Thursday, September 25, 2008

SIDS, daycare, and church nurseries

What do the three have in common, you may wonder? Let me explain.

After a recent order from a baby-related website, I received a notification in the mail telling me that my order came with a complimentary, one-year subscription to the magazine "Parenting". This magazine could more aptly be called "Lack of Parenting" or "Parenting Failures", but nonetheless, reading it makes for cheap comic relief after a hard day of real parenting.

Back to the subject at hand, though. The September issue featured an article called "Lost Babies", which deals with the subject of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the diagnosis anytime an apparently healthy baby suddenly dies in their sleep of unknown causes during the first year of life (most deaths occur between 2 and 4 months).

First off, let me make it clear that I do think SIDS is real, that it is not entirely preventable, and that parents should never be blamed in the death of their child regardless of the circumstances.

Having said that, I think there are many factors that could reduce the incidence of SIDS. Some of the more well-known are putting babies on their back to sleep, keeping away cigarette-smoke, not using soft bedding, and breastfeeding exclusively. Personally, I am also convinced that sleeping next to Mom and Dad is infinitely important, and I am not talking about a bassinet by the bedside. SIDS is thought to be caused largely by an immature breathing reflex. If healthy babies do not get enough oxygen in their sleep, this reflex will kick in and make them yawn or turn their head to get more air. This reflex is also responsible for making sure baby doesn't "forget" to breathe once they go into a deeper sleep phase. By being tucked into bed next to its parent(s), the baby has a sort of "breathing pacemaker" by its side. Babies that sleep like that automatically fall into the same breathing pattern as the parent that they are snuggled up to, and thus do not forget to breathe. Also, babies have a reflex that causes them to take a deep breath anytime someone blows in their face, which Mom does all night long when she is breathing next to the baby cradled in her arms, face to face. Of course, there are safe sleeping practices that must be observed when sleeping next to a young baby, but I will not discuss those here.

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has also started recommending that all babies should be using a pacifier, which has been shown to reduce the incidence of SIDS by as much as 90%. To me, this further supports my theory that sleeping next to Mom is very healthy, because babies that do so spend their night using Mom for their nursing comfort rather than a binky. This has many benefits for mom and baby: Mom will have a good milk supply, and will have lots of endorphins in her system from the extra feedings, which will create a strong bond between her and the baby. She will also sleep better and never wake up groggy and sleep-deprived from having to get up for midnight feedings. The baby will grow faster, have a close bond to its mother, and will not be sucking on a plastic binky that may contain dangerous chemicals or be recalled for being otherwise dangerous. Baby will also not be taught to find comfort in material objects rather than in his real, human Mom.

The following information, however, was new and shocking to me. According to the article, "In the most recent AAP analysis, about 20 percent of all SIDS deaths occurred while the baby was in the care of someone other than a parent. One third of the infants died during the first week of childcare, and half of those deaths occurred on the very first day." Such was the case of the couple that was introduced in the article, whose 4-month old died of SIDS during an afternoon nap on his first day in childcare. The study suggested that being in an unfamiliar (which to a baby equals hostile) environment might interfere with the baby's sleep cycle, "so that when he finally does fall asleep, he sleeps too deeply". Going back to the binky theory, this would now make more sense because the baby is fooled into thinking Mom is near when she isn't.

So please, do not put your young baby in a childcare facility, and you might save his/her life.

What does that have to do with church nurseries? A lot. Many churches are now making nursery care mandatory for all babies in an effort to eliminate all distractions from the service. For one, I don't know what young baby is ever a distraction when all they do is eat and sleep, both of which are silent activities and can be done during a service.

It has always amused me that it is perfectly fine to whip out a bottle and pop it in baby's mouth in front of everyone, but that discretely breastfeeding under a shawl or blanket is considered obscene, when a bottle that is made to look and feel like the "real thing" is much more graphic than a mom who is completely covered. Here is a shock: everyone is naked underneath their clothes. GASP! So covering up with a blouse or dress is fine, but a (much more modest) shawl is insufficient? That doesn't make any sense. Of course, these squeamish people will be quick to point out that it is the ACT of breastfeeding that is offensive, even if no skin is ever visible. In fact, I have heard one pastor compare breastfeeding to the marriage act, which I can only call perverted. Other people say that there is nothing indecent about nursing a baby if Mom is covered, but it is still inappropriate in mixed company because it reminds men of the fact that women have breasts. To me, that is just as laughable. You mean there are men who DON'T know that?!? Those same people must not read their Bible very much, because it talks a lot about those subjects.

Breastfeeding is vital to a baby. It has become optional in our freak society with science supposedly making life "easier and better", but God never intended for that. He designed for Moms to feed their children, not Nestle. To me, giving a baby formula on a physical level is like reading to him out of a false Bible on a spiritual level. The Bible is called the "sincere milk of the word", and babies should be fed with sincere milk both physically and spiritually. If exclusively breastfeeding Moms should only do so in the privacy of their home, than they would never ever be able to go anywhere, including church, because most young babies need to eat at least once per hour.

Back to the church nursery. Young babies are not allowed in the service because they like to nurse, the thought of which sends most independent Baptist pastors into convulsions. Older babies are not allowed because they might coo, or look at other people in the room and distract them by smiling at them. Young toddlers might drop a toy, say something, or need to go to the bathroom. On and on the list goes.

Nobody seems to care that Jesus said "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 19:14) and "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:16). They seem to never have read that "when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:14). I wonder why all three times Jesus used the word "suffer" - could it be because babies and young children can, in fact, be distracting at times, but we are still supposed to put up with it?!? What a strange thought. My kids were very distracting to me throughout the day today, but the thought that I should just leave them at a daycare center instead never crossed my mind. You just learn to put up with it. I find adults just as distracting at times. They have coughing fits, whisper during the service, dig through their purse, and are not just allowed but actually encouraged to yell out during the service ("Amen!" "Preach it, brother!" "That's right!" etc.). So an adult yelling out loud is not distracting, but a baby is? Why are children not allowed in church (which is not the building, but the general assembly)? Don't they need to learn more than anyone else, and aren't they the most likely to believe what is taught from the Bible?

If anyone who reads this thinks that our services must be a pandemonium because all children of all ages are in the services, they should listen to the sermons. Outbursts from children are very, very rare, and always very brief. We do have a "mother-baby room" at the back of the auditorium that has a rocker, a swing, toys etc. where Moms can step out while still being able to see and hear the service without being heard themselves. That being said, nobody is ever expected to use it, and the room is empty at most of the services.

In spite of claims of how clean, nice, and loving church nurseries are, I have to yet see one that is. Nursery workers are "hirelings", and a hireling is just that - a hireling and not a loving parent. Back when we were going to a big church in Indiana I heard of several young babies that had died in their newborn nursery, some while we were there. In fact, 3 more died in the year after we left. While some of the ladies in the older nurseries were sincerely friendly, such was not the case with the newborns. The Nazi in charge of the nurseries had picked the meanest, oldest matrons to care for these babies. The routine was the same for each baby at each service: feed, change diaper, put down in crib or swing to sleep. Crying babies were left to soothe themselves and were not carried, rocked, or otherwise comforted, and is it any wonder that the babies who had died were found lying dead in their crib after crying themselves to sleep. Just the thought makes me shudder. This same church issued photo ID cards (they looked much like a driver's license) for babies who due to medical reasons could not be in the nursery (such as a permanent, contagious disease). These babies and their parent(s) were then confined to a glass-enclosed extension of the main auditorium that was soundproof but had the service transmitted via speakers. I think we were the only parents to hold this precious card, other than the family whose daughter was born with a heart defect. She was not allowed to cry much because it could have strained her weak heart to the point of death, which made her ineligible for the loveless nurseries. This same little girl died shortly after she was finally put in the nursery at age 1 - but of course, there is no connection, right?!?

Another argument against telling people where they or their kids have to be during church is found in James 2:3: "And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:" I am well aware of the fact that gay in the Bible has a different meaning than it does today, but isn't it ironic that most churches will in fact allow homosexuals in their service and treat them kindly and respectfully, but ban the babies from church? "Stand thou there in the hallway outside the auditorium" and "Sit here under my footstool in this back office" (or worse yet, the closet behind the restrooms) are all places where I have found myself with my babies.

There are other arguments against nurseries, such as the perverts and pedophiles who are always quick to volunteer to watch the kids, or the never-ending cycle of diseases being passed around.

Why is it acceptable to drop your child off four times a week for Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night services and for soul-winning, but it is wrong to put him/her in daycare five times a week to go work a job? If leaving your child in the nursery means risking him/her dying, being molested by a worker or hurt by another bratty child, and at best coming home with (sometimes very serious) diseases, why does everyone do it even though the Bible says it is wrong?


  1. Great post! I could go off on a really long tangent, but I'll just summarize by saying that those of us in churches with mandatory nurseries need to keep taking a stand and pray for change. Okay, maybe this is turning into a short rant...

    My teenage daughter and I have started taking turns staying in the nursery to watch over my toddler while he's in there. Another kid deliberately poked my son in the eye recently which got me worried. I'm teaching my kids to be tough, but even the UFC prohibits gouging eyes.

    I guess we're turning our church nursery into more of a self-serve mother/baby room which will do for now. Maybe other parents in these type of churches could do the same and eliminate the "need" for workers.

    Although I disagree with the whole nursery system, I do my best to take good care of other people's precious children when it's my turn to work in the nursery. I've thought about quitting as a form of protest, but they won't let me keep my son in the auditorium, anyway. Also, I have a new friend counting on me who only comes to church during my shift since her baby likes me. I know she would rather come to church more often and keep the baby with her, but I've never discussed my feelings about the policy with her for fear of discouraging her further. My son is almost two and her son is almost one so there isn't a SIDS issue.

    By the way, I've never left a newborn in a nursery, and I don't plan on starting if I have another baby. A lady in our church is pregnant, so I'm hoping our church will at least get with the times and provide a "nursing room" for her and any visitors with babies. I agree that nursing under a shawl is discreet enough, but most pastors would not agree with us.

    In addition to the germs, what about the bad habits our kids pick up in the nursery? What about the lack of teaching and proper discipline when parents aren't around to monitor their child's behavior?

    I have posted about this topic on my blog before, so I won't go any further...

  2. Have you ever heard of SIDS and vaccines being linked together. When I was pregnant with the twins, my naturopathic doctor told me to not get them vaccinated for several reason and one was the increased chance of SIDS. She also told me that sleeping on their stomach was fine, and that it had nothing to do with SIDS. I have never had any of my children vaccinated and they are wonderfully healthy.
    After reading all that you and Raani say about church nurseries, I am trying to get mine out. That and the fact that we have four soon to be five newborn babies in there. I feel it helps the workers if I don't add mine to the chaos. The twins are fine in big church, but the 18m old is a real challenge. He is getting better since I have been consistant over the last few weeks. It is just for the evening services since Sunday morning I teach a girls class and help my husband in children's church.
    Pray that we can continue keeping him with us in the services and that they don't make a mandatory nursery rule.

  3. I have never understood why children cannot be with their parents during the service. At our church the children are encouraged to stay with the parents throughout the "adult" service. We also have a room that you can go to and still see the service but not disrupt if your child is having a problem. I think it definitely teaches a child restraint and boundaries. Breast feeding also has not been an issue, most of the time you cannot even tell someone is doing it. We do have mothers that do not feel comfortable nursing in public so they have a room just for that where they can hear the sermon on speakers. I hope you do not take your blog private. I do not agree with your views 85% of the time and think you are so harsh in your judgments of others, however you do make me think and look at both sides of an issue.

  4. Julia,

    There are two typical responses to Mom's who try to take their children out of the nursery:

    (a) Try to get the mom as involved in the services as possible so she will feel like she "must" drop her kids off in order to be able to serve God by playing piano, teaching a class, or helping in some other function. You may find that you will get called on for some new duties.

    (b) If that tactic fails, the nursery is usually made mandatory. In Raani's case, I think the nursery was not mandatory until she started taking Joseph in the service with her when they first moved there, or maybe it was mandatory but not enforced. Not, it has become mandatory and enforced.

    Pregnant moms also get pressured more than those who are not expecting because of a fear that they will not want to surrender their newborn to the nursery.

    There are many theories that SIDS is caused by vaccines, and I am sure there is much truth in that. In Germany, the majority of kids are not vaccinated for childhood illnesses such as measles, mumps, etc., nor for Hep B or the flu. The few vaccines that are given (polio, tetanus, and a few other "staples") start at a much later age (as early as six months, but often closer to the 2 year mark). There is no "back to sleep" campaign so naturally, babies sleep on their stomachs or sides, many of them in their parents' bed. While SIDS does exist, it is very uncommon and rare.

    I, too, let my babies sleep in whatever position they are most comfortable. During daytime naps, that is usually on their stomach in a bassinet that I keep close by me wherever I am in the house. At night, they mostly sleep on their side facing me while they marathon nurse in their sleep, but sometimes they latch off and roll onto their back.

  5. We have a nursery in my church. It is not mandatory. Just the other day my pastor said he does not care if the the little ones stay in the service (it is no distraction to him).I put my 14 mth old in there because he is a distraction to me. The whole time the service is going on he is up and down,trying to walk around, going under the pew, yelling in protest. It seems he just does not understand the word no. I plan very soon practicing with him to stay with me in the service.
    In regards to the nursery at my church, the church is very small. My son is usually the only one in there and sometimes there might be on other one. I help with the nursery. All the ladies love my son very much. It is sad that with these big churches it is just the way you have said.

  6. Hi... Currently I am a daycare provider, and although I try very hard to love and keep my daycare kids safe. I am not their mother! I feel so bad for them. They spend on average 50 to 55 hours per week with me. Most of them call me mommy and I just find that so sad.

    I would not be able to bare sharing my child with another woman. A few years ago we fell into hard times and TO BE REALLY HONEST rather then trusting God, I made the mistake of taking matters into my own hands and working. I still felt strong about my children not being in daycare. So I decided to open my own. For the money and to stay home with my children.

    I AGREE WITH YOU ABOUT DAYCARE ISSUES AND THE PREACHING YOUR HUSBAND GAVE ABOUT IT! My husband and I are currently praying that he gets a better paying job so that I may stop providing services for something I myself would not use! or even believe anyone SHOULD use.

    Sure, I keep them safe, feed, occupied, and clean. They even hug me and are attached to me as many of them have been with me for a year now... two in particular since they were 6 weeks old, when FIRST left with me!

    I felt so guilty and bad for those children... that their parents would care more about material riches then the blessing of seeing their newborn each and every minute of the day! I mean, as much love as I like to feel for them... I am not their mother. YOU KNOW!!! and I have other children to care for... so I can't give exclusive attention to the poor babies because my job is to watch over all of them.

    I especially HATE working for parents that you know could care less... For example... one lady called and said she wanted to start care without even meeting me or coming to my house. How can YOU leave your child with a complete stranger like that! I don't understand. Other parents can't stand their own children... that even on their days off they bring the child... They think, "well, I paid for the service" but they have NO guilt that they are barely spending less then 25 hours per week of AWAKE time with their children... and I am spending over 50???? I can't believe the nerve of some parents!

    I have a couple of 3 yr old daycare kids. One of the kids their parents are relatively good parents... They keep their kid home when they are not at work at least!!!! They are the only ones! They have never given me any problems and always talk to me and have meetings with me to make sure their child is ok! The others... Never really ask anything. I potty trained my own children by the time they were 2, they were completely potty trained! These 3 yr old children are still in diapers... It is NOT my responsibility to train their children in the way they should go... you know!!!(although I do help potty train, if they are not doing it at home... it does not work!) I mean i can't even discipline them, and it is obvious by their behavior that the parents are not doing it either!!!

    So it is really sad... and the more that time passes, I realize as a christian woman and mother. It is not my place to watch this children. pray for my husband. That we can both trust God to finally let go of the business all the way! He has applied for a great position which will enable us to take care of the enormous budget we were STUPID ENOUGH TO GET OURSELVES INTO! We are also making other changes to get us to where we need to be! Lord willing in the next few months, I will be a full time home maker again, just like God intended it!

  7. Nikki I can understand because my #2 is the same way. The few times he went in with me it was unreal and very distracting for everyone within listening range. My #1 is wonderfully behaved and calm.

    They may change when they get older. Sometimes it's a combination of age and personality. Every child is different.

    My church from age 3 and up have Bible Study during church services. Under 3 they are with the parents in the church service. Works great for us because the kids learn and retain everything during their Bible study every week. We have a church that I would consider medium in size.

  8. Please, please do not completely discount the "Back to sleep" campaign. It isn't a rule to be applied to every situation, but you cannot argue the facts.

    As for in Germany, all I could find was an article from Dr. Sears. I didn't see any links to actual studies, but he had the following to say:
    "Between 1989 and 1993 SIDS researchers in cooperation with the British government launched a "Back to Sleep" campaign, advising parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs rather than their stomachs. A few years after this risk-reduction campaign was launched in England, SIDS rates plummeted throughout the United Kingdom by as much as seventy percent. A similar "Back to Sleep" SIDS-reduction campaign occurred in New Zealand and Australia followed by a fifty percent decrease in national SIDS rates in these two countries. The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Ireland saw a similar decrease in SIDS rates following "Back to Sleep" campaigns in these countries. Eight countries doing similar risk-reduction campaigns and all getting similar results. This had to be more than a coincidence. These findings were a breakthrough in SIDS-prevention research – and in SIDS-prevention attitude. Instead of the previous belief – that SIDS was a mysterious and hopeless tragedy – the changing sleep-position advice was finally something practical that professionals could agree upon and parents could do.

    In 1994, the U.S. Public Health Service organized a national "Back to Sleep" campaign, and it paid off. In the past few years, SIDS rates have dropped around 30 to 40 percent in the United States."

    There are exceptions to everything, but as was mentioned in the original post, babies sleep very soundly on their stomachs and "forget" to breathe. Back sleeping is much less that seems, to me, to be the link.

    I personally do not put my child in the nursery because I feel it would be traumatic to him and I'm horribly frightened of SIDS. Our church has two services, so the people who run the childrens' program are regular attenders of church.

  9. Michal,

    I had a home daycare for awhile, too, when my oldest was little. One of my daycare babies started at six weeks, too. I took care of kids ages 0-4, and I was surprised by how little the older kids knew: colors, shapes, ABC's, etc., so I used to give them worksheets to teach them those things. The average three year old in my daycare wore designer clothing but was in diapers and could barely talk.
    The hours were long and with six to seven small kids in the house that were not my own, it was too much cooking and cleaning for me. You have a very hard job. I got attached to the kids, but they all eventually moved or started school. I still think about the kids from time to time and wonder where they are now.

  10. I feel the same way... all my little groups always seem to come in together and get out together... it's like having a class... I have always had parents that stay with me for yrs, so I'll get the kids young and have them till they are 3 and 4...

    I thought them out of the Abeka 2 and 3 yr old curriculum last yr, but took the summer off and have not really gone back to it yet... I did it to keep them occupied while I home schooled. Now I still give them coloring, teach them the sounds of the letters, numbers colors... etc. Pretty much, they are in home school with me. but, i would like to stop working now, for the same reason you said. Long hours... and lot's of work.

    My first kid shows up at 5:30am and my last leaves at 6:30pm. I want to invest my time on my kids now. I mean it's better then working out in the real world. I am still home with my kids. I get to cook, bake and do all that stuff.So, that's nice. But,I can't just pick up and say, lets go here or let's go there... and I want to be able to do that. Hopefully soon!

  11. Wow, I was in a clothing store a few months ago discreetly nursing my son, and I was asked to use a dressing room. Right in front of the display of the woman in a bra.

    How messed up is that? Needless to say, never shopping there again, for many reasons.

    Thanks for the informative post. I agree. I used a monitor with my son, but if we have a 3rd child, I will be co-sleeping!

  12. In that context, "suffer" means "let" or "allow", not suffer as we know use the word. The English language has changed so much, and many words have a different meaning now to the time when the Bible was translated.

  13. When our church went from a small one to suddenly a big one we had a lot to sort out. Suddenly there was this nursery stuff. The pastor enforced the rule that all children under a certain age must go to nursery. I have helped make sure quite a few nurseries were safe at other churches. I can tell you from experience many church workers don't even like kids. I saw toliets without lids in toddler bathrooms where kids went alone. I saw chemicals at eye level where kids could reach them. The back door of the nursery opened to a set of long stairs and out to the busy street. The door was not locked. People went alone to bathrooms with kids. Kids had only one worker in a room. Babies were changed on a table with no strap to hold them in. Tables were not sanitized between kids. People did not wash their hands afterwards. These all had to deal with physical safety. Generally, these people did not like kids. Honestly I felt like throwing them out of the nursery. I love kids and have always had people dropping kids for me to watch when they had to go to doctors, food store and such. How any woman cannot like kids is beyond me. These women were pure idiots with babies and would expect a terrified kid to just run into nursery and act perfect. I hated it but stayed because I was not about to let those little ones be unsafe. I played with them, read them stories and yes chastised women who treated them like just plain dirt....I hate nurseries.... no one cares for a child like Mom & Dad... please... if you think nurseries are okay... volunteer in one for a few weeks before you hand your trasures off to total strangers... nice old Aunt Mary may be sweet in church and a lunatic in nursery... sorry to be so harsh but the truth is the truth.... I agree totally.... my children have never slept with me in my bed but have slept in the same room when they were infants for safety sake.... they were safe and we got more sleep this way...

  14. I was surprised to read that in Parenting, of all magazines. I wonder if it might have to do with the toxic gas/crib mattress theory? That was what I first thought of when I read it. We sleep with our babies too, I tried getting up to feed in the other room at first, thinking it was the "Christian" thing to do, but that lasted all of three days.

    I'm surprised about being asked not to nurse in church. I don't think anyone notices that I'm nursing in public, and I do it without a cover. I just wear bigger shirts, and have a nursing tank underneath. People think the baby is sleeping, or at least that's what I've been told.

    Toxic gas info:

  15. I take it you don't subscribe to the Baby Wise school of thought!


    Good for you - family co-sleeping is the way to go!

  16. Congrats to you and your way of thinking, as well as the 15 people that support you- but just because you had a bad experience and apparently deal with bitterness doesn't make the rest of the nursery supportin' IFB's wrong. You are so quick to pull out the "dont judge me" card when all you do is judge. I don't think you are wrong for wanting to keep your children close at all... but the simple fact that churches are made up of humans- makes it imperfect. Perhaps you and your Christ-like self would be a better representative for a church nursery leader? Since you exemplify so much love... It is HORRBILE that innocent children have died due to carelessness- i think it's an outrage that children have died in church nurseries and that children are left to soothe themselves because someone doesn't want to care for them! It's pitiful!!! But i guess you've never heard of the hundreds of thousands of children that are just fine in church nurseries? Guess not.
    Again- i'm not attacking your way of living- you are entitled to it. But you should honestly look at the ministry a nursery can be, instead of it being yet another soap box for a mom who keeps her children so close that she still finds time to blog.
    Have a blessed day.
    Oh, my name is Tracy, i would've signed in, but i just happen to not have a blog.


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