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Asking the Expert: Advice on Safe Sleeping for Your Baby

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is one of the leading causes of death in babies from 1 month to 1 year of age.  We reached out to pediatrician and SIDS researcher Rachel Moon, MD, to weigh in on possible risks leading to SIDS.

Dr. Moon warned parents, particularly with infants under 4 months old, that bed-sharing is a factor in sudden infant death syndrome.

What’s the difference between co-sleeping and bed-sharing? 

“Some people use them as synonyms but they are actually different. Co-sleeping is when the parent and baby are within sound, sight, and/or touch. Bed sharing (sharing the same surface) is a subtype of co-sleeping. What we recommend is a type of co-sleeping within arm’s reach but on a separate surface,” Dr. Moon said.

How common is bed-sharing? 

“It is very common. If you look at surveys, they will tell you anywhere from 25 to 75 percent of parents bed share any time at night. That’s what people are telling us, but actually numbers are probably much higher,” Dr. Moon said.

Suppose parents balk at the idea of not having their infants in the bed with them at night – whether for bonding, convenience, or economics?

“My goal is to make sure you have a child to bond with at the end of one year,” Dr. Moon said.

“The bottom line is this: Is it worth the risk to take that chance? Even if you are doing everything right, your baby is at five times the risk of dying when you bed-share,” she said.

“You can also bond with your baby when you are awake,” added Dr. Moon. “Bonding when everyone’s awake is probably actually more productive and more useful in the long run.”

Dr. Moon’s New Study Highlights SIDS Risk Factors  

Dr. Moon, co-author of "14 Ways to Protect Your Baby from SIDS," was the senior author of a new study that highlighted risks factors for sleep-related causes of infant death. The study was published in the August print edition of “Pediatrics,” a journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and online July 14.

Researchers analyzed more than 8,000 cases of sleep-related infant deaths from 24 states from 2004-2012.

The study found that almost 70 percent of the babies died while sharing a bed, and about a third died with an object (like a pillow or a blanket) in their beds.

She said the study indicates risk factors differ according to the age of the baby and change even as the child ages and becomes more mobile. An infant’s sleep environment should remain clear of objects such as pillows, blankets, bumper pads, or toys, she said.

“The predominant risk factor for younger infants is bed-sharing, whereas rolling into objects in the sleep area is the predominant risk factor for older infants. Parents should be warned about the dangers of these specific risk factors appropriate to their infant’s age,” according to the study.

Researchers looked at data of infants up to 4 months old and 4 months to 1-year-old.

Dr. Moon’s Safe Sleeping Tips: 

  • Always put baby on his/her back for sleep
  • Don’t smoke around the baby
  • Use a crib with a firm sleep surface and place it next to your bed
  • Remove loose or soft bedding including blankets, pillows, bumper pads, and stuffed animals from where your baby is sleeping
  • Use proper sleep clothing such as blanket sleepers
  • Avoid bed sharing and do not place baby on any soft cushiony surfaces to sleep
  • Use a pacifier, which protects against SIDS
  • Don’t overheat the room and don’t overdress your baby
  • Breastfeed your baby. If you nurse while sitting in bed, when you’re ready to go to sleep, put your baby in his or her own crib.
  • Make sure anyone who watches or takes care of your baby knows the sleep recommendations that you’re following
For more information about SIDS:

Categories: Infants
Topics: Sleep, Safety
Authors: Jeannine Hunter


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