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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 Bio

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).