Sharing a Bed with an Infant Is Not Risk-Free

Sharing a bed with an infant, also known as co-sleeping, is a controversial practice in Western cultures. Yet thousands of parents engage in it regularly. Despite concerns over infant safety, parents who prefer co-sleeping say that it strengthens the parent-child bond and promotes better physical, mental and emotional health. Those against co-sleeping are quick to point out that it could prove deadly.

There is no definitive science that proves co-sleeping to be either good or bad. However, common sense and practical experience indicates that sharing a bed with an infant is not without its risks. Parents need to understand these risks before they make the choice to co-sleep.

Increase Risk of SIDS

Infant Death Syndrome is a syndrome medical science knows very little about. Over the years, we have heard that everything from bedding choices to sleep positions can cause infants to die prematurely. One thing we do know is that co-sleeping increases the risk of Infant Death Syndrome significantly.

One study from 2013 looked at more than 1,400 cases of cot death among more than 4,600 otherwise healthy infants. The research determined that families who practice co-sleeping are five times more likely to experience a cot death than those in which children sleep separately. Furthermore, the study separated other adverse behaviours, including alcohol and drug use.

Increased Risk of Suffocation

Another very real risk of sharing a bed with infant is inadvertently suffocating the child by rolling on top of him/her. This actually happens more often than you might believe. Consider the US state of Maine, as an example.

Maine is one of the smaller states, with a total population of just 1.3 million. Yet despite being so small, the state has already experienced five infant deaths in the first two months of 2015 as a result of suffocation in a co-sleeping arrangement. Normally, the state sees only between 10 and 12 such deaths every year.

Co-sleeping Safely

We realise that some people are completely devoted to the idea of sharing their beds with infants. If you are among them, BedSOS want to encourage you to do so safely. According to Notre Dame University, co-sleeping babies should be placed on their backs and clear of any pillows, stuffed animals, etc. This allows the child freedom of movement without worry of being smothered by surrounding objects.

Second, both parents need to agree to the arrangement and determine they are equally responsible for making sure the baby remains safe. To that end, it may not be a good idea to place the baby between both parents. It is better to place the child to one side or the other.

Finally, obese parents need to seriously consider whether they are physically sensitive enough to feel themselves accidentally rolling on top of a child. If there are any questions, avoid co-sleeping. Furthermore, never share your bed with an infant after you’ve been drinking or taking drugs. Doing so could be fatal.

Sources:

The Guardian – http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/20/sudden-infant-death-risk-greater-parents-share-bed-babies
WCSH – http://www.wcsh6.com/story/news/health/2015/02/20/bed-sharing-infant-deaths-january-maine/23752747/
Notre Dame University – http://co-sleeping.nd.edu/safe-co-sleeping-guidelines/

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