Parents Who Share a Bed With Infants Could be Increasing Their Risk of SIDS

May 21, 2013 03:52 PM EDT

Parents who share a bed with their baby could be increasing the child’s risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death, as much as five times than if they slept separately.

Led by the London School of Hygiene and tropical Medicine, the report, which is the largest of its kind, analyzed the individual records of 1,472 cases of SIDS and 4,679 controls across five major studies.

In doing so, the scientists discovered a five-fold increase of cot death in cases of bed sharing in comparison to room sharing, which entails sharing a room but not a bed.

Previously, there was a general consensus among the medical community that sleeping with a baby increases the chances of the baby dying of SIDS if the parent or parents engaged in smoking, drinking or drugs, according to the researchers; however, up to this point, there has been conflicting opinions as to whether bed sharing represents a risk factor in and of itself.

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In all, the study’s authors believe that 81 percent of cot deaths among babies less than 3 months old 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 decreased as a baby got older, with the peak period for deaths between 7 and 10 weeks.

“Currently in the UK more than half of cot deaths occur while a baby is sleeping in the same beds as its parents,” Bob Carpenter, the lead author of the study, said in a press release. To reverse this trend, Carpenter suggests a public health campaign similar to the one used 20 years ago in the United Kingdom to advise parents to place their newborns to sleep on their backs.

While the authors state their support for bringing babies into a parents’ bed for comfort and feeding, they strongly urge that the infants be placed in a crib next to the parents’ bed to sleep.

“Health professionals need to make a definite stand against all bed sharing, especially for babies under 3 months,” Carpenter said.

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