British parents were warned last night by a leading cot death charity not to risk their baby’s life by sleeping alongside them.
The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) issued the warning after several reports that a high proportion of babies who died were sharing a bed or sofa with a sleeping parent.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) described the blanket advice as “unhelpful” and instead urged parents to talk to their midwife for expert guidance.
FSID’s warning came after pathologists told the charity high numbers of babies who died unexpectedly had been sleeping with a parent.
Dr Marta Cohen, a paediatric pathologist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, said of 50 cases she investigated between 2004 and 2007, 31 babies (62%) were sharing a bed or sofa with a parent.
Dr Chris Wright, a consultant perinatal pathologist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, said of 15 cases of unexpected death in infants between 2008 and 2009, seven were found in the parental bed and two had died on a sofa.
“In the majority of cases of sudden infant deaths in the north-east, babies have been found not in their own cots, but in adult beds surrounded by duvets and pillows or after falling asleep with a carer on a sofa,” he said.
“Although we cannot prevent all unexpected deaths, ensuring your baby sleeps in its own cot in a room with you, will undoubtedly lessen the chance of such a tragedy occurring.”
John S Pollard, coroner for the Manchester South District, added: “The numbers of infants that we continue to find dead in beds, on sofas or armchairs is unacceptable.
“We need to make all parents aware that the most comfortable place for them to sleep is the most dangerous place for their baby.”
FSID said between 2005 and 2008 in the London area, 173 babies died unexpectedly of which nearly half (85) were found dead after falling asleep in bed with an adult or on a sofa.
The charity said it had supported 32 newly bereaved families during the past year whose babies had died in this way.
It said it was especially dangerous for a baby to sleep in a parent’s bed if the adult was a smoker, had drunk alcohol, was very tired or had taken medication or drugs that made them drowsy.
The risk was also greater if the baby was premature (born before 37 weeks) or had a low birth weight (under 2.5kg).
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