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London, November 25: Sharing a bed with an infant does not elevate the baby’s risk of cot death, also known as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a new research has found.
Contrary to a previous research that had established a link between co-sleeping and SIDS, the novel study claims that parents who share a bed with their baby are not increasing the risk of cot death.
Parents across Britain had been advised not to share a bed with their new babies as the practice could be unsafe for infants. Current official advice to parents says it is safer for all children less than six months to sleep in a cot in their parents' room.
But the current research shows that sharing the baby bed is dangerous if other factors, such as smoking, alcohol or drugs, are also involved.
"This study shows that it is not co-sleeping that is unsafe, but the circumstances under which some parents co-sleep that create risks," said Dr Peter Blair, from the University of Bristol.
To reach the findings, Dr Blair carried out an analysis of cot deaths over a four-year period in the south west of Britain and found that co-sleeping in itself did not elevate the risk.
Parents drinking alcohol, smoking, taking drugs, heightened the danger. Heavy bedding, adult pillows and soft mattresses were the other factors that elevated the risk, said Dr Blair, who will present his findings to a UNICEF conference in Glasgow this week.
Further, the dangers were heightened if parents were 'excessively tired,' meaning if they'd had less than four hours sleep the night before. The babies are at the greatest risk of all if they and their parents fell asleep on sofas, the British study shows.
“Over the past decade, the proportion of unexplained infant deaths which occur when parent and child fell asleep on a sofa has doubled,” said Dr Blair.
The research concluded that sleeping in a bed with their baby proved no more risky than putting them in a cot in their parents' room when parents avoided all the other risk factors.
Prof Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “It will be really useful to have research shedding light on an incredibly important area. Until now we have had a default position that in the absence of information about why co-sleeping appears to carry risks, it is best for mothers not to do it.”
Calling the findings “extremely significant”, Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, said: "We are really pleased to see that evidence about the safety of co-sleeping is building, because we know it improves breastfeeding rates.”
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexpected death of a seemingly normal, healthy infant under one year of age. SIDS that occurs during sleep remains unexplained after a thorough postmortem investigation, including an autopsy and a review of the case history.
SIDS, while being a leading cause of death in infants, is still a mystery to many. Studies have identified many risk factors for the condition, but the actual cause of the disorder remains a mystery.
Healthy babies succumb to it and doctors still do not know why that happens. One possibility is that SIDS babies have some abnormality in their brain that does not allow them to wake up when their oxygen intake is lower than normal.