Co-sleeping parents with babies need safety tips, experts warn

Leading experts are calling for parents to receive safety advice about co-sleeping with their babies after research revealed that most do so at some point.

A survey of 3,402 new parents for the charity Lullaby Trust, which raises awareness of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), found that nine out of 10 parents have slept next to their baby, but only four out of 10 have been advised by a health professional on how to reduce the risk of sudden death.

More than 40% of parents admitted that they had fallen asleep with their baby in a potentially dangerous way, such as on a sofa or in an armchair, which can increase the risk of SIDS by up to 50 times.

It comes as a new report from academics, including Oxford University, found that more needs to be done to raise awareness of safe sleeping practices.

He called for open conversations between parents and professionals, looking in particular at how these messages can be conveyed to disadvantaged communities.

The data suggests that 42% of sudden infant deaths occur in deprived neighbourhoods, compared to 8% in the least deprived.

The Lullaby Trust said much more information was needed for parents as it stressed the need for co-sleeping as safely as possible.

If parents sleep together, the charity says they should keep adult bedding and pillows away from the baby, along with any other items that could cover their head or cause them to overheat.

Babies should sleep on their backs, other children or pets should not be brought to bed, and parents should ensure that babies do not get caught, stuck, or fall out of bed.

Babies should also not fall asleep with one of their parents on the sofa or in the armchairs.

Additional dangers are posed if the parents drink alcohol, smoke, or have a premature or low birth weight baby.

The Lullaby Trust survey found that fewer than one in 10 (9%) parents who currently co-sleep had decided to do so before their baby was born.

More than half had fallen asleep in bed with their baby by accident, and 40% had done so more than once.

Jenny Ward, chief executive of the Lullaby Trust, said: “Co-sleeping needs to be discussed with all families.

“It’s really important that parents feel empowered to have open conversations about co-sleeping with healthcare professionals so they get the right advice.

“Most parents will sleep together at some point, whether this is planned or unintentional.

“Simply telling parents not to co-sleep, or not talking about co-sleeping, means that many families could miss out on vital safer sleep tips that would help reduce the risk of SIDS for their baby.”

Data from the National Infant Mortality Database shows that of the 6,503 infant and child deaths that occurred between April 2019 and March 2021 in England, 30% occurred suddenly and unexpectedly, and of these, the 64% had no immediate apparent cause. Overall, 126 babies were certified as SIDS deaths.

About half of babies who die of SIDS are sleeping with an adult or older sibling at the time of death, 60% of deaths occur when co-sleeping was unintended, and at least 92% are in circumstances dangerous, like sleeping in a bed. sofa or with a premature baby.


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