New warning over bed sharing and cot death

Researchers say 120 deaths a year could be avoided if parents stop sleeping with their babies

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New research into cot death, carried out by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (May 2013), has prompted the Government to call for an immediate overhaul of safety guidelines to parents, according to the BBC.

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Official guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) warns parents against sleeping alongside their baby only if they smoke, or if they have recently consumed alcohol or drugs.

New research, however, published in the BMJ Open journal estimates that sharing a bed with a newborn increases the risk by five times of sudden infant death syndrome, even if parents avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs.

Professor Bob Carpenter, who led the study, said, “Although it is clear that smoking and drinking greatly increase the risk of cot death while bed sharing, our study shows that there is in fact an increased risk for all babies under three months who bed share, even if their parents do not smoke or drink.

“Annually there are around 300 cot death cases in babies under a year old in the UK, and this advice could save the lives of up to 40 per cent of those. Health professionals need to make a definite stand against all bed sharing, especially for babies under three months.”

Professor Carpenter says he is not suggesting that babies should be banned from being in the parents’ bed for comfort and feeding, which, in previous studies,  has not been found to be a risk factor, provided the baby is returned to his or her own cot for sleep.

The Royal College of Midwives and The Lullaby Turst say that they support parental choice but their core message has always been, “the safest place for a baby to sleep for the first six months is in a crib or cot in the same room as a parent or carer.”

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