Latest Study on SIDS and Co-Sleeping Says U.S. Guidelines May Be Safest: Here’s Why

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The latest research reported in the medical journal BMJ Open and conducted in the U.K. found that parents who co-slept with their children are five times more likely to have a baby die of SIDS compared to other babies left in their cribs.

In the past, specialists and scientists have made steps to try and revise official guidance on co-sleeping and cot death, to recommend that parents should never let their children sleep in bed beside them (currently, only the Netherlands and the US advise against bed-sharing until baby is at least three months old).

Led by Professor Bob Carpenter of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the findings of the study are significant because they relate to babies under three months whose parents are thought to be at low-risk for their newborn dying because they do not smoke and the mother does not drink alcohol and does not take illicit substances (factors which are all associated with SIDS).

The research shows that about half of parents sleep with their baby occasionally or regularly (either deliberately slept with baby or because they unintentionally fell asleep beside them). Researchers found that cot death caused about 2,000 deaths a year but recent changes in behavior (especially in parents putting their child to sleep on their back), have seen fatalities fall to just 287 a year across the U.K in 2010. Only about half of those deaths occurred, Carpenter said, in cases when parents and baby were sharing a bed.

Throughout the study, Carpenter and his team of researchers looked at the results of five previous SIDS studies which involved 1,472 cases of cot death and 4,679 normal babies. From the study, researchers concluded that 81 percent of cot deaths among babies under three months whose parents did not exhibit the normal risk factors associated with SIDS could be avoided if parents always ensured their child was sleeping separately from them. They found that doing so could prevent about 130 of the U.K.’s annual toll of sudden infant deaths.

Carpenter said that, “Bringing a baby into bed temporarily to feed or comfort it is acceptable, but only if it is put back into its cot immediately afterwards.”

Currently, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns parents not to place their infants to sleep in adult beds, affirming that the practice puts babies at risk of suffocation and strangulation. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the practice of room-sharing with parents without bed-sharing, stating that room-sharing is a way to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Within the United States, parents who do co-sleep feel that it strengthens their bonds with baby and is a natural way to breastfeed throughout the night.

Do you think that the U.S. guidelines on co-sleeping are safest for baby?

Plus, more from The Bump:

How to Decrease Baby’s Risk of SIDs

Myths and Truths About Co-Sleeping

Co-Sleeping With Baby?