Infants Sleep Safer in Crib, Not Parents' Bed

Article excerpt

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Scott Halpert For The Register-Guard

The Lane County Fatality Review Team is mandated by the state of Oregon to examine the records of every child who dies under the age of 18 years. Each death is evaluated to see if the death was preventable, caused by abuse or neglect, or accidental. The committee is made up of a physician, a law enforcement officer, a member of the district attorney's office, a medical examiner and pathologist, and a representative of the Child Advocacy Center.

Our review of deaths in Lane County for 2003 showed that there were nine cases of sudden infant death syndrome. In seven of the nine cases, co-sleeping - infants sleeping with their parents - was present.

The committee felt that it was important to warn our community that co-sleeping is a significant risk factor for SIDS and advise against the practice of sleeping with your infant. Our position has created some controversy, including a guest viewpoint Wednesday by Dr. Karen Weiner. However, recent studies are consistent with our opinion.

In the past eight years of fatality review, co-sleeping has been a concern in all but one year. In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics reviewed the data and its task force strongly recommended that all infants sleep on their backs. Studies show a 40 percent to 70 percent decrease in SIDS when infants sleep on their backs.

In that same report the academy stated, "bed sharing or co-sleeping may be hazardous under certain conditions" and recommended that "as an alternative to bed sharing, parents might consider placing the infant's crib near their bed to allow more convenient breast-feeding and parent contact."

In the past few years, numerous studies have shown that co-sleeping increases risk of SIDS. In 2000, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that at least 515 infant deaths between 1990 and 1997 were linked to sleeping in an adult bed. A study published last December in the Archives of Disease in Childhood showed a 17-fold increase in SIDS, especially if there was maternal smoking. The study concluded, "co-sleeping should be avoided in infants who are less than 20 weeks of age, or whose mothers smoked during pregnancy. …