Bed-Sharing Remains Greatest Risk Factor For Sleep-Related Infant Deaths

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related causes of infant mortality have several known risk factors, but little is known if these factors change for different age groups. In a new study in the August 2014 Pediatrics, “Sleep Environment Risks for Younger and Older Infants,” published online July 14, researchers studied sleep-related infant deaths from 24 states from 2004-2012 in the case reporting system of the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths. Cases were divided by younger (0-3 months) and older (4 months to one year) infants. In a total of 8,207 deaths analyzed, majority of the infants (69 percent) were bed-sharing at the time of death. Fifty-eight percent were male, and most deaths occurred in non-Hispanic whites. Younger infants were more likely bed-sharing (73.8 percent vs. 58.9 percent), sleeping on an adult bed or on/near a person, while older infants were more likely found prone with objects, such as blankets or stuffed animals in the sleep area. Researchers conclude that sleep-related infant deaths risk factors are different for younger and older infants. Parents should follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations for a safe sleep environment and understand that different factors reflect risk at different developmental stages.

Co-sleeping/bed sharing

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I are looking into “co-sleeping” with our new baby girl. When I told a neighbor of mine, she shook her head and said it was too risky and would “spoil” her, causing later behavior problems. What are the risks, the benefits, and what should we do?

A: Co-sleeping, or sleeping with an infant in your adult bed, is one of the many parenting ideas that has passionate advocates and just-as-passionate detractors. The two sides are usually framed in extremes, as if you’re evil if you do it – or evil if you don’t. Obviously, it’s not that simple. As you noted, it’s best to learn the risks and benefits so you can make an informed decision.

Although it has only recently re-entered the conversation in North America, co-sleeping is not some newfangled idea. Outside of the English-speaking world it’s the norm, and before the 20th century it was standard pretty much everywhere (although it’s worth mentioning that in many countries, people share a bed with their children because the entire family lives in a single room).
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