Study Finds That Co-Sleeping Rates Have Doubled — Does That Mean It’s Safer?

Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump
Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump

A new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, found that co-sleeping rates have doubled in the past 20 years. While the number of parents co-sleeping with their babies is on the upswing, so is the concern for doctors. Doctors worry that the increasing trend, up 7 percent since 1993, raises the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In 2010, more than 14 percent of parents said they were practicing co-sleeping.

The research, funded and conducted by the National Institutes of Health, surveyed 20,000 caregivers about their bed-sharing habits. They found that more parents noted they were cuddling up with their kids compared to earlier years. Interestingly enough, researchers found that parents were willing to listen to their pediatricians recommendations about the dangers of bed-sharing and co-sleeping practices. However, the study revealed that for parents who felt their doctor wouldn’t approve of their co-sleeping practices were 34 percent less likely to admit to co-sleeping.

They found that the trend was highest among African American infants. In 1993, 21 percent reported that they co-slept while in 2010, 39 percent were co-sleeping. And after analyzing the findings, researchers felt that the upward spike was due to the weak public heath messages reminding parents that babies need their own sleep spaces for reasons aside from just safety.  But is there a safe co-sleeping solution? The latest study published in the JAMA Pediatrics just days ago found that even though bed-sharing with baby makes breastfeeding easier for moms, co-sleeping could also raise baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Sounds confusing, right? Because it is.

The American Association of Pediatrics advises against bed sharing because studies show it increases risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If you do sleep share, the AAP cautions against doing so when you’ve been drinking or are “excessively tired”… ruling out, oh, every single night for most new parents. The AAP does recommend, though, keeping baby in your bedroom (but in a separate crib or bassinet) for the first few months. Close proximity has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. If even a crib on the other side of the room seems too far, try a co-sleeper, which is a three-sided crib that attaches right to your bed for easy access. And it’s not just the AAP that recommends against the sleep sharing routine. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also warns parents not to place their infants to sleep in adult beds, due to the fact that the practice puts babies at risk of suffocation and strangulation. While at the same time, moms admit to successful exclusive nursing for longer because of the convenience of nursing in bed.

Do you think co-sleeping is safe — or dangerous?

Plus, more from The Bump:

Myths and Truths About Co-Sleeping

Latest Study on SIDS and Co-Sleeping Says US Guidelines May be Safest

Co-Sleeping With Baby: Pros and Cons