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Co-Sleeping is Not Safe

A recent NPR piece discussing safe sleep and co-sleeping has been making the rounds. The article alleges that the risk of co-sleeping is slight and that it is lower than your lifetime risk of being struck by lightning. We disagree with that assessment. We agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics position that co-sleeping is NOT safe as having an infant in a separate bassinet next to the parent's bed.

Let's review some of the statistics they quote in the article. (There's some math here, but it's not too bad).

The article says that for a low risk infant (full term female, normal birth weight, older mother who does not smoke or drink) who room shares, but does not co-sleep, the risk of SIDS is 1 in 46,000 babies. That risk jumps to 1 in 16,400 for co-sleeping. They argue that a three-fold increase in risk is not significant as the overall risk is so low.

If all 4 million babies born each year in the US were low risk girls (hint: they're not), this is the difference between 87 SIDS deaths if nobody co-slept and 244 if they all co-sleep. So, even in the ideal situation where all babies were low-risk, that's over 150 more babies dying from SIDS in a year. Out of 4 million, that may be a small number, but those families wouldn't think so.

Obviously, not all babies are low risk. Half of them are boys who have a 50-60% higher risk of SIDS to begin with. African-American babies of either gender also have higher risks. As the article mentions - low birth weight babies with younger moms who smoke and drink alcohol have staggeringly high SIDS rates. Their risk raises even ten-fold higher (to 1 in 150 babies)if they co-sleep. These risk factors, along with other unsafe sleep practices, are why there are about 2,500 cases of SIDS in the US each year.

While humans may have evolved to co-sleep, that usually meant on a floor or a thin mat, not a Serta Perfect Sleeper with a 6 inch foam mattress topper, a blanket, a thick comforter, and 12 pillows. Our beds are not safe for babies.

It's simply safest to have babies sleeping in their own space (bassinet or crib) in parents' rooms. Always on their backs on a flat firm mattress with only a fitted sheet - no blankets, pillows, toys, crib bumpers (even the mesh ones), etc... Products advertised to give baby their own sleeping area in parents' beds (we're looking at you, Dock-a-Tot) are not safe.

If you choose to co-sleep despite this, it is important that neither parent smokes or drinks alcohol before bed - both raise the risk of SIDS significantly.

Finally, the risk of co-sleeping is NOT lower than your risk of getting struck by lightning. SIDS only applies to infants under 1 year, so you're only at risk for one year. The risk of getting struck by lightning in a given year is 1 in 280,000. The risk of dying from a lightning strike in a given year is about 1 in 3 million - much much lower than the risk of SIDS (Still, don't go outside to play in a thunderstorm)

Posted: 6/5/2018 8:14:42 AM by Paul Matz | with 0 comments


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