Bed-sharing is where babies sleep in the same bed as their parents. It has long been known that bed-sharing with a parent who smokes or has consumed drugs or alcohol increases the risk of SIDS. This new study aimed to see if bed-sharing still increased the risk of SIDS in the absence of these risk factors. The risk of SIDS was even higher when the parents smoked, drank or used drugs. It is important to note that the researchers did not conclude that babies should not be brought into their parents' bed for comfort and feeding, only that they should not sleep in the same bed as their parents.
It is also important to be aware that the overall risk of SIDS is very small and it is a rare condition. However, there are simple steps parents can take to reduce the risk of SIDS see box , and it is well worth following this potentially life-saving advice.
Where did the story come from? No external sources of funding were reported, although the original research this report is based on was funded by a number of governmental bodies, charities and trusts. The story was well reported by the media. What kind of research was this?
This study combined information from individuals in five large case-control studies. These studies had collected data on babies who died from SIDS cases and babies of a similar age who were still alive controls. The researchers were interested in bed-sharing specifically.
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The research aimed to resolve the uncertainty over whether there is a risk of SIDS associated with bed-sharing in breastfed babies where neither parent smoked. What did the research involve?
The researchers combined individual data from studies in the UK, Europe and Australasia. In total, information was collected for 1, babies who died from SIDS and 4, control infants, all under one year of age. Control infants were randomly selected normal infants of a similar age, from a similar location and born at a similar time. This was after they had controlled for other important risk predictors, including: The researchers found that Bed-sharing increased the absolute risk of SIDS by 0.
This means the absolute risk from bed-sharing was 0. Bed-sharing, smoking and alcohol use all increased the risk of SIDS.
However, the risks associated with bed-sharing decreased as the baby got older. How did the researchers interpret the results?
The researchers concluded that, "Bed-sharing for sleep when the parents do not smoke or take alcohol or drugs increases the risk of SIDS. A substantial reduction of SIDS rates could be achieved if parents avoided bed-sharing. Smoking, alcohol and drug use are already recognised risk factors for SIDS and greatly increase the risk associated with bed-sharing.
It is also worth highlighting the very small actual risk of SIDS, both for non-sharing and bed-sharing babies. Although this study was appropriately designed and controlled for, a number of potential factors that could affect the risk of SIDS and the causes of SIDS are not firmly established. This means that there may be other factors responsible for the observed increase in risk associated with bed-sharing. To decrease the risk of SIDS, current advice recommends:
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