Thu. Jun 20th, 2024

Co-sleeping, other risks linked to sudden infant deaths, study finds

More than three-quarters of sudden infant deaths involved multiple unsafe sleep practices, including co-sleeping, a recent analysis suggests.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics looked at 7,595 sudden infant death cases in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention registry between 2011 and 2020. The majority of deaths occurred in babies less than 3 months old.

The statistics revealed that 59.5 percent of the infants who died suddenly were sharing a sleep surface at the time of death, and 75.9 percent were in an adult bed when they died. Though some demographic factors such as sex and length of gestation were not clinically significant, the researchers found that the babies sharing a sleep surface were more likely to be Black and publicly insured than those who didn’t share sleep surfaces. Soft bedding was common among all the infants who died, and 76 percent of the cases involved multiple unsafe practices.

The analysis mirrors known risk factors for sudden infant death. Current recommendations direct parents and other caretakers to provide infants with firm, flat, level sleep surfaces that contain nothing but a fitted sheet. Though room sharing reduces the risk of sudden infant death, CDC officials discourage parents from sharing a sleep surface with their child.

Exposure to cigarette smoke during pregnancy was more common among infants who shared surfaces when they died. Though most infants were supervised by an adult when they died, the supervisor was more likely to be impaired by drug and alcohol use among those who shared a sleeping surface.

The available data could be incomplete or biased because it relies on witness reports taken in what can be a “chaotic scene,” the researchers note. Because caregivers didn’t report their reasons for sharing a sleep surface or engaging in unsafe sleep practices, it could be difficult to help families follow the current recommendations, the study adds.

Overall, the researchers write, “Surface sharing in the absence of other unsafe sleep factors was rare.”

“These are known risk factors for SUID [Sudden Unexpected Infant Death],” Fern Hauck, a physician at UVA Health and the University of Virginia School of Medicine and co-author of the paper, says in a news release. The high number of “hazardous sleep practices” that were reported, Hauck said, “tells us that we need to do a better job of working with families to increase acceptance of the recommendations to create safer sleep spaces for their infants.”

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