Bed-sharing Among Leading Causes of Infant Deaths

Jul 27, 2014

A new study suggests that bed-sharing is the predominant cause of death among young infants.

The majority of sleep related deaths among infants younger than one year is due to bed-sharing, as a research published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed earlier this month.

The study showed that risk factors for sleep-related infant death vary according to the age of the child. The main risk factor for younger infants (newborn to 3 months old) is bed-sharing. For older infants (4 months to about 1 year) who are prone to rolling, the primary risk factor is objects in the sleeping area.

Dr. Kali Francis, pediatrician at Southeast Health, believes this study shows significant results as far as how the sleeping environment needs to be handled to keep babies safe at night.

“The reason that there is such significant risk there is adult often roll over in the middle of the night and could roll over on top of baby, even if baby is placed far away from the parent. Pillows, blanket and those sorts of things can get up around the baby’s face and make it difficult for baby to breath and can cause death,” she explained.

Dr. Francis added that it is a misconception that babies are less likely to die if they are bed-sharing.

“Anything in bed with a child can be dangerous,” said Francis.

The American Academy of Pediatrics sets several recommendations to create a safe sleeping environment. They first recommend that infants be placed on their back until they are at least one year old.

“After 4 to 6 months children are able to roll often, and so if you have seen that your child is rolling in the middle of the night onto their side or onto their stomach, it’s okay to leave the baby in that position,” Dr. Francis said. “But the strong recommendation is there not be anything in the bed with that infant - no objects, no bumpers, no toys, no pillows, no blankets.”

She added that the infant should also sleep on a firm surface to help prevent the baby from rolling, and if sleeping in the same room as the parents, the infant should be sleeping on a different surface.

The study’s researchers concluded that sleep related death factors may be different depending on the age group and insisted that in the case of death caused by objects in the sleeping area “parents should be reminded that cribs should be clear of any objects, so that if the infant rolls, there is no risk of rolling into something that may create an asphyxial environment.”