Posts Tagged ‘co-sleeping’

Positive and informative statement from UNICEF which has been seen and approved by the authors of the study.

Interesting comment in The Guardian yesterday who picked up the mis-reporting issues and the fact that the authors of the study are not happy with how the press have been picking it up.


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Once again the ‘risks’ of bed-sharing and SIDS is all over the news.  I am so tired of seeing



mis-reporting and poor methodology in these studies that I have taken some time to look over current evidence and advice.

“Over half of cot deaths occur whilst co-sleeping”

Or so says the study that is currently being used to scaremonger.  This is a retrospective study by a team from Warwick and Bristol Universities.  They looked at the evidence for 80 babies who died of SIDS in the SW region.  The BBC report that ‘sharing a bed is a factor in more than 50% of cases’ followed confusingly by the statement that ‘many of the deaths occurred when parent and infant slept together on a sofa’.  Hmmm.

So what did the study find? That in 43 out of the 80 deaths the parents were co-sleeping.  But in 7.31 (?) of those cases they were on a sofa.  In 13.3 of those cases the parents had consumed drugs or alcohol.   A further 16 out of the total of 80 babies were on a pillow or swaddled and the authors state that these risk factors were the same in either group  so we can assume that 8 babies were on a pillow or swaddled.  So around 28-29 of those 43 cases were definately not safely bed-sharing or bed-sharing at all.

The study makes no reference as to whether the parents were smoking – a contributing factor in the vast majority of cot deaths.  And there is no reference to breastfeeding – a protective factor in the vast majority of cases.

So what does this study really tell us?  That without the important information about smoking and breastfeeding 15 out of 80 of the babies who died of SIDS were sharing a bed with a parent who was not drunk or on drugs.  This doesn’t tell us very much.  I have contacted the team who authored the study asking for clarification about smoking and breastfeeding and will update the blog if I hear back from them.

Other Evidence

Moving away from this specific study, what other evidence abounds about bed sharing and SIDS?  The number of studies is huge.  To enable results that can be considered rigerous and therefore actually truthful:

UNICEF further recommends that all future research into infant death and sleeping environments should unambiguously record data on … the baby’s sleep surface, maternal and paternal smoking status, alcohol and drug consumption and infant feeding method. These factors should be recorded at the time of infant death (rather than relying on data for other periods such as feeding method at delivery or smoking status during pregnancy) and the results adjusted to control for them.

However it is very difficult to come across any study that actually takes into account these recommendations, let alone reports it’s findings within these guidelines and separates out the evidence as stated above.

The nearest I have found is a study published in the British Medical Journal entitled Babies sleeping with parents: case-control study of factors influencing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. The study was part of the CESDI (Confidential Enquiry into Stillbirth and Death in Infancy) carried out annually in the UK.

This study was published in 1999.  It was a three year, population based case-control study.  The authors studied all cases within a population of 470,000 births.  During the three year study the authors examined 325 SIDS cases, and also those of 1300 ‘control’ infants matched for age, locality and time of sleep.  They interviewed all parents.

Findings initially showed an increased risk for infants sharing the parental bed for the whole sleep, babies sleeping in their own bedrooms and infants who shared a sofa.

However, the risk for infants sharing the parental bed was found to be not significant for older infants >14wks or any infant whose parents did not smoke.

The authors concluded that :

There is no evidence that bed sharing is hazardous for infants of parents who do not smoke.

This study found that if parents don’t smoke and BED share (rather than sofa share) they are no more likely to suffer from SIDS than babies in a cot in their non-smoking parents bedroom.   However babies in their own rooms are at more risk of SIDS than babies in a cot in their non-smoking parents bedroom.  So, why is this fact so under-reported?

More information and analysis of this study can be found at the Mothering Magazine website.


Given that bed-sharing has been shown to be crucial in establishing a successful breastfeeding relationship, is practised safely worldwide and is practised in the UK and ‘developed’ world by the majority of parents it is about time that it stopped being demonised by the authorities and the media.

There is no rigourous evidence that safe bed-sharing is related to an increased rate of cot death.  FACT.

Find out how to bed-share safely with the information from UNICEF or Dr Sarah Buckley.

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This is probably the ‘most-asked’ question I come across when speaking to people after their first baby.  I think the answer is pretty simple in most cases: get more sleep!

That sounds a little smart-arsey so I will explain.  More often than not the new parents asking are trying really hard to do 3 things:

  1. Get some semblance of ‘normality’ back into their lives by going straight back to their old pre-baby routine.
  2. Follow all the advice about getting the baby into a routine and keeping the baby in a cot or moses basket, often in the baby’s own room.
  3. Get ‘stuff’ done while their baby sleeps during the day.

Tips and ideas for getting over/rid of the above 3 inhibitors of good sleep in the early days with a new baby.

  1. Accept this is the new normality.  If you need to go to bed 1 hour earlier than you used to it will not kill you or your partner for 6 months or even a year but might make the world of difference to your relationship with your baby.
  2. Babies come with their own routines.  These might be haphazard and all over the place, or they might be like clockwork from day one.  There is not a lot that you can do to change their routines, without harming your baby’s development.
  3. Most babies will sleep better right next to mum – whether in a baby-waker (sorry, moses basket) in the room or whether curled up in the crook of her arm in her bed.  Most mums will also get considerably more sleep in this situation too.  If your intuition is telling you that the best place for your baby is right next to you, trust it and listen.
  4. The best thing you can do if you are still tired is to nap with your baby in the daytime.  Chores can wait, washing will always need doing.  But for 6 months, a year or even two if having a daytime nap with your baby is good for your mental health and relationships then what is the harm?  This should be 100% guilt-free because at this time you and your baby should come before anything else!

I can’t bear all the child-rearing tomes that come from the angle of baby being deliberately obtuse.  Babies do not come into the world needing to be dominated or controlled.  They come innocently trying to survive on their instincts – which have been built into the human race over millenia to ensure that our infants do survive.

Looking after yourself in the early days with a new baby means that you will be able to truly cherish this wonderful time together – a time that you can never get back again!  (whereas the floor will still need hoovering, and the repeat of Waking the Dead will still be on)

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