In 1994, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) identified belly sleeping (or sleeping in the prone position) as a major risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and urged parents to place their babies on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk. Since then, health experts have examined other sleeping habits and how they affect the risk of SIDS, including bedsharing. Sharing a bed with an infant is a controversial topic, with some experts contending that it promotes breastfeeding and others maintaining that it increases the risk for suffocation and SIDS, especially if a mother smokes. Researchers from the Oregon Department of Human Services and Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland studied the practice of bedsharing among smoking and nonsmoking moms.
Between 1998 to 1999, 1,867 women who'd given birth recently completed questionnaires about bedsharing. They noted how often they shared a bed with their infants and whether they smoked before, during, or after pregnancy.
Overall, 35% of new moms said they frequently shared a bed with their infants; about 65% of new moms reported infrequent bedsharing. Smoking moms frequently shared a bed with their infants - about 19% of moms who smoked after giving birth always practiced bedsharing, about 13% of smoking moms almost always practiced bedsharing, and 45% of smoking moms sometimes shared a bed with their infants.
What This Means to You
According to the results of this study, bedsharing is common in the postpartum period, and smoking and nonsmoking moms are just as likely to practice bedsharing. However, the study authors do point out that previous research and organizations such as the AAP recommend against smoking mothers sharing their beds with infants because exposure to tobacco smoke increases the risk of SIDS.
If you smoke, avoid sharing your bed with your baby. You can help provide a safer sleep environment by placing your child on his or her back to sleep in a crib with a firm mattress; removing all soft objects and blankets from your child's crib; and avoiding overheating your child's room. If you have any questions about your child's sleeping environment, talk to your child's doctor.
Source: Martin B. Lahr, MD; Kenneth D. Rosenberg, MD, MPH; Jodi A. Lapidus, PhD; Pediatrics, October 2005.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: November 2005