The experts at Red Nose say that sharing a sleep surface with a baby can increase the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (sudi), including sudden infant death syndrome (sids) and fatal sleep accidents.
It is recommended by Red Nose that the safest place to sleep a baby is in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult care-giver.
Here is an excerpt from their sleep surface sharing article:
When is sharing a sleep surface not safe?
Studies have identified circumstances where sharing a sleep surface with a baby increases the risk of SUDI.
Sofa sharing greatly increases risk
The majority of studies have demonstrated that there is a very high risk of infant death, including deaths attributed to fatal sleeping accidents, when a baby shares a sofa or couch with an adult during sleep6-11. Often parents/carers will fall asleep unintentionally on a sofa or couch and there is a very high risk of a sleeping accident in this situation as the baby may become wedged into cushions or the back of the sofa.
Sleeping baby on the parent’s chest
Sleeping baby on their tummy on the parent’s chest, often skin to skin, is an excellent strategy for settling an infant, and helping them to self-regulate, as long as the baby and their airway are being observed (either by the nursing parent or another adult care-giver). A parent falling asleep with a baby prone (on the tummy) on the parent’s chest and unobserved can be problematic as prone positioning reduces baby’s arousal mechanisms that protect baby’s airway; baby’s nose may become obstructed by clothing, or parent’s body or breast; or an unobserved baby may become positioned with his/her chin to chest, which will also obstruct baby’s airway12.
Adult sleep environments
Adult sleeping environments were not designed with infant safety in mind, and may contain hazards that can be fatal for babies. The 11 case studies included in the Carpenter meta-analyses5 found an increased risk for SUDI in bed-sharing situations. The risks are significantly increased particularly if the parents smoke, but studies have also identified an increased risk when parents do not smoke4, 13. Babies under 3 months of age are at significantly greater risk than older babies13-15. These risks include overlaying of the baby by another individual who may be under the influence of alcohol or sedating drugs; entrapment or wedging between the mattress and another object such as a wall; head entrapment in bed railings, and suffocation from pillows and blankets16-18. Babies in a bed-sharing situation had more frequent headcovering episodes and spent more time sleeping on their sides than when they slept in a cot19.
Co-sleeping is a common night-time strategy, frequently associated with improved breastfeeding outcomes. However, it can increase the risk of SUDI, particularly where babies are exposed to parental smoking, alcohol, drug, and sedating medication consumption and sofa-sharing.
The risk is significantly increased in the following circumstances:
– Where babies are less than three months of age4-5,13,20-21
– Where babies were born preterm or small for gestational age6-7,15, 20
– Where the baby shares the sleep surface with a smoker 3,5-7,11,20-22
– Where the parent is under the influence of alcohol 4,11
– Where the parent is under the influence of drugs (prescription or illegal) that cause sedation17
– Where the parent is overly tired (difficult to arouse) 17
– Where the parent/s is/are obese
– Where there is adult bedding, doonas or pillows that may cover the baby 7,17
– Where the baby can be trapped between the wall and bed, can fall out of bed, or could be rolled on
– Where babies are sharing beds with other children or pets 2,7
– Where the baby is placed to sleep on a sofa, armchair, beanbag, waterbed or sagging mattress alone or with another person 17-18
Click here to read the full Red Nose article:
Source: Red Nose. National Scientific Advisory Group (NSAG). (2015). Information Statement: Sharing a sleep surface with a baby. Melbourne, Red Nose. This information statement was first posted in February, 2006 and updated in May 2015.