Co-Sleeping SIDS Risk Eyed In New Study

Co-sleeping may raise the risk of SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, a new study suggests.

The new findings about co-sleeping and SIDS have reignited debate over the controversial sleeping practice in which parents share a bed with infants.

Advocates of co-sleeping report more workable sleeping patterns overall, as well as ease of breastfeeding, less nighttime waking, and more security for a new baby. Some experts in baby care also posit that co-sleeping can be a SIDS deterrent, due to the possible “pacemaker” effect of a mother’s heart sleeping alongside a baby.

But a recent study directly contradicts the practice of co-sleeping as a SIDS prevention method, indicating babies who co-slept were “five times more likely to die of SIDS compared with infants who slept separately in the same room,” even when controlling for SIDS risk factors such as formula use, smoking, and alcohol consumption.

After the three-month mark was passed, the study found the co-sleeping SIDS risk remained at three times higher than that of infants who slept separately from parents.

Dr. Rachel Moon is a pediatrician at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) task force on SIDS. Dr. Moon said of the research findings on co-sleeping and SIDS:

“This is a really important study, because it does what no other study has done before … Even if you do everything right, bed-sharing increases a baby’s risk.”

Moon added:

“It’s become really uncommon to encounter a baby who dies of SIDS who wasn’t bed-sharing.”

However, the study on co-sleeping and SIDS has already been criticized by UNICEF UK in a five-point rebuttal on their website.

In the response, the organization says in part:

“The stated objective of the paper is to resolve uncertainty about the risk of SIDS and bed-sharing, but this is not possible if essential data has not been collected. A more recent study (Blair et al, BMJ 2009) has demonstrated a significant interaction between co-sleeping and recent parental consumption of alcohol and drugs. None of these five case-control studies collected data on recent drug consumption and only two collected data on alcohol consumption. The over-arching argument is thus whether bed-sharing in itself poses a risk to infants or whether the risk is within the hazardous circumstances in which we bed-share. These older studies simply do not have the data to resolve this argument.”

The SIDS co-sleeping study was published in the medical journal BMJ.