A new study suggests that an increasing number of moms are choosing to have their infants sleep in their bed, a practice known as bed-sharing, rather than having baby sleep in a bassinet or cradle with a supported bottom. Moms may prefer the proximity because it makes breastfeeding convenient, and many say that it helps them to feel like their baby is safe. But bed-sharing could also potentially increase risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as SIDS.
SIDS refers to the sudden, unexpected death of a child under the age of one year where an autopsy cannot conclusively determine a cause of death. It’s a heartbreaking situation. The Center for Disease Control estimates that approximately 2,000 infant deaths occur each year from SIDS — it’s the third leading cause of death in infants aged 1-12 months.
Although it’s not entirely clear what causes SIDS, doctors believe that it may be related both to problems with the baby’s ability to wake up from sleep and a problem with the baby’s body being able to detect a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood. There are a number of risk factors — some preventable, some not:
- Sharing a bed with an adult
- Putting a child to sleep on his or her stomach
- Being exposed to cigarette smoke
- Using soft bedding in the crib
- Being a multiple birth baby, like a twin or triplet
- Being born prematurely
- Having a sibling that died of SIDS
- Recreational drug use by the mother
- Short time between pregnancies
- Late or no prenatal care
While bed sharing may make you feel more comfortable with your baby’s safety, it can actually be dangerous. And SIDS isn’t the only potential danger — there is also a risk that an adult may accidentally roll over on an infant while sleeping, resulting in suffocation.
If you enjoy the comfort and convenience of staying near your baby while you sleep, avoid the temptation to bring baby to bed. Instead, place his or her cradle or bassinet in the room where you sleep. In addition to keeping baby close for late-night feedings, research suggests that sleeping in the same room (but not in the same bed!) may actually help to reduce the risk of SIDS.