University of Auckland
Tuesday 21 May 2013, 12:53PM
Media release from University of Auckland
Bed sharing leads to a five-fold increase in the risk of Sudden
Infant Death Syndrome for young babies even when parents don't
smoke, according to new research.
Researchers found that the risk of SIDS among breastfed babies
under three months increased with bed sharing, even when the
parents did not smoke and the mother had not consumed alcohol or
This five-fold increase was in comparison to room sharing, where a
baby slept in a cot in the parents' room.
The study, published in the BMJ Open this week, also showed that
the risk associated with bed sharing decreases as a baby gets
Importantly the risk of SIDS was very low for babies whose mothers
follow the current New Zealand advice: "no smoking in pregnancy and
around baby, sleep baby on the back, have baby in a cot in the
parental bedroom and breastfeed if possible."
"SIDS remains a major cause of death among babies under one year of
age in New Zealand and other high income countries," says one of
the study's authors, Professor Ed Mitchell, a University of
Auckland paediatrician who holds the Cure Kids chair in Child
There was already a general consensus that sleeping with a baby
increases the risk of SIDS if the parents smoke or if the mother
has been drinking alcohol or taking drugs, he says. There were
conflicting opinions as to whether bed sharing in general
represented a risk when these factors were not present.
Some countries, including the United States and the Netherlands,
advised all parents against sharing a bed with their baby for the
first three months. The United Kingdom only advisedcertain groups,
including parents who are smokers, not to bed share.
In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health advises that "the safest
place for your baby to sleep is in a cot besides the parental bed
for the first six months of the infant's life", says Professor
Mitchell, who initiated the study.
He says that in New Zealand more than 50 percent of deaths occur
while parents slept in the same bed as baby.
"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 SIDS rates."
"Parents need to know the risks from bed sharing, especially for
babies under three months," says Professor Mitchell. "Health
professionals have a duty to inform them. Innovative strategies
such as the wahakura and pepi-pod provide alternatives to bed
sharing, and are attracting interest overseas."
The study authors state that babies can still be brought into the
parents' bed for comfort and feeding during the night, but that
they should be placed in a cot next to the parents' bed to
The new study is the largest ever analysis of its kind. Researchers
examined the individual records of 1,472 SIDS cases and 4,679
control cases across five major studies.
'Bed sharing when parents do not smoke: is there a risk of SIDS? An
individual level analysis of five major case-control
studies', by Robert Carpenter, Cliona McGarvey, Edwin A
Mitchell, David M Tappin, Mechtild M Vennemann, M Smuk, JR
Carpenter. BMJ Open May 2013.
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