Radical new sleeping guidelines could soon be introduced, advising parents not to sleep with their babies for the first 12 months.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has drafted new recommendations (July 2014), aimed at reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to the Guardian.
The current guidelines, issued in 2006, recommend not co-sleeping with babies up to the age of 6-8 weeks or where there are additional risks such as parent drinking alcohol or smoking – up to 11 weeks.
If implemented, England and Wales’ approach would be more cautious than countries including the Netherlands and the US which advise against bed-sharing until a baby is at least 3 months old.
The proposal to dramatically change current advice comes after ministers asked NICE to urgently reassess its guidance on co-sleeping and cot death.
“Falling asleep with a baby, whether that’s in a bed or on a sofa or chair, is risky,” Mark Bake, clinical practice director at NICE said.
“It’s imperative that all parents and carers know about the association between sudden infant death syndrome and falling asleep with a child under the age of one. This is especially important if parents drink alcohol, take drugs or expose their baby to tobacco smoke.”
But the draft guidance has already been criticised by the National Childcare Trust (NCT), which suggested it didn’t reflect the reality that around half of mums share a bed with their baby at some point in the child’s first few months and that these mothers would be stigmatised.
“We know that around half of UK mothers bed-share with their baby at some point in their first few months,” commented Belinda Phipps, NCT’s chief executive.
“Nice guidance needs to reflect this reality. We are concerned that these guidelines will lead to parents hiding the fact that they are bed sharing, or doing so through desperation or exhaustion without safety strategies in place.”
The guidelines are out for consultation until the end of the month, with the final recommendations expected to be published in December.