Bed sharing is a major risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome. This risk is increased when the mother smokes or smoked in pregnancy, or when the parent has drunk alcohol or taken drugs. This risk is further increased in younger infants. The mechanism of sudden infant death with bed sharing is unknown, but airway obstruction, thermal stress and head covering have all been suggested. The benefit from bed sharing has only been established for breastfeeding, although other benefits are claimed. There is a small group of infants that has been shown to be at no increased risk of SIDS with bed sharing, namely infants of mothers who do not smoke, who are aged 3 months or more, and whose mothers have not taken alcohol or drugs and do not co-sleep on a sofa. Recommendations on how to bed share safely are not evidence based. Without this knowledge parents cannot make an informed choice on whether or not to bed share. Parents should be advised to place the baby to sleep in its own cot next to the parents bed for the first six months.
Keywords: Bed sharing, breastfeeding, smoking, sudden infant death
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