Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related causes of infant mortality have several known risk factors, but little is known if these factors change for different age groups. In a new study in the August 2014 Pediatrics, “Sleep Environment Risks for Younger and Older Infants,” published online July 14, researchers studied sleep-related infant deaths from 24 states from 2004-2012 in the case reporting system of the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths. Cases were divided by younger (0-3 months) and older (4 months to one year) infants. In a total of 8,207 deaths analyzed, majority of the infants (69 percent) were bed-sharing at the time of death. Fifty-eight percent were male, and most deaths occurred in non-Hispanic whites. Younger infants were more likely bed-sharing (73.8 percent vs. 58.9 percent), sleeping on an adult bed or on/near a person, while older infants were more likely found prone with objects, such as blankets or stuffed animals in the sleep area. Researchers conclude that sleep-related infant deaths risk factors are different for younger and older infants. Parents should follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations for a safe sleep environment and understand that different factors reflect risk at different developmental stages.
Snuggling up for the night as one big family is something that has been done for as long as humans have been reproducing, at least according to anthropologist Dr. James McKenna. He is one of the leading voices in the debate for co-sleeping. McKenna suggests that western society has only recently shown an uneasy feeling towards co-sleeping. However, that hasn’t stopped the one quarter of all US parents who report that they sleep in the same room as their baby, as NaturalChild.org reveals. Benefits from co-sleeping are turning up in research papers all over the country. However, many experts in the field of infant health agree that both types of co-sleeping, room-sharing and bed-sharing, are not created equal. In fact, one is beneficial while the other could be fatal.
Co-Sleeping / Room-Sharing Reduces the Risk of SIDS
Co-sleeping has gained popularity as more and more parents are finding this to be a convenient way to soothe baby back to sleep quickly. When they are allowed to cry in their crib for more than just a few seconds, babies become fully awake. If you have your baby at arm’s length, you can calm her fussing before she has completely woken up, giving you a little more sleep. Co-sleeping also makes breastfeeding easier. The closeness in sharing a room with your baby promotes bonding.
Many studies have been done on co-sleeping that suggest room-sharing is the best option for babies. Some of the findings include:
- Co-sleeping may reduce excessive fear in children even as adults, according to ParentingScience.com.
- According to Attachment Parenting International, co-sleeping is a means to help baby form healthy attachments early in life.
- Listening to their parents breathing can encourage more regular breathing.
- Another person in the room during sleep can help keep baby healthier. It has been shown to have many health benefits for coma patients such as lower blood pressure, according to NaturalChild.org.
- Parents can respond quickly in a crisis.
Co-Sleeping/Room-Sharing and Bed-Sharing are Different
Co-sleeping has also been called room-sharing. The difference between sharing a room with your baby and sharing a bed with her is significant according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Sharing a room without sharing a bed is beneficial to the baby. Placing baby in your bed at night is dangerous and not recommended.
Bed-Sharing Can Lead to Infant Death
Not only does the risk of SIDS increase, but bed-sharing can also result in suffocation or strangulation. Mattresses come in many sizes from twins to California kings and different levels of firmness. These options are great for sleep-deprived parents, but almost never for an infant. Adults have more mobility than an infant. They have the ability to change position on even the most malleable mattresses such as waterbeds, foam and air mattresses. Infants cannot. The bedding in adult beds is not appropriate for babies, even with adults close by.
Co-sleeping adds to your relationship with your baby. However, safety is every parent’s main concern. Place your baby in a bassinet in your room rather than letting it sleep in your bed. You will get all the benefits of co-sleeping without all the risks.