Ask Amy: Co-sleeping with an infant carries some risk

June 4, 2013

DEAR AMY: My daughter had a baby four months ago. Her in-laws moved in with them at that time. The baby was put in a bassinet for the first month or so. After that the bassinet was put away, and they did not put the crib up. The in-laws put the little baby to sleep in their bed at night. I have heard of horror stories of babies being smothered or falling out of bed.

My daughter said that the baby will sleep with them until she starts school. She is dead serious. I have talked very firmly to my daughter, but she does nothing about the situation. She says that they don’t want the baby to cry. Babies need to cry. That is part of growing up.

I do not know what to do, so I am writing to you in the hope that you will print my letter and they will see that I am right about the baby’s sleeping habits. -- Worried Grandma

DEAR GRANDMA: I shared your letter with Dr. Claire McCarthy, pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

She replies: “According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the safest place for a baby to sleep is in the same room with the parents — but in their own sleep space. When babies sleep in bed with the parents, there is always a risk that the baby could be smothered, fall off the bed or otherwise hurt.

“That said, many families co-sleep, for lots of different reasons. If so, they should do everything possible to lessen the risks, such as by making sure the mattress is firm, getting it low to the ground, keeping the baby away from any pillows and minimizing bedding.

“If parents have been drinking, are taking medications that make them very sleepy or just in general are very heavy sleepers, they should definitely not sleep with their babies.”

Babies cry as a way of communicating, and parents should respond. Sometimes when families are trying to teach their baby to sleep independently we talk about letting babies cry for short periods of time, but a cry should never be completely ignored.

DEAR AMY: You gave exactly the right information to “Confused,” who was struggling with his sexuality within his marriage.

I know because I was in that situation about 15 years ago. I loved my wife, and she loved me, but after coming to the realization that I was gay, I couldn’t keep it from her. In the three or four years when I pondered this very difficult disclosure (knowing that it would very likely bring a divorce), I experienced horrible depression and anxiety. At one point, I considered taking my life.

I chose instead to get counseling for myself — to prepare for the discussion and to get support for my wife. It was a difficult time, and we waited about three months to tell the kids; but in that time, we had the best communication of our lives.

We broke it to family members right after the holidays, and by January I moved into an apartment in the next town. My wife started attending a support group, where she met her (now) husband.

I have since married, and she and I maintain a close relationship. In fact, she and her husband shared Thanksgiving with us last year. I have a great picture of her standing next to my partner at the stove explaining the intricacies of making turkey gravy!

I am much happier now, and so is she. Our kids (now grown) are delighted that they don’t need to take “sides,” and we are both invited to their homes together. -- AJ

DEAR AJ: Thank you for providing a thoughtful model of how this extremely challenging situation can be resolved.

DEAR AMY: “Mr. B” wrote to you, asking about the wisdom of family members not telling someone she is adopted. The strange secrecy and taboo surrounding adoption really need to stop. I cannot imagine the impact of learning this as an adult. -- Also Adopted

DEAR ADOPTED: I agree. It would throw off all of your relationships to learn that your entire clan had kept such important information from you.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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