Infant Bed-Sharing Death Cautions Misdirected

Infant bedsharing

The recent death of five infants in Travis County, Texas made headlines with cautions against bedsharing, but could the ensuing sleep recommendations be misdirected? No one would argue against cautioning parents against sleep habits which put babies at risk of suffocation. However, recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics like their “ABCs of safe sleep” that advise baby should sleep “alone, on its back, in a crib” may go past the point of cautioning against suffocation risk and actually recommend a dangerous sleep habit in the opposite extreme.

When discussing where and how baby should sleep definitions and parameters are important. Equally, when an infant dies in its sleep it is important to examine all the factors and determine what caused the death as opposed to simply attributing it to where the baby was sleeping. Factors such as drug use are important to consider, as even moderate cigarette smoking or alcohol consumption can have a dramatic impact on an adult’s ability to respond to their sleeping baby.

infant cosleepingCo-sleeping is a broad term that includes any situation in which a caregiver sleeps in close proximity to an infant. Natural parenting advocates espouse co-sleeping as having many benefits for both babies and parents including increased ability to respond to each other’s biological signals and sensory cues, greater success in breastfeeding and in the ability to breastfeed on cue, as well as allowing more restful nights for the whole family.

Couch or sofa sharing, recliner sleeping, allowing an infant to sleep prone (belly down) next to a parent, and sleeping with too many covers and pillows in bed with a baby are all forms of co-sleeping; none of which are safe or advisable. Additionally, adults should never sleep on the same surface as an infant if they are inebriated or overly exhausted. These forms of co-sleeping need to be defined with separately from bed-sharing, which is not intrinsically safe or unsafe, and room sharing to avoid misdirected cautions. Room sharing,¬†which is arguably the safest form of co-sleeping, has been shown in epidemiological studies to reduce an infant’s chance of death by 50 percent.

Many argue that sleeping next to one’s baby is biologically appropriate, especially when compared to putting a baby to sleep in a room by themselves. In countries where co-sleeping and breastfeeding are the cultural norm rates of sudden infant death syndrome are significantly lower. In Japan for example, where co-sleeping is standard and bed sizes are indicated by how many children can comfortably sleep alongside parents, the rates of sudden infant death syndrome are the lowest in the world.

infant bedsharingA number of prestigious organizations support bed-sharing including the Academy of Breast Feeding Medicine, the UAS Breast Feeding Committee, La Leche League International, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization. These organizations base their bed-sharing and co-sleeping support on the best and latest scientific information in the interest of health for mothers and babies.

A parent who puts their baby to sleep in a crib every night based on accepted pediatric advice may not have been educated about the suffocation risk of an afternoon nap with baby on the couch. By defining the differences between the dangerous and beneficial forms of co-sleeping organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics can do more for the health of families. Recommending babies sleep alone and other misdirected cautions can be avoided by informing parents about both safe and dangerous forms of infant bed-sharing and co-sleeping.

By Mimi Mudd

Wiley Online Library
Natural Childcare

10 Responses to "Infant Bed-Sharing Death Cautions Misdirected"

  1. Leyla Bianco   April 6, 2014 at 1:39 am

    Poddle pod is the best thing I have brought for my daughter. She sleeps in it every night and it’s safe for her when in the bed with us. You can’t roll on it and she can’t roll out of it. They are great!

  2. Lisa Furuland   February 26, 2014 at 4:57 am

    The top picture is a Sleepyhead pod. Swedish patented design. Multifuntional; perfect for bed-sharing, as a crib/cot insert, as a play pod, lounger, for tummy time, as a travel bed, changing station etc. With antimicrobial properties, too.

  3. Amy Kissane   February 25, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you everyone trying to get hold of one, there very expensive but trying to get one a bit cheaper on amazon or ebay.

    • Lois Wattis   February 25, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      The First Years Close and Secure Co-Sleeper is only about $60AU and available at KMart in Australia. Try on-line too. Best wishes, Lois Wattis, Clinical Midwife & Lactation Consultant

  4. Juliet   February 25, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Could be a Sleepyhead or similar:

  5. Lois Wattis.   February 22, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    The co sleeper beds like this one are readily available. The First Years Safe and Secure co sleeper, and another called My Little Bed. I recommend them in my free phone App and EBook called New Baby 101which will be available on iTunes and Google Play soon. For more safe sleep info visit New Baby 101 Facebook Lois Wattis Midwife and Lactation Consultant

  6. Katy   February 22, 2014 at 6:58 am

    Amy, I think it’s a Poddlepod

  7. Rachel corps   February 22, 2014 at 6:53 am

    Poddle pod?

  8. Pamela   February 22, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Great article. I think it may be a baby nest.

  9. Amy Kissane   February 22, 2014 at 4:25 am

    Great article but i want to ask a question about the first picture in this article. The baby is sleeping in an raised and padded oval thing. What is this?? My daughter wriggles around so much during her sleep she kept banging her head on the bars and i no that cot bumpers aren’t advised so we placed a v shaped pillow around the top of her crib. Its securely positioned and can not move also she can not get underneath it. She now will not sleep without it as snuggles into it to sleep. I am aware of the dangers and think this oval thing shown would be great. Thank you for your help.


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