahoo.com'

Michaela

Hmm, I don’t agree. Co sleeping is a good thing and actually reduces risk of SIDS . One thing I can say us daddy is not as in tune to baby as mommy. I co sleep but. I never let my husband. He sleeps separately. My baby is now 14 months, still co sleeping and it’s great. Works for our family. This seems like an extreme case and looks like you are overly heavy sleepers. Odd.

As for the dog. The bedroom door should be closed with dog outside of the the door..come on.

Jordan Monroe

Michaela,
I know this is an extreme case, but just about every case where an infant is ACTUALLY suffocated is an “extreme case”. These are out-of-the-norm situations where obviously what mom and dad thought was going to happen that night did not happen and a tragedy occurred instead. Our dog usually did sleep on the other side of the door somehow that did not happen that night. It is these kinds of unexpected situations that lead to tragedy. Around 4,000 infants pass away from suffocation each year. Only 200 infants pass away from car accidents each year. You would never drive without a carseat would you? No it is just not worth the risk. Some how this risk mentality does not shift over to co-sleeping. I felt this message would help describe a risk that is really hard to illustrate. I don’t judge people who co-sleep, I have obviously been there and felt that deep need to be close to your child. I just want there to be less families seeing tragedies because of this bad habit. Sorry this went a little long, I hate to come off as an alarmist but if you had to read the stories and emails that from parents like I have, you would feel the need to share this message too.

Anonymous

You should really do more research before writing something so broad. Look into the actual number of cases of SIDS or infant suffocation in cosleeping situations that do not involve a parent that smokes or drinks. There are sleep studies that show how cosleeping mothers and babies are incredibly attuned to each other. Further look into the frequency of cosleeping in other countries/cultures and you will see that it is a norm and a non more lethal one to boot. Terrible things do happen but there are very simple and easy and readily available best practices to ensure safe cosleeping. Denouncing an entirely healthy and common practice does nothing but enhance mommy wars (and Daddy wars) in this case. I feel even greater outrage because you work in an industry specifically aimed advising parents on child and infant care.

Jordan Monroe

Hey there,

The research is cited in this article. For decades the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has done research and supported the ABCs of safe sleep as shown above. I am not trying to incite a “War” at all. I don’t judge or demean those who chose to co-sleep in my blog post. I completely understand both sides. I hope that people who are considering whether or not to co-sleep can look at my story, the research, and make the right decision.

breeaj32@gmail.com'

Anonymous

Yes, thank you! I work in a job where I come across sad endings and I have never ever had a baby who died due to co sleeping. It has been any number of other things-blankets in pack n plays, unsafe, outdated or recalled cribs, unattentive or intoxicated parents but never once in over 10 years in a major metro area have I seen a baby die due to co sleeping. Not one time. Co sleeping can easily be done safely, and the number of babies I have seen die in a room alone where no one noticed them for hours is scary. This article is disappointing and makes assumptions based on one family’s experience.

michellejanicki2015@yahoo.com'

Michelle

I agree with you. My husband sleeps in the bed with my son and I but I’m extreamly well aware of my baby when I’m asleep. I wake up anytime by husband moves or rolls over and I put my hand up to make sure he doesn’t get close to the baby. He’s never come close but I’m always ready if he does. I’m a light sleeper and even more so now that my baby is here. I don’t think co sleeping is bad. I feel my son and I have a very very strong bond because I always hold him and he’s always with me. I’m a firm believer that you can’t spoil a baby. He needs love and affection. Nothing wrong with giving it to him.

takeachanse@gmail.com'

Chanse Carlson

Great article to remind us parents that baby’s sleep better alone!!

Lacey Pappas

Thanks Chanse!

Maria

We’ve been successfully co-sleeping for almost ten months now! I had similar scares with our cat though, he loved to sleep on my chest and found out that the baby was just as warm. Fortunately I somehow became aware of everything that happened surrounding my daughter when we slept and I would wake up to fix the situation. I’d shoo away the cat, and a few times even woke my husband to tell him he was sleeping to closely to her. We’re onto the next transition to the crib now though!

jeniyang@gmail.com'

Jeni

No offense, but I noticed that the mom didn’t move/react in the stills that you posted, and I found this odd. Breastfeeding moms are hormonally and psychologically very attuned to even slight movements of their sleeping babies (unless under the influence or taking drugs). Dads don’t have this evolutionary benefit and therefore bedsharing research advises against having dads sleep w baby and breastfeeding mom.

pamnyjane43@yahoo.com'

Pam Carlson

I wish I had that device when my children were babies!

Jordan Monroe

Thanks Pam!

kymb3r@gmail.com'

Kimberly

I’ve been waiting on the Owlette since August of 2012.. I wish I had the chance to use it before my baby grew up. Now I have another baby he’s 8m. Is this device finally available for purchase yet?

Jordan Monroe

Hey Kimberly,Thanks for following us for so long! My son is 8 months old as well! Yes you can purchase one on our website! Should take about a week and a half to arrive because we are a little backed up on orders. 🙂

lexijo@rocketmail.com'

Lexi

Thank you for sharing your story. My husband and I also coslept with our first and now when I think about it, it was a horrible idea for many reasons. Obviously the most important one being it just wasn’t safe for her. But she is now 20 months and we are having the hardest time trying to get her to sleep in her own bed in her own room. Being a first time parent at the time I felt like I was protecting her and it was easier so I could feed her as well. Now that we have our second we have her sleep in her bassinet in our room. Not only because we know it’s the safest and best place for her to sleep but I personally feel like I in a way “ruined” our first because I had her sleep with us and now she won’t go to sleep on her own. Co sleeping is just not a good idea for anyone and I have certainly learned my lesson.

Jordan Monroe

Thanks Lexi! We did sleep training for our son at 5 weeks (Babywise method) and while it was hard to move him that early we quickly realized that it was good for my wife and I to have some time to ourselves and build our relationship while baby was sleeping. A lot of people’s relationships struggle after their baby is born for this reason. It worked for us and we plan on doing it in the future with our other children.

rebeccaworthington11@yahoo.com'

Rebecca Worthington

Ironically, Babywise has been condemned by the AAP for being linked to failure to thrive.

http://m.aapnews.aappublications.org/content/14/4/21.abstract

Jordan Monroe

I wish we would have known about that before! We probably would have rethought Babywise sleep training. Luckily our son has been growing like a weed being in the 95th percentile all his life ;). “Condemned” might not be the right phrase though. This is one research paper that is not put out by the AAP however it is on a news site for members of the AAP. I am not saying there could be more papers, but if you are comparing it to their stance on co-sleeping then it is important to point out that this is one study done and their stance on co-sleeping comes from tons of studies compiled together and then they published guidelines as a group. I just wanted to be sure to point out that this is different than the findings of one paper. Again, I wish my wife and I would have known about this before, we would have thought twice about it. Thanks for sharing!

jared@owletcare.com'

Jared

Wow thank you so much for sharing this story!

Jordan Monroe

Glad you like it 🙂

rebeccaworthington11@yahoo.com'

Rebecca

Co-sleeping has been found through numerous scientific studies to be extremely beneficial, but only under very specific circumstances involving a breastfeeding mother-infant pair. Sleeping with an animal, with a non-breastfeeding parent including a father or between two parents is certainly NOT safe, but your article incorrectly implies that all co-sleeping and/or bed-sharing is dangerous. Please do your research before suggesting this. There is definitely a safe way to co-sleep and/or bed-share and an unsafe way, but it is erroneous to state that ALL co-sleeping and bed-sharing are inherently unsafe.

http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-not-and-should-not-sleep-alone/

Jordan Monroe

I appreciate your comment Rebecca. Thanks for sharing. Just as there is a danger in making a blanket statement that ALL co-sleeping is unsafe. There is also a danger in making the statement that some co-sleeping is ok and some is not. There is a lot of research with a lot of findings. The American Academy of Pediatrics filters through all of these studies and they suggest the ABC’s of safe sleep that I restated below. I appreciate your link and am excited to read up on this research.

rebeccaworthington11@yahoo.com'

Rebecca

Thanks for your response. However, with all due respect, that is EXACTLY what I am saying: some co-sleeping IS safe, and some co-sleeping isn’t. I hope you will read the information I linked to with an open mind; I think you may be surprised. Whether or not the AAP has caught on yet, there are numerous recent peer-reviewed studies that suggest the same thing: co-sleeping between a breastfeeding mother-infant pair is not only safe, but EXTREMELY beneficial. In fact, pulse oximetry consistently shows far more regular heart rates and higher blood oxygenation levels in infants sleeping with their (breastfeeding) mothers than infants sleeping alone in cribs. The physiological differences are profound. (These studies also suggest that fathers or non-breastfeeding mothers should sleep in the same room as, but not on the same surface as their infants.)
Again, I appreciate your response, even though I respectfully disagree with your opinion, and I can certainly understand how frightened you must have been by your personal experience. I hope you will continue to explore the research though, because it is actually quite fascinating and compelling.

Jordan Monroe

Can’t wait to read it. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

media@babybassinetsplus.com'

Huldah Mitchell-Simpson, Ed.D

Don’t beat up on yourself too much. Just be thankful that baby Marley did not get hurt. In some cultures co-sleeping is a common occurrence. an acquaintance of mine, her baby would cry all night when she was placed in her crib. She eventually had to do co-sleeping which worked for them.

Jeremy

My first day as an ER doctor I took care of an unfortunate case of co-sleeping and the child died. please be careful. I remember very well all the children that I have taken care of in the ER. Those parents were destoryed

Jordan Monroe

Wow. Thanks for sharing that insight.

Jeremy

With respect what you posted is not research. I believe that it is foolish and dangerous to believe that you know more than then the AAP. The article you posted was a neuroanthropology weblog and they describe themselves as

“Neuroanthropology is a collaborative weblog created to encourage exchanges among anthropology, philosophy, social theory, and the brain sciences”

Jordan Monroe

Thanks Jeremy! I think this is a very common mistake as not everyone knows how to spot real research. I think at the end of the day AAP recommendations are the safest to stick to.

rebeccaworthington11@yahoo.com'

Rebecca

Thanks, but I do know how to spot real research. As Lindsay mentions below, there are studies referenced in the link I sent you, and other studies I’ve read which have supported the same thing. Being a mother of a toddler and an infant, I did not have the time to find the original research studies I read. I sent a link to the article on Neuroanthropology because I had it on hand and felt it would be a good introduction for you from which to start your own research.

As for it being dangerous to question the AAP, I could not disagree more. They are bureaucrats, not scientists. Some of their statements (such as circumcision’s benefits outweighing its risks) are based on outdated and cherry-picked studies.

lindsaylwaite@yahoo.com'

Lindsay

Jeremy’s point that the article Rebecca posted was a blog commentary, not a research article, is true. However, he failed to notice that the article referenced two research articles with references and links at the bottom of the page. These are both review articles, and they don’t have a lot of clear direct evidence. However, the conclusions stated are supported by the available data. The bottom line is that we need more research in this area, but the “evidence” that SAFE bed sharing increases the risk of SIDS as many would lead you to believe is just not there. The little bit of research done in this field suggests (as mentioned in the blog article) that safe bed sharing with only a breastfeeding mother actually reduces the risk of SIDS. The bad reputation that co-sleeping gets is usually due to unsafe co-sleeping involving a couch or recliner and/or alcohol or drug use or sleeping with someone besides a breastfeeding mother as in Jordan’s case. I am so sorry to hear about Jeremy’s patient that was lost in a co-sleeping accident. I suspect that unsafe co-sleeping practices were involved (sleeping with someone other than the breastfeeding mother at too young of an age, a couch or recliner or waterbed, alcohol or drug involvement, too many/too thick blankets on the bed, etc.), but regardless, it is a heartbreaking tragedy. The best way to prevent such deaths is 1) more and better research on safe sleep for infants especially involving bed sharing, 2) available information to parents about SAFE co-sleeping practices such as found here: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/sleep-problems/sleep-safety/cosleeping-safely. As Jordan’s article indicates, the instinct to sleep close to your infant is strong and many will do it even if they have heard the AAP recommendations for baby to sleep alone as Jordan did. These parents need to be taught safe bed sharing practices in the same way they are now taught the ABCs of safe sleep that Jordan mentioned. It is such a shame that the lack of information out there about safe co-sleeping causes many parents to either practice unsafe co-sleeping habits or out of exhaustion and desperation, they decide to sleep train their child at an early age, potentially causing psychological harm to the child.

Lacey

Wow! So glad you shared. When you are exhausted as a new parent you have no idea what you can do when sleeping. Those camera shots are eye-opening for sure!

Jordan Monroe

Thanks Lacey,

I’m glad you liked it!

Samantha.Wiggins@Gmail.com'

Samantha

Wow. What a brave post!! Thanks so much for sharing! We all have made mistakes. Thanks for sharing! I am going to share this with my co-sleeping friends.

Jordan Monroe

Thanks Samantha!

tiffanyrusso@gmail.com'

tiffany

Posted before finished .. you were co-sleeping with the bassinet! So if you still feel comfy with using aside car crib or bassinet, co-sleep on!
The new parent fatigue you describe is real. I put our son down for a nap and fell asleep in the hallway. I have no recollection of this and woke up thinking, “whose baby is crying?!” Ugh.

Jordan Monroe

Agreed. Bassinets or side cribs are a lot better than bed sharing. Way to be strong and resist the urge to bed share I know it is hard!

tiffanyrusso@gmail.com'

tiffany

What you are cautioning against is bed sharing, not co-sleeping; there is a difference. Co-sleeping is actually recommended to reduce sids.

Jordan Monroe

You are correct that co-sleeping and bed sharing get confused sometimes. What is ironic is that sometimes because people don’t want to “co-sleep” they take their child to the couch to sleep. Which is WAAAY more dangerous. Thanks for spotting that!