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Sudden Infant Deaths And Co-Sleeping

October 14, 2009

Over half of sudden infant deaths occur when the infant is co-sleeping with an adult on a bed or sofa, researchers reported Tuesday.

What’s more, parents’ use of alcohol or drugs could also increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, a team of researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Warwick found that although the rate of SIDS has dropped in the UK, parents needed to be aware of certain actions that could increase the risk of infant death.

SIDS was first documented in 1969 as a natural cause of death among infants that had no outside contributing factors.

In their new report, researchers found that co-sleeping with an adult was a factor in more than 50 percent of all SIDS cases. This risk was increased when the co-sleeping adult had consumed alcohol or taken sedating drugs prior to bedtime.

Researchers conducted interviews with parents who had recently had children that died as a result of SIDS. They collected information on alcohol and drug use.

Of the 80 SIDS deaths taken into account, 54 percent occurred when the infant was co-sleeping with an adult, compared to a 20 percent co-sleeping rate amongst both control groups.

“Parents need to be advised never to put themselves in a situation where they might fall asleep with a young infant on a sofa,” researchers said.

A fifth of SIDS infants were found with a pillow for the last sleep and a quarter were swaddled, suggesting potentially new risk factors emerging.

“We know that those at greatest risk of experiencing a cot death are very young mums, often single, and still in their teens, and this group is the most likely to reject safe sleep advice,” Joyce Epstein, director of the UK’s Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, told BBC Health.

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