In the days following Fritter’s birth, I got a lot of questions about my mood from the public health office. They called to check on me when we got home from the hospital, a week later, and again when Fritter was six weeks old.
Through some sort of file sharing with the hospital, they know that I have a history of depression and so they kept reminding me to expect baby blues. In fact, you could tell they expected it to turn into full on post-partum depression given the whole depressed-husband-and-a-four-year-old life situation.
I expected baby blues too. I mean, that’s pretty normal. Weepiness, sobbing over Skittles commercials… that sort of thing.
But it never came.
In fact, when they took me through a depression questionnaire at the six week mark, I passed with flying colours.
I don’t know why I have been spared any sort of bizarre hormonal fluctuations, or post partum depression, but I am grateful.
Maybe it was having the support of my parents and mother in law (who flew out here again once my parents returned back to Nova Scotia). I haven’t had to behave like a fully fledged adult since the nightmare that was early January.
Support. It helps.
In any case, I’m feeling pretty happy, but I DO still have my generalized anxiety gnawing at me.
When Owl was a baby, I used to fret over his head. I kept having images of accidentally crushing it like an egg or melon.
With Fritter, I am terrified of SIDS.
I mean, all parents probably worry about SIDS. Doesn’t every mother check her baby’s breathing if the baby sleeps longer than usual?
But I think my worrying is a little out of proportion to her risk factors. After all, Fritter lives in a non-smoking environment, she sleeps in a room with me ON HER BACK, had a good birth weight and I got prenatal care.
Since the back-to-sleep campaign cut SIDS rates in half and smoking is considered the next highest risk factor with the baby’s risk increasing by 100% for every hour spent in a smoking environment… Fritter should be pretty low risk compared to some other babies.
BUT SIDS CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE. Low risk is not no-risk.
WHAT IF SHE JUST STOPPED BREATHING?
What if I woke up in the night and turned to her and found her still and blue? OH MY GOD.
So, what do I do when I worry about something?
Most of my obsessive SIDS research has focused on bedsharing.
Fritter has a bassinet next to my bed, as recommended by Health Canada, but at some point in the early morning, between 3 and 5 am, she wakes up and I bring her into bed to nurse and we fall back to sleep again.
She’s slept in the bed with me from day 1, really.
I don’t want to stop that – partially because it’s really hard to stay awake at 3 am while sleepy nursing hormones are going through me, and partially because I love snuggling with my baby.
Now, the research on bedsharing is very, very mixed.
Some people will tell you that it increases the risk of SIDS. Others will tell you that it decreases it.
From what I can tell, there IS a correlation between bedsharing and SIDS when the mother is a smoker.
On the other hand, Japan, where bed sharing is common, has one of the lowest SIDS rates in the world.
Bed sharing is the way babies sleep in basically all non-westernized societies and seems to be the “natural” way. Studies on bedsharing mother-infant pairs have found that the baby sleeps more lightly when bedsharing, and light sleeping is supposed to be better – deep sleep is associated with SIDS, while light-sleeping reduces risks.
In fact, the Canadian Pediatric Society acknowledges this, saying:
According to the arousal deficiency theory, mother and infant bedsharing promotes infant arousals, which may be protective to infants at risk of SIDS . While bedsharing, infants have less deep sleep than when they sleep alone . The responsiveness of the mother to infant arousals during bedsharing might also be protective . These hypotheses need to be researched further.
But blankets and pillows near the face are known to increase SIDS risks, and non-westernized bedsharing mothers don’t have big fluffy duvets and down pillows in bed with them and the baby.
…. These studies confirmed prone sleeping and exposure to tobacco products during and after pregnancy as potent risk factors for SIDS. They also highlighted several unsafe sleeping environments: soft surface, pillow use, bedsharing other than with parent(s) alone, sofa sharing, and bedsharing associated with recent parental consumption of alcohol or extreme parental tiredness.
The Canadian government’s attitude seems to be “well, SIDS seems to happen more when there are blankets and pillows around, and if the mother is a smoker, so we can’t endorse bed sharing because too much could go wrong”.
Which should mean that if I don’t smoke, and keep the baby free of blankets and pillows, it should be safe.
But every time I wake up I panic and check her breathing.
Besides, there is a definite correlation between sleeping ALONE and SIDS – I read a big metastudy that found that in most cases of SIDS the baby was alone in the room (reading that study was horrifying, by the way. It kept referring to things like “the final sleep” or “the death event” that filled my imagination with terrible images).
So Fritter never sleeps in a room alone, ever.
I can’t leave her alone. When she falls asleep on me in the evening I hold her in my arms until bed time, and only then does she go in her bassinet.
When she naps in the day she is either in the carseat with me checking her breathing obsessively, or in my arms or on someone else’s shoulder.
NEVER EVER ALONE.
Even when I am holding her I keep checking her breathing.
I am just absolutely, unreasonably terrified that she will die of SIDS.
In fact, I have been considering replacing her bassinet. That’s because it is really a moses basket on a wooden stand. Lately she has been arching her back until her face presses into the cloth-covered sides of it, or turning on her side and burying her face in the waterproof liner that we have on the bottom of the basket. It isn’t the firm, flat, blanketless surface that Health Canada recommends. If she did die of SIDS, I think it would be classified as an “unsafe sleep surface”.
I’ve been thinking about switching to a more formal bassinet, like an Arm’s Reach cosleeper. They seem to go for about $100 used on craigslist, though, and with PH on disability, me on mat leave, and a bucketload of debt, that’s a lot of money.
But would it worth it if I felt more comfortable putting her down to sleep? If it relieved some anxiety while simultaneously being SAFER? Can I put a price on safety and peace of mind?
That being said, my anxiety group told me to face my anxieties and try not to let them change my behaviours, so in cases where the research is mixed, I’m trying to be reasonable.
For example, the nurses in the maternity ward told me that Canada no longer recommends swaddling. When Owl was born they showed me how to swaddle. Now swaddling is no longer allowed.
I looked up why and couldn’t find any good reason other than the fact that it involves putting the baby in the crib with a blanket which is not recommended.
Canada seems to be saying “WHAT IF THE BLANKET WAS TOO TIGHT AND RESTRICTED BREATHING? WHAT IF THE BLANKET GOT OVER THE BABY’S FACE? WHAT IF THEY SWADDLED THE BABY AND FOR SOME REASON THEN LAID THE BABY DOWN ON ITS FACE?” so they’re just not recommending it.
Just like the bedsharing they don’t know if it’s bad but they aren’t going to recommend it just in case.
But honestly, try NOT swaddling a newborn baby. I still swaddled Fritter in that first month, because that’s how newborns fall asleep.
But once she was asleep I would loosen it and push it down to her hips so it couldn’t go over her face.
I’m thinking of getting her a sleep bag or something.
At the same time, I’d like to get her a little security blanket but I think I won’t put it in her bassinet….
But come on… a security blanket must be fine… right?
BUT WHAT IF SHE DIES?
The thing is, nothing I can do can free me of the fear of SIDS. If she’s sleeping in her moses basket I worry that she’s stop breathing because she’s separated from me and could possibly smush her face into the cloth sides. If she’s in my bed I worry she’ll stop breathing because she’s in bed with me. Is there any way to completely relieve the anxiety?
How much should I change my behaviour to prevent SIDS when nothing really CAN prevent SIDS completely – only reduce risks, and when facing anxiety is supposed to be good for me?
Then again, how much anxiety should I force myself to face if I am potentially endangering my child by not doing everything I can to reduce the chances of finding her body far too still one morning?
I’ll be so glad when she’s older than 4 months and the chances of SIDS goes down. Right now she’s smack in the middle of the highest-risk age group. I think it peaks at 3 months and after 4 months gets less and less likely…
But let’s face it, even with Owl, where my fear was reasonable instead of unreasonable, I was still checking his breathing well into the second year…
Has anyone else been this unreasonably scared?
Should I start making myself put her down alone in a room? But no. That’s a DEFINITE risk factor. Should I put a blankie in with her?
At one point am I facing my anxieties but NOT endangering my child? How do I balance those?