Bed sharing may increase risk of SIDS, study finds

Bed sharing may increase risk of SIDS, study finds

Sleep is one of the most common concerns for a new parent but safe sleeping is always at the top of the list.  Many parents try bed sharing, which essentially means the child sleeps with his or her parents in their bed— with the hope of getting a few extra winks of sleep themselves and having the baby closer. Up until this point, there hasn’t been much clarity in the research about bed sharing often leaving parents confused about the safety of bed sharing.

New research, published online in BMJ Open, shows that sharing a bed with an infant can significantly increase their risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is an unexpected, sudden death of a child under age 1 in which an autopsy does not show an explainable cause of death.

Pediatrician Dr. John Beckerman at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. says its important parents understand the risks associated with bed sharing and the dangers of SIDS.

“The importance of this new study, the largest study of SIDS risk factors ever with individual level data, is that it allowed researchers to quantify the risk factors for bed sharing.  An important conclusion is that bed sharing with an infant under three months increases the risk for SIDS by a factor of five.  This will definitely assist doctors on advising parents to avoid bed sharing with infants.”

Interestingly, the research also concluded that there is an increased SIDS risk even if parents are non-smokers and do not abuse illegal drugs or drink alcohol before bedtime.

“We have known in the past that parental smoking and drinking increased the risk for SIDS but this research finds bed sharing overall is simply not safe for the infant,” said Beckerman.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following recommendations for parents on its website:

  • Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Always leave your child’s head uncovered while sleeping.
  • Make sure your bed’s headboard and footboard don’t have openings or cutouts that could trap your baby’s head.
  • Make sure your mattress fits snugly in the bed frame so that your baby won’t become trapped in between the frame and the mattress.
  • Don’t place a baby to sleep in an adult bed alone.
  • Do not place a baby on a soft surface to sleep such as a soft mattress, sofa, or waterbed.
  • Don’t use pillows, comforters, quilts, and other soft or plush items on the bed. Consider using a sleeper instead of blankets.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or use medications or drugs that could keep you from waking or might cause you to roll over onto, and therefore suffocate, your baby.
  • Don’t place your bed near draperies or blinds where your child could be strangled by cords.

Even with this new research finding there is some research out there that suggests babies should never sleep alone.

Dr. Beckermans says if parents have any concerns or want advice about safe sleeping habits for their baby, they should consult with their pediatrician. “The most important thing is the safety of their baby.”

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  1. As a public health worker-this is kind of a ‘duh.’ Sadly, many people cannot afford a crib, or struggle with other issues in the home that puts keeping their baby in a safe sleep situation, as a second choice. Hopefully, providers/nurses, can remind new moms of the extreme danger of co-sleeping before they go home with baby.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.