New Research Suggests Co-Sleeping a Much Greater Risk for SIDS
In a study published this month in the British Medical Journal, researchers from the University of Bristol found that co-sleeping is a much higher risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) than previously thought.
Peter Blair and colleagues studied 90 infants born in a southwest region of England between 2003 and 2006 that died as a result of SIDS and identified common behaviors and circumstances surrounding the deaths.
54% of the infants that died were co-sleeping with their parents at the time of death. Upon further review, the children were far more likely to be sleeping next to a parent that recently drank alcohol or did drugs, and were more likely to be sharing a sofa than a bed.
In addition, one-fifth of the infants were found with a pillow and one-quarter were swaddled. Pillow use, swaddling with blankets, maternal smoking, preterm birth, and poor health are all more common among SIDS infants than among other babies.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexpected, sudden death of a child under age 1 in which an autopsy does not show an explainable cause of death. Public health education initiatives, such as the “Back to Sleep” campaign in the 1990’s have reduced the incidence of SIDS by about 50%. Sadly however there are still about 2,500 deaths per year in the United States and thousands more throughout the world.
The Back to Sleep Campaign focused on advising parents to place their babies on their backs while they slept, including daytime naps. The use of the prone position, sleeping on the stomach, is a well-established risk factor for SIDS and is seen in 29% of infant deaths.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against co-sleeping. The group issued a policy statement in 2005 to place infants in “a separate but proximate sleeping environment” in the parents’ room for the first six months of life. In addition, other guidelines to reduce the risk of SIDS include:
* Avoid soft bedding materials. Babies should be placed on a firm, tight-fitting crib mattress with no comforter. Use a light sheet to cover the baby. Do not use pillows, comforters, or quilts.
* Make sure the room temperature is not too hot. The room temperature should be comfortable for a lightly-clothed adult. A baby should not be hot to the touch. Ensure clothing is not tight and allows for air movement to prevent overheating.
* Let the baby sleep with a pacifier. Pacifiers may allow the airway to open more, or prevent the baby from falling into a deep sleep. A baby that wakes up more easily may automatically move out of a dangerous position. The AAP says that one SIDS death could be prevented for every 2,733 babies who suck on a pacifier during sleep.
* Do not use breathing monitors or products marketed as ways to reduce SIDS. In the past, home apnea (breathing) monitors were recommended for families with a history of the condition. But research found that they had no effect, and the use of home monitors has largely stopped.
* Keep babies in a smoke-free environment.
* Breast feed – this reduces some upper respiratory infections that may influence the development of SIDS.
* Never give hone to a child under the age of one. Infant botulism may be associated with SIDS.
October is SIDS Prevention Month.