The study is the largest review of SIDS risk factors to date, including 1,472 cases and 4,679 controls across five major studies. The data show a fivefold increase in SIDS when comparing co-sleeping families and those who share a room (but not a bed).
The researchers estimate that 81% of SIDS cases among babies under three months with no other risk factors could be prevented if they did not share a bed with their parents. [Tweet this.] The risk did decrease over time, with the peak period for SIDS deaths between seven and 10 weeks of age.
“Currently in the UK more than half of cot [SIDS] deaths occur while a baby is sleeping in the same bed as its parents,” lead study author and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Professor Bob Carpenter said in a press release. “Annually there are around 300 cot [SIDS] death cases in babies under a year old in the UK, and this advice could save the lives of up to 40% of those.”
Carpenter and his colleagues say health professionals need to make a definite stand against all bed sharing, especially for babies under three months. That’s what Katherine Murray and her staff at the FMH BirthPlace have been doing for years, encouraging parents to follow the ABCs of safe sleep.
“SIDS happens to families regardless of socioeconomic levels,” Murray says. “Safe sleep is when babies are Alone on their Backs and in their Cribs. It’s really as simple as ABC.”
It’s important to remember that “alone” refers to more than just other family members. Babies should be placed on their backs in cribs without bumper pads, stuffed animals, or other items.
In fact, American parents could do well to take after their Finnish counterparts. Since the late 1930s, many of Finland’s infants have spent their first nights at home on a mattress inside a simple cardboard box. Every expectant mother in Finland is eligible for a maternity box, courtesy of the government, full of newborn essentials like onesies, bath towels, socks, mittens and the mattress that fits into the bottom to create baby’s first crib.
As you can see in the chart above, infant mortality rates since that time have dropped to one of the lowest in the world, and experts give at least partial credit to the maternity box program.