Nicola from Life of Pea shares her thoughts on #SleepOnSide

Nicola writes beautiful and uplifting posts about her experience of losing her first baby, Winter Wolfe, and parenting her second child, Raven Rain. Here she explains why she’s supporting Tommy’s Sleep On Side campaign.

A scrap of paper with the words "THIS" and #SleepOnSide written no it in thick black pen

By Nicola, Life of Pea

Tommy’s launched their #SleepOnSide campaign in an honourable attempt to save many little lives. I’m so proud to be behind such a meaningful movement, as someone who has experienced the death of a baby I will always grab any opportunity to save others from a similar traumatic experience.

Although the reaction was overwhelmingly positive and forward thinking, there were a few mixed responses across the community, particularly on other more high profile accounts.

Firstly, many people saying to sleep on your side in pregnancy is not new information.

The truth is that sadly, to many women, it IS new information. Without research to back a national campaign, not all pregnant ladies will have heard this – myself included. If you already know, then even better, just pass it on! Also, many women who had heard this were still unsure of the reasons why. Were they informed that it was a significant factor in stillbirth or simply told its better for moving baby into a birth position?

Secondly, many people dismissing the evidence, suggesting it is not well proven.

This is just not the case. There has long been a debated link between sleep position and stillbirth. The previous research conducted in Australia used a significantly smaller number of women and only asked their sleep positions after their baby was born, which of course can throw up recall bias and give flawed results. It is wonderful that they were ahead of the game, but it’s not possible to launch a nationwide campaign in the UK without solid evidence, otherwise there would be countless old wives tales confused with proof and campaigns would lose clarity and trust. Tommy’s have extensively researched with women all over the country during their pregnancy in the most detailed, clear study to date, and established there is an undeniable link between sleeping positions and the increased risk of stillbirth.

Thirdly, many people saying we are scaremongering pregnant women.

We are not.
We are giving them proven information.
Knowledge is power.
Would we say it is scaremongering to keep an eye on their baby’s kicks and movements? Do you know what is scarier? Your baby dying.

And finally, others saying we are adding blame to those whose babies have died by implying it is their fault.

Launching a campaign like this is always going to be highly emotive. Tommy’s are aware of this as they work closely with families affected by stillbirth every day. Many campaigners behind this message have spoken about their mixed emotions from their own loss experiences and of course these feelings must be respected.

Feelings of guilt and self-blame are rife in the baby loss world, I have felt this myself with my own son’s death. But we simply cannot hold back lifesaving information to protect our own hearts. Just as the ‘Back To Sleep’ campaign in the 90’s undoubtedly bought pain to those who had slept their babies on their front and they had died, this campaign will be difficult for some mothers today to hear.

No one is to blame when a baby is stillborn, and there are other factors that can contribute to such tragedy. Sleeping on your side will not prevent stillbirth, but it dramatically reduces your risks, it has been proven in an extensively detailed study, and that is the message that we should all be getting behind.

A few words from Tommy’s

We would like to thank Nicola, and the countless other women in the baby loss community for supporting this campaign. We could not reach every family in the UK with this important message without you; together is the only way we will reduce the unacceptably high stillbirth rate in this country. Your ongoing support is invaluable.

If this week have been difficult for you and you would like some support, please email the Tommy’s midwives on [email protected] or call our PregnancyLine on 0800 0147 800 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm).

We politely ask anyone who has questions about the validity of the MiNESS research, the newness of the #SleepOnSide message or Tommy’s delivery of this campaign, to visit www.tommys.org/Sleep, or to speak to us. We have answered many of the questions that have arisen this week here, but if there is anything we haven’t covered please get in contact.

More about #SleepOnSide

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