Last summer, I shared a Safe Infant Sleep Photo Repository with Science & Sensibility readers in a post titled "Access Safe Sleep Photos for Your Use - Help Families Reduce Unsafe Sleep Environments." These images were made available by the Federal SUID/SID Workgroup forum for Creative Commons use in an effort to reduce unsafe sleeping conditions in families with newborns and infants. Several educators commented on that post that families should also be learning about what safe bed-sharing looks like as well. Bed-sharing is a topic that we have covered before on Science & Sensibility:
- Don't Sleep with Big Knives; Interesting (and Promising) Developments in the Mother-Infant Sleep Debate
- October is SIDS Awareness Month - Educators Can Share Information to Help Families Reduce Risk!
- Sleeping Like a Mammal: NIghttime Realities for Childbirth Educators to Share with Parents
Many educators are hopefully talking about safe bed-sharing in their classes, as that is the reality of life with a newborn. Many families do sleep with their young babies. If that is the choice that families make, then they deserve to have accurate information about how to bed-share safely. Risks of injury or death go up when parents sleep in the recliner or on the couch with their infant as a method of avoiding bed-sharing with their newborn. There are many benefits to bed-sharing - but it should be done safely in order to avoid injury or death.
It is extremely helpful to be able to demonstrate visually what safe bed-sharing looks like during the portion of the class where infant sleep is covered. Thankfully, there are now resources that educators and other professionals can turn to for examples of safe bed-sharing.
Professor Helen Ball, BSc, MA, PhD - Director of the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab at Durham University in the UK got the ball rolling on creating a safe bed-sharing image repository when the British Medical Journal published an article "Making Informed Choices on Co-Sleeping with Your Baby" and included an image of a mother-baby dyad bed-sharing in an unsafe manner. Dr. Ball searched for images available in the public domain to replace the poor image being used and found very few options to choose from. The team at the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab kept this topic on the back burner. After the U.S. National Institute for Child Health & Development released their image collection in the Safe Infant Sleep Photo Repository and there were no images of safe bed sharing included, the time had come to spring into action.
Dr. Ball and her team invited families to spend the night in the sleep lab with their infants. These families agreed to be photographed while they slept. Renowned baby photographer Rob Mank was asked to take the pictures and the Co-sleeping (Bed-sharing) Image Archive was born.
The Co-sleeping Image Bank collection is available for use by all health care professionals, birth professionals, childbirth educators, media and businesses to illustrate safe bed-sharing situations. The images are offered in three sizes so that the proper resolution can be downloaded as needed. All of the images here have been chosen to illustrate safer bed-sharing/co-sleeping arrangements.
While all the images are free to use by anyone for non-commercial purposes, including teaching, they are protected under the Creative Commons license and may not be altered. If there is a commercial need for these images, please contact ISIS (Infant Sleep Information Source) via email to obtain permission.
Please acknowledge the Infant Sleep Infomation Source website as the creator of this repository. Please also credit the photographer, Rob Mank, for donating the image when using these photographs.
Educators and other professionals now have an option for images when teaching new families about safe sleep options, including bed-sharing. A great deal of thanks goes out to Dr. Bell, Rob Mank and the team (including the families who participated) at ISIS for making these images available to all of us at no cost, to help families learn about their safe sleep options.
What do you teach about newborn sleep to the families that you work with? Do you cover both bed-sharing and room-sharing when you discuss what life is like with a newborn? Do you think you will find this image bank useful? Let me know in the comments below!