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Dangerous Baby Bed Sharing on the Rise, Study

Update Date: Sep 30, 2013 05:09 PM EDT

An increasing number of parents are sharing their beds with their babies, according to a new study.

New research reveals that the number of infants sharing a bed with their caregivers has increased over the past two decades. Researchers said this is especially true among black and Hispanic families.

While bed-sharing is a common practice in many countries, numerous studies reveal strong links between bed-sharing and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).  Approximately 2,500 babies die from sudden infant death syndrome each year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).  Experts at AAP recommend that babies share a room with their parents, but not a bed for sleeping.

Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine interviewed 18,986 caregivers in 48 states. Researchers said that the participants were from the National Infant Sleep Position Study and 85 percent were mothers. Nearly half of the caregivers were 30 years or older, had at least a college education and had a yearly income of at least $50,000.

Survey respondents were given a list of places infants usually sleep. They were then asked where their infants slept in the past two weeks. If the infants did bed share, they caregivers were asked about quilt and comforter use. Participants were also asked whether a physician or other healthcare provider had ever discussed sleeping arrangements and whether the provider's attitude was positive, negative or neutral about bed-sharing.

The findings revealed that the rate of baby bed-sharing doubled from 6.5 percent in 1993 to 13.5 percent in 2010. The study also found that white infants slept in bed with their caregivers less often than black or Hispanic infants.

Researchers found that more than half of survey respondents reported that they did not receive advice from healthcare providers about bed-sharing.

They study revealed that respondents who received healthcare provider advice not to bed-share were more likely to follow that advice. However, respondents were more likely to report bed-sharing if healthcare providers were indifferent.

"This shows that a healthcare provider's advice matters, and they can play a key role in educating caregivers about the possible dangers of bed-sharing," study author Eve Colson, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, said in a news release.

Colson also stressed that the widening racial disparity in bed-sharing practices is very troubling.

"We find this concerning because black infants are at a higher risk of dying of SIDS than white and Hispanic infants," she explained.

The findings are published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics

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