Around 120 baby deaths could be prevented in the UK every year if parents stopped sharing beds with their children, research suggests.
A new study found breastfed babies under three months who sleep in their parents’ beds face a significantly increased risk of cot death.
Researchers estimate that 40 per cent of the 300 cot death cases in the UK each year could be prevented if parents only brought children into their beds for comfort and feeding, but not sleeping.
Presently, NHS officials only advise parents against sharing their beds if they have been drinking, taking drugs or if they smoke. But the authors of the study said the guidance should be expanded to dissuade all bed sharing – especially with babies under three months.
The research, led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, examined data from five studies on cot death – also known as sudden infant death syndrome. Researchers examined the records of 1,472 cot-death cases and 4,679 control cases. The research, published in the journal BMJ Open, found 22 per cent of the cot deaths occurred when babies were sharing a bed with their parents. The authors estimate 88 per cent of such deaths would not have happened if bed sharing had been avoided.
“If parents were made aware of the risks of sleeping with their baby... we could achieve a substantial reduction in cot-death rates in the UK,” said the lead author, Professor Bob Carpenter.
In light of the new study, officials at the Department of Health have asked the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to “urgently” review guidance on bed sharing.
Francine Bates, chief executive of The Lullaby Trust – a charity which promotes safe sleeping in babies, said: “We would also urge every new mother and father to weigh up the known risks of sharing a bed with their baby and, in light of their own situation, take appropriate precautions.
“Our core message remains that 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.”