SIDS is the leading cause of infant mortality in the US during the postneonatal period (28 days through the first birthday). To prevent it, pediatricians advise parents to place babies on their backs to sleep and to avoid sharing the same bed with their babies. Many parents want to bring their infants to bed with them. Bed sharing seems so convenient for breastfeeding and cuddling.
In an article just published in the British Medical Journal, researchers analyzed a large amount of information from five separate studies. The authors concluded that if a mother sleeps in the same bed with her infant, the risk of SIDS increases five fold. The risk of bed sharing with mom was most pronounced for infants under three months of age. Experts believe that bed-sharing SIDS may occur because a baby breathes trapped, stale air, inadvertently smothers, or becomes seriously overheated while sleeping in bed with their mothers.
Does this mean parents cannot sleep close to their babies or feed them in bed? No, you can still breastfeed your infant in the bed as long as you are awake, and you can sleep in the same room as your baby as long as the baby is not in your bed while you, the parent, are asleep. In fact, both breastfeeding and sleeping in the same room with your baby actually lowers his or her chance of SIDS. Having your baby close at night is fine, but learn and follow the “Safe Sleep” guidelines experts have worked so hard to develop. The “Safe Sleep” guidelines save lives.
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Written collaboratively by John Eun and Paul Smolen MD