I'm working in Springfield this summer, and my supervisor is Dr. Andrew Balder. He is based at two organizations, HealthNet, which is a health insurance company, and Mason Square Community Health Center (based under Baystate Medical Center). Kayla Smith is also interning with him this summer. The project Dr. Balder proposed to Kayla and I is to create a campaign for bed-sharing/co-sleeping in the Springfield area. In Springfield, there is a higher rate for infant deaths due to babies sleeping in the same bed as their parents, than in other places in the state. Kayla and I are to gather infromation from different "local experts" on the issue of bed-sharing and why parents end up bringing their babies to bed even though it may be unsafe. So we have talked to several people this week. They have been people who run organizations to help new moms, people who run care centers for kids, and even a doctor who works in the infant center of the hosiptal. From talking these people and doing web-based research on bed-sharing, we have gained a lot of information this week on the topic. Our next step to to organize focus groups with new parents/home visitor whom work with new parents, and ask them personally why they sometimes co-sleep with their infants. At the end of the project, Kayla and I will create a presantation for focus groups that talk about the dangers of bed-sharing, but is sensitive to the needs/wants of the parents. We are also studying the best way to advertise about bed-sharing to a wider Springfield audience (whether through media like t.v. commericals, or internet like facebook ads, etc).
Being empathic is going to go a long way in this internship. Even though there is statistical evidence that bed-sharing can be dangerous to a newborn, Kayla and I must be empathic and understand why it happens. A lot of time, parents work into the late hours of the night, and they find the only time they can bond with their baby is co-sleeping in the same bed. It makes brestfeeding a lot easier for the mother (we learned this week that breastfeeding can be a very tricky process in general). Babies tend to fall asleep faster when sleeping close to their mothers, and stay asleep longer. Also, some parents feel that the neighborhood they live in is not safe, so they feel better having their baby close to them as they sleep, as oppose to leaving the baby by themselves in a crib. In order for Kayla and I to address the dangers for suffocation that goes with co-sleeping, we first need to empathize with these issues, and understand the choices parents make. By addressing their concerns, we will hopefully be able to talk about co-sleeping in a safe, not-judgmental environment.