Parents on the whole want to create the best environment for the children from infancy into adulthood and beyond, but when attachment parenting goes too far, death can be the tragic result. Researchers from the Children’s National Health Hospital utilized data from the deaths of 8,207 children throughout the country between 2004 to 2012, and published their findings, which categorized child death risks by age, in the journal Pediatrics.
"Bed-sharing for 0 to 4 month old babies is extremely risky," the study’s co-author Dr. Rachel Moon, a pediatrician and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) researcher at Children's National Health Hospital, wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. "In this study, this sleep situation presented the most important risk for infants in this age group."
In the last 20 years, the number of parents who share their bed with their infant has doubled from seven percent in 1993 to 14 percent in 2010. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends babies are put to bed in their own sleeping area inside the parent’s room, such as a crib next to the bed, but not on the bed with the parents.
Approximately 70 percent of infants were bed sharing with one or more parents at the time of their death, and this was most closely correlated with the youngest group of babies. Meanwhile when they reached 4 months to 1 year old, the primary cause of death was rolling into objects as they slept in their own sleeping space.
The AAP recommends clearing the baby's bed of any blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals and laying them on their backs to sleep until they reach at earliest, a year old. If done before that age, it creates a danger for the baby to roll into and the mufflling objects will stiffle any cries the baby may do to call out for help. Sleeping alone in an empty crib without any objects or blankets on their back is the safest way to sleep for any baby before they reach their first birthday.
"Although we always recommend that the infant's sleep area be clear of pillows, blankets, bumper pads, etc., many parents forget the importance of this message as the baby gets older," Moon said. "However, these items are equally dangerous as the baby becomes more mobile."
Bed sharing has the power to strengthen the bod between parents and infants and the routine can make breastfeeding easier for mothers; however, the negatives arguably outweigh those couple of positives for many doctors. Bed sharing significantly increases the chance of a mother or parent rolling onto their child in the middle of the night and suffocating them to death. Attachment parenting practices increase this chance along with unusually long-term breastfeeding.
"We really need to educate parents before their baby arrives, and remind them of the things we know can save lives, like putting them to bed in their own sleeping space," Dr. Shalini Paruthi, an assistant professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at St. Louis University's School of Medicine, told The Huffington Post. "I was astounded by the fact that 69.2 percent [of the infants examined in the study] were found to be bed-sharing."
Parents and caregivers who experienced disapproval on bed sharing from their family doctor, were 34 percent less likely to engage in bed sharing with infants than parents who were not given deterring advice.
"The risk of infant death if you fall asleep with your baby is high, particularly in the first few months of life — when parents are more likely to sleep with their babies," Moon said. "It is not a risk that I would want to take with my child."
Source: Moon R, Schunn C, Colvin JD, et al. Sleep Environment Risks for Younger and Older Infants. Pediatrics. 2014.