Have you read the recent headlines?
“Co-Sleeping with Baby Raises SIDS Risk”
“Sudden infant death risk greater when parents share bed with babies”
“Bed-sharing increases SIDS risk”
The study is titled, “Bed sharing when parents do not smoke: is there a risk of SIDS? An individual level analysis of five major case–control studies.” You can find the article on the BMJ Open website.
Their conclusion reads as follows: “Bed sharing for sleep when the parents do not smoke or take alcohol or drugs increases the risk of SIDS. Risks associated with bed sharing are greatly increased when combined with parental smoking, maternal alcohol consumption and/or drug use. A substantial reduction of SIDS rates could be achieved if parents avoided bed sharing.”
There are many problems with this study and unfortunately most people will read the abstract (or read an article written about this paper) without looking into the details of how the conclusion was reached and how the five studies were designed. Here are some of the issues I have found…
Problem #1. The authors of the study defined “breastfed” as, “partially or completely breastfeeding at time of death or interview.” This is a serious issue with this study. The definition of breastfeeding needs to be breastfeeding exclusively without ANY supplements. The babies in this study who were ‘breastfed’ could have been supplemented with formula which makes these studies completely irrelevant to the exclusively breastfed baby. There are studies which shows the decreased risk for babies dying from SIDS, when exclusively breastfed and while bed-sharing.
Problem #2. The study does not detail HOW the babies were bed-sharing. Was the bed a firm mattress? Were there any pillows near the babies’ heads? Was the baby next to its mother? Were the babies on their backs? Were the babies sleeping with heavy blankets on them? These questions need to be asked and answered as there is no way to assess the safety of bed sharing if the details of HOW they are bed sharing are not included. Also, were the parents informed before the studies were conducted as to how to bed-share safely with their babies?
Problem #3. In some of these studies there was no data on the amount of alcohol drank by the mums in the previous 24 hours. WHAT?! This information was not included so the authors just used, “imputed data” for this. There were also mothers included in the control group who drank, “up to two units of alcohol within the past 24 hours”. This means that there were mums who had drank alcohol within the past twenty four hours which goes against the current SIDS recommendations in regards to bed-sharing. There is also no information as to whether or not the women smoked during pregnancy.
Problem #4. If there was a partner or other person in the bed, there was no information whatsoever about any alcohol or drug consumption in the 24 hours prior. This is also a serious problem with the study. BOTH the mum and partner need to be alcohol and drug free (including cigarettes) for a baby to be able to bed-share without an increased risk for SIDS.
Problem #5. We do not know if there were any premature babies in these studies, this is important and very relevant information which needs to be included.
Problem #6. This study is looking at five OTHER studies. There are always issues when you come to conclusions using five different studies which would have been conducted differently, used different definitions (example “breastfeeding” see problem #1!) and imputed data because of the “missing data” from the studies when looking at them collectively.
So can women bed-share safely? Please have a look at the following website about Dr. James J. McKenna for research which supports the safety and importance of bed-sharing HERE.
You can also have a look at my article about safe bed-sharing and how to combine breastfeeding and night time sleep challenges…
Sharing a bed with your baby increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, UK study shows BMJ 2013;346:may20_6 f3296