Ask Amy: Co-sleeping with baby carries risk

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • June 3, 2013 - 1:44 PM

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 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.

Amy says: 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 be 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.

Return to work, or not?

Dear Amy: I have been a stay-at-home mom for the last 10 years. I’m facing the choice of returning to the workforce vs. continuing to “work” at home.

Years ago, my husband and I made this decision after the birth of our children. I have entered the workforce a few times, but my being home full time works best for us.

My concern comes from my insecurities over possessing a college degree and not using my education. Some of my so-called “loving” family members make negative comments about our choices, and it makes me feel guilty.

If only these family members could see that I am using my education degree every day in raising my children!

With the decision to have one working parent in our family, we have had to make adjustments in our lifestyle. At times, I do have to bite my tongue when conversing with my counterparts. They always ask me, “How can you possibly stay home and not work,” while they’re sitting in their new SUV, texting on their iPhone and drinking Starbucks.

I tend to let their words make me feel insecure and less of a contributing partner in my family. Should I let others dictate my life?

Amy says: Should you let others dictate your life? Um ... no? So. Why do you?

The minute you are able to alter your own attitude, your life will start to change. You need not render judgments about the lifestyles and life choices of others. You need only love your own.

No one should ever question your credentials or choices. It’s surprising that you should feel guilty and apologetic instead of mad as hell. You only need to say, “I accept your choices. There is no need to question mine.”

Remember, the proof is in your family’s (and your personal) satisfaction and happiness. If you’ve got that, you’ve got it made.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

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