Co-sleeping elevates risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome


COsleepingTwo years ago, I was driving to work and was listening to my favorite radio station National Public Radio (NPR). There was news that a lady supposedly grandmother of the baby was sleeping beside the baby.  She rolled over in the night and did not realize that she was on top of the baby.  Unfortunately, it was too late by the time grandmother realized it and the baby was already dead. If you love your baby and sleep with them to give extra care or comfort, you should know the risks of sleeping with your baby during first 6 months. Results of a new study suggest that sleeping with the baby can raise their risk of sudden death without any cause. Over the years, several studies have been conducted to determine risk factors for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and this latest study finds that parents who sleep with their babies are putting them at risk of the SIDS.


cosleeping-SIDSWhat is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexpected death of an apparently healthy infant under 1 year of age.  It generally affects babies between 2 and 6 months of age. The death remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical history.


SIDS Facts

  • Every year 3,000 – 4,000 infants in the U.S. die of SIDS; approximately 50 deaths occur in Maryland, annually
  • Infants between two and four months are the most frequent victims
  • Infants appear healthy; death is rapid and silent, usually occurs while the baby is sleeping


How many babies die from SIDS?

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reported that in 2002 in the United States, 2,295 infants under the age of 1 year, died from SIDS (NCHS, 2004). Still, when considering the number of live births each year, SIDS remains the leading cause of death in the United States among infants between 1 month and 1 year of age and the third leading cause of death overall among infants less than 1 year of age.





What are the risk factors associated with SIDS?

Scientists say that certain environmental and behavioral influences (called risk factors) can make babies more susceptible to disease or ill health.  Sleep position, smoke exposure, overheating, and infant bedding have been identified as the major risk factors for SIDS.


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no_co_sleepingWhat is the connection between co-sleeping and risk of SIDS?

The connection between co-sleeping and SIDS is completely established and research is under progress. Some researchers have suggested that co-sleeping can reduce the risk of SIDS because co-sleeping parents and babies tend to wake up more often throughout the night. However, various studies including conducted by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and recent study published in British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggest that under certain conditions, co-sleeping may increase the risk of SIDS, especially co-sleeping environments involving mothers who smoke or drink alcohol.


What are the major Outcome of study?

For the study, British researchers analyzed SIDS cases reported in southwestern England from 2003 through 2006. The study published in BMJ reveals that –


  • Over half (54%) of SIDS cases in southwest England occurred when the baby was co-sleeping in the same bed with a parent.
  • The risk of death from SIDS appeared higher when parent had recently been smoking or drinking alcohol before co sleeping.
  • In a multivariable analysis, sleeping on the same bed or couch as a parent was associated with a 21.77 fold increased risk of SIDS.


Sleeping-baby-cribWhat is the safest place for an infant to sleep?

According to researchers from the University of Bristol and University of Warwick, the safest place for an infant to sleep is in a separate bed beside the parents’ bed for the first six months. They urged parents, never to put themselves in a situation, where they might fall asleep with a young infant on a sofa.  Also, it was strongly recommended not to co-sleep with an infant in any environment, if they have been taking drugs or drinking alcohol.


SIDS study might have come as a surprise to most of the parents.  It is understandable for parent to feel strongly about co-sleeping with the infant in order to take care of the child.  But as they say, better safe than sorry, SIDS is largely preventable, but parents have to be educated about proper infant care practices in order to prevent their babies from potential risk of SIDS.


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