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Cot Death Five Times Higher if Babies Share Beds With Their Parents

Update Date: May 21, 2013 10:07 AM EDT

A new study reveals why parents should never bring their babies to bed.  New research revealed that newborns who sleep in the same bed as their parents are five times more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome.

The study, published in BMJ Open, shows that the findings held true even after accounting for other factors linked to cot deaths, like parents' lifestyle. 

Researchers said the largest ever study of its kind study compared records of 1,472 cot death cases and 4,679 control cases across five major studies.  They found that the risk of cot death among breastfed babies under three months sleeping on the same bed on their parents was five times greater than those sleeping in the same room, but in a cot next to their parents' bed.

Around 81 percent of cot deaths among babies less than three months old with no other risk factors could be prevented if they did not sleep in the same bed as their parents, researchers said.  However, the study found that the mortality risk associated with bed sharing decreases as a baby gets older, and the peak period for instances of cot death was between seven and ten weeks.

"Currently in the UK more than half of cot deaths occur while a baby is sleeping in the same bed as its parents. 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," lead author Professor Bob Carpenter from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said in a news release.

"If parents were made aware of the risks of sleeping with their baby, and room sharing was instead promoted in the same way that the 'Back to Sleep' campaign was promoted 20 years ago to advise parents to place their newborn infants to sleep on their backs, we could achieve a substantial reduction in cot death rates in the UK," he said. 

Carpenter estimates that 120 of the 300 cot deaths that occur in the UK each year could be saved if parents avoid sharing beds with their babies.

"Health professionals need to make a definite stand against all bed sharing, especially for babies under 3 months," he stressed.

While the UK currently only recommends certain groups, like parents who smoke, not to bed share, other countries like the United States and the Netherlands advise all parents against sharing a bed with their baby for the first three months.

Researchers noted that parents could still bring their babies into bed for comfort and feeding during the night.  However, researcher stress that parents must place their babies in a separate cot before going to sleep.  

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