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Physician Advice Can Reduce Potentially Life-Threatening Practice of Adults Sharing a Bed with an Infant

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Sharing a bed, with an adult, or with another child increases an infant’s risk of death from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or other sleep-related causes. To reduce infants’ risk of sleep-related deaths, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep in the same room, but not in the same bed, as caregivers. Cribs, portable cribs, bassinets, or playards (playpens) that meet safety standards can be placed next to the caregiver’s bed to provide a safe sleep environment. Infants should not be placed to sleep on an adult bed at any time.

Despite these recommendations, researchers in the National Infant Sleep Position Study, funded by the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch, recently found that the percentage of nighttime caregivers who reported an infant in the household “usually shared a bed with a parent, another adult, or a child” more than doubled between 1993 and 2010. Based on responses from nearly 20,000 caregivers, the researchers reported that the proportion of infants sharing a bed with another person rose from 6.5% to 13.5% over the 17-year period of the Study. The majority of bed sharing, 85%, was with parents. 

However, the researchers also found that advice from physicians could significantly reduce the potentially life-threatening practice. Caregivers who perceived physicians’ attitude as against sharing a bed were about 34% less likely to report that the infant usually shared a bed than were caregivers who received no advice. The Study also showed that if physicians gave advice that caregivers perceived as neutral regarding bed sharing, the caregivers were more likely to bed share with their infants than were caregivers whose physicians didn’t give them any advice at all. 

The findings show the importance of physicians’ guidance about safe sleep environment to clearly convey the risks of bed sharing to new parents (PMID: 24080961). 

Last Reviewed: 06/24/2014
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