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20 May 2013
Researchers quantify bed-sharing SIDS risk

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine say parents who share a bed with their breastfed baby face a significant increase in the risk of cot death - even if the parents do not smoke. The new findings appear in the journal BMJ Open.

Cot death (also known as sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS) remains a major cause of death among babies under 1 year of age in developed countries. There is a general consensus that sleeping with a baby increases the risk of cot death if the parents smoke or if the mother has been drinking alcohol. However, there are conflicting opinions as to whether bed sharing in general represents a risk.

The new study is the largest ever of its kind, the researchers analyzing the records of 1,472 SIDS cases and 4,679 control cases. They found that the risk of cot death among breastfed babies under 3 months increased fivefold with bed sharing, even when the parents did not smoke and the mother had not consumed alcohol or drugs.

Additionally, the researchers estimate that 81 percent of cot deaths among babies younger than 3 months with no other risk factors could be prevented if they did not sleep in the same bed as their parents.

The study also showed that the risk associated with bed sharing decreases as a baby gets older, and that the peak period for instances of cot death was between 7 and 10 weeks.

"Although it is clear that smoking and drinking greatly increase the risk of cot death while bed sharing, our study shows that there is in fact an increased risk for all babies under 3 months who bed share, even if their parents do not smoke or drink," noted lead researcher Bob Carpenter. "If parents were made aware of the risks of sleeping with their baby... we could achieve a substantial reduction in cot death rates in the UK. Health professionals need to make a definite stand against all bed sharing, especially for babies under 3 months."


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Source: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

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