Does sharing a bed with parents increase an infant's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)? What about an infant sleeping in the parents' room (but not the parents' bed) versus sleeping in a separate room-is the level of risk affected? To answer these and related questions, investigators in Scotland conducted a four-year retrospective study of 123 infants who died of SIDS and 263 controls. They questioned parents of controls about routine infant-care practices (including conditions of their child's most recent sleep) and parents of children who died from SIDS about conditions during the child's final sleep. Investigators also collected data about socioeconomic status and exposure to smoking but not about alcohol consumption because earlier research showed that it is difficult obtaining accurate information on this topic.
More than half of infants who died from SIDS shared the same sleep surface (bed, couch, chair, or cot) with parents during their last sleep compared with one fifth of controls. Couch-sharing was associated with the greatest risk. Sharing a sleep surface posed a greater risk to infants who were younger than 11 weeks than it did to older infants. Of 46 bed-sharing deaths, 33 were in infants younger than 11 weeks. Sleeping between parents was particularly risky.
The association between SIDS and bedsharing in young infants was not influenced by parental smoking or breastfeeding. Interestingly, sleeping in a separate room was associated with a significant risk of SIDS if either parent smoked. Investigators suggest that, for the first six months of life, the safest place for baby to sleep is in a crib in the parents' room (Tappin D et al: J Pediatr 2005;147:32).