Like most new mothers, my sisters wanted to spend as much time as possible with their newborns except when they were able to snatch a few hours of sleep. It’s understandable that new parents are enraptured by their infants and want to be near them, but research indicates that parents who share a bed with their newborn may actually be putting them at risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Doctors and health professionals have cautioned parents for years about not sharing a bed with their infant, but usually, most warnings were for parents who smoked, regularly imbibed alcohol or did drugs. This is because these parents were more likely to accidentally suffocate their children and not be aware of what they were doing. However, researchers are now warning all parents of newborns to allow their child to sleep in a crib or cot for at least three months before attempting to share a bed.
SIDS, also called crib death, is a major cause of death among babies under 1 year of age in high-income countries. In fact, 81% of crib deaths among infants under 3 months old with no other risk factors could be prevented if only they didn’t sleep in the same bed as their parents.
The study conducted examined the record of 1,472 cases of crib death and also 4,679 control cases. Through an in-depth analysis of the data, the research team found that the risk of SIDS among breastfed babies under 3 months was increased when they slept in the same bed as their parents, even if their parents didn’t smoke, drink, or do drugs.
Lead author on the study, Professor Bob Carpenter from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said that "If parents were made aware of the risks of sleeping with their baby, and room sharing was instead promoted in the same way that the 'Back to Sleep' campaign was promoted 20 years ago to advise parents to place their newborn infants to sleep on their backs, we could achieve a substantial reduction in cot death rates in the UK. Annually there are around 300 cot death cases in babies under a year old in the UK, and this advice could save the lives of up to 40% of those. Health professionals need to make a definite stand against all bed sharing, especially for babies under 3 months."
The study also says that it’s perfectly fine to breastfeed your child in bed and cuddle for comfort, just allow them to sleep in a crib once they are finished until they are at least 3 months or older.
Source: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (2013, May 20). Bed sharing leads to fivefold increase in risk of crib death for babies whose parents do not smoke. ScienceDaily.