Study Highlights Co-sleeping Dangers

Rise in infant suffocations renews debate on bed-sharing


A new year, a new study about babies and sleep: Federal health officials report that infant deaths blamed on accidental strangulation and suffocation in bed have increased sharply in the U.S., The New York Times reports. The news has reignited a simmering debate over the rising number of parents who sleep with their babies, also known as "bed-sharing" or "co-sleeping."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis published in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics found that the rate of fatalities linked to unintentional suffocation and strangulation in babies' first year of life quadrupled between 1984 and 2004. The study did not examine the cause behind the increase, but the trend coincided with a sharp rise in bed-sharing, which has become more popular to help bond and breast-feed. While such tragedies remain relatively rare, such deaths can occur when a sleeping parent rolls on top of a baby, a pillow falls on an infant's face, a blanket gets wrapped around the child's neck or when the baby gets wedged between a mattress and a wall.

The highest spike in cases occurred after 1996, which is about the same time that deaths from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) appeared to level off after a substantial decrease as a result of a nationwide campaign to encourage parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs.

There is no "right" answer to the questions surrounding bed-sharing. Fit Pregnancy promotes co-sleeping as a viable option for parents as long as precautions are followed. For more tips on how to accomplish bed-sharing safely, read up on The Family Bed. We also continue to encourage parents to put babies down to sleep on their backs only and on a flat mattress with no loose pillows or blankets. Here are some tips to encourage safe and happy slumber for you and your baby. Plus, we have plenty of information on how to prevent SIDS.

Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.