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Newsflash:
Thursday, 22 March 2001

Penelope Leach and Other Experts on The Family Bed

Written by  Shelley Emling

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Editor's note: On September 29, 1999, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning against parents and children sleeping in the same bed. The Commission based its recommendation on research published in the journal Pediatrics showing increased incidence of SIDS, suffocation and strangulation when babies sleep with their parents. The recommendation created a furor. Newspapers, magazines and web sites were filled with the voices of parents and experts who were up in arms.

In an editorial in Mothering Magazines (www.mothering.com) editor Peggy O'Mara takes the Commission and the American Academy of Pediatrics to task, saying the family bed is a personal, social and family issue and not a medical one. She cites a follow-up letter in Pediatrics by two experts sharply criticizing the original study and writes that she grieves for new parents who "will be sorely confused by this nonsense."

LaLeche League International issued a statement citing studies that show the benefits of the family bed, including increased mother responsiveness and bonding, and better sleep patterns.

In an article on cnn.com, Dr. Abraham Bergman, a pediatrician at the University of Washington in Seattle who has studied SIDS for nearly 30 years said, "There's no scientific basis to claim that bed-sharing and use of an adult bed is a hazard to infants."

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Penelope Leach, many parents' favorite parenting expert, cites three studies showing "no direct risks to babies from sleeping in their parents' bed."

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The following is excerpted,with permission, from a much longer article about Penelope Leach in Women's International Net (WIN) Magazine, an outstanding Internet publication by and about women all over the world. For the full article and the WIN archives, go to: http://www.welcome.to/winmagazine

(Penelope) Leach is so sure of her positions that she's not afraid...to take on the likes of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In early October, she attacked the powerful agency in an editorial in The New York Times for its harsh warning that parents who sleep with their babies and toddlers are at risk of accidentally smothering or strangling them.

She said the Commission based its warning on a study that didn't take into account risk factors such as whether the parents drank or smoked.

She argued that being close at night often helps parents bond with their young children, especially when they aren't around during the day...

Leach's word has been like gospel since the late 1970s, when her books, First Babyhood and then Your Baby and Child, were published. The latter, her most famous book, became an instant hit with parents around the world and was translated into 28 languages. It was updated in 1997 to reflect the changes in family life.

Another book, Children First: What Our Society Must Do -- And Is Not Doing -- For Our Children Today, was published in 1994, followed two years later by The First Six Months: Coming to Terms with your Baby. All of her books are published by Alfred A. Knopf.

Leach has a mantra that not everyone would agree with: There's nothing to be gained by making small babies unhappy. She said she has always thought this way.

To receive a free subscription to WIN, send an e-mail to: winmagazine@oaknetpub.com and write "subscribe" in the text area.

Last modified on Thursday, 04 April 2013 10:26
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Shelley Emling

Shelley Emling is a writer based in London

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