Sleeping in bed with a baby raises the baby's risk of dying of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) compared with situations where a parent and the baby sleep separately, a new study finds. This is the case even when other recommendations are followed that lower the risk of SIDS.
In the study, the greatest risk was found to be among the youngest infants. The study found that, among infants less than three months old, those who slept with a parent were five times more likely to develop SIDS than those who did not. Breastfeeding did not alter the results, nor did cases where mothers did not smoke or drink. The researchers found a threefold increase in risk among infants between the ages of three months and one year.
According to Dr. Rachel Moon, a pediatrician at Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C. and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics task force on SIDS, the research is exemplary in weeding out separate factors linked with SIDS.
"This is a really important study, because it does what no other study has done before," Moon said.
In coming to their conclusions, the researchers, led by Robert Carpenter, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, used data from five previous studies. 1,500 cases of SIDS were examined, along with 4,700 cases where babies didn't die but were matched to SIDS cases. Shockingly, the results indicated that around 88 percent of infants who died of SIDS while bed-sharing would not have died if they had not been bed sharing.
"It's become really uncommon to encounter a baby who dies of SIDS who wasn't bed-sharing," Moon said.
In the U.S., about 2,100 infants die each year from SIDS. Here are some recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics on avoiding the syndrome:
Make sure the baby does not get too warm while sleeping.
Place the baby on a firm mattress to sleep. Don't use pillows or bumper pads in cribs.
Stay up to date on recommended immunizations.
Breastfeed, if possible.
Do not drink alcohol, smoke or use drugs while pregnant. Avoid exposing the baby to secondhand smoke.
The baby should sleep in the same room, but not the same bed, as parents.
Put the baby to sleep with a pacifier (however, if the baby rejects the pacifier, don't force it).