Bed-sharing 'raises newborn death risk fivefold'
Sharing a bed with a newborn increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome fivefold, research claims.
The risk applies even if parents avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs – other factors firmly linked to cotdeaths.
The BMJ Open research compared nearly 1,500 cot deaths with a control group of more than 4,500 parents.
Current guidance in the UK is that parents should decide where their baby sleeps, but says the safest option is in a crib or cot in the same room.
Many other countries, such as the US and the Netherlands, go further and say parents should not share a bed with their baby for the first three months of his or her life.
Prof Bob Carpenter, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, carried out the analysis and says the UK should now follow suit and “take a more definitive stance against bed-sharing for babies under three months”.
The government said it had asked the public health watchdog NICE to urgently examine its guidance on co-sleeping in light of this new study.
Unicef UK is concerned that any guidance that recommends the total avoidance of bed-sharing could end up forcing parents into much riskier practices such as feeding in arm-chairs or sofas where the risk of suffocating the baby is far higher.
Others question how robust the latest analysis is.
Prof Carpenter maintains avoiding bed-sharing would save lives – by his calculations, 120 of the 300 cot deaths that occur in the UK each year.
In his analysis, one or both parents had been sleeping with their child at the time of death in a fifth of cases.