More Doctors Say Co-Sleeping Is Risky – Maybe We Should Start Listening

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shutterstock_164009231__1405451648_142.196.167.223A new study analyzing factors in sleep related deaths for young infants suggests that bed-sharing poses the greatest risk for babies four months old and younger. Of the 8,207 deaths in National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths Case Reporting System – 70% of those were infants who were bed-sharing at the time of their death.

The study defines bed-sharing as sleeping on the same surface as a person or animal. This does not include the use of a co-sleeper. From Huffington Post:

“Bed-sharing for 0-4 month old babies is extremely risky,” Rachel Moon, M.D., a pediatrician and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) researcher at Children’s National Health Hospital and an author on the study, wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. “In this study, this sleep situation presented the most important risk for infants in this age group.”

Bed-sharing proved to be the biggest risk or young infants, while “rolling into objects in the sleep area — such as a blanket or pillow — is the top risk factor for older babies.” Whenever the point of the dangers of co-sleeping comes up, there are those who insist that they did it and no one died – so no big deal. I hear this sentiment echoed all the time. I co-slept with my child starting from about the time that he was five months old, because we moved into a brownstone in Brooklyn in the middle of winter that had no working heat. The fear of him freezing to death trumped the fear of me suffocating him in his sleep. I also had so many anecdotes of friends sleeping with their kids that I felt fairly confident doing it too. But what if we are steering each other wrong here?

The study was not a perfect one; there was no control group. “Moon and her colleagues were unable to determine the overall risk associated with bed-sharing. In other words, while the researchers found a link between bed-sharing and deaths, they were not able to say whether a high percentage of infants who bed-share will die.” But she is a a pediatrician and SIDS researcher so it seems we should pay her conclusions some mind, no?

No matter how many times we defer to doctors and their expertise regarding matters such as vaccinations or other health and safety issues – it seems co-sleeping is one thing many of us have an easy time saying, “Meh. I’m not worried” about. Why is that do you think? I’m not pointing fingers here, because I did it too. I’m just wondering why we can totally get behind something like banning crib bumpers, which caused 27 accidental deaths in 20 years – but when it comes to co-sleeping, which was linked to 550 deaths in seven years – we still manage to offer up excuses as to why it’s safe.

With my second baby I was firm in the “crib right next to the bed” camp. I just slept better that way. The more I read these kinds of statistics, I’m wondering if we all need to be a little more open-minded in accepting the recommendation that co-sleeping may not be safe for young infants.

“We really need to educate parents before their baby arrives, and remind them of the things we know can save lives, like putting them to bed in their own sleeping space,” said Shalini Paruthi, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at St. Louis University’s School of Medicine, who did not work on the new study, but had reviewed it. “I was astounded by the fact that 69.2 percent [of the infants examined in the study] were found to be bed-sharing.”

(photo: Rob Hainer/ Shutterstock)