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New co-sleeping link to cot death

Wednesday October 14th, 2009

By Jane Collingwood
Sleeping with babies is now one of the key risks that can lead to cot death, British experts warned today.

Researchers have looked at new figures on sudden infant death syndrome and discovered that the major risk factors are open to change.

A team led by Professor Peter Fleming of Bristol University, UK, investigated sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) from birth to two years, specifically it advice is being followed and any new risk factors have arisen.

They used figures on 184,800 births collected over four years. A group of 80 bereaved parents and similar comparison groups of parents were interviewed, asking about their sleep habits.

Results showed that the mean age at death, 66 days, was more than three weeks younger than in a study ten years before.

More than half, 54 per cent, died while co-sleeping. The rate of co-sleeping among the other parents was 20 per cent. But the important factors seemed to be alcohol intake and drug use by the co-sleeping parents, as well as sleeping on a sofa.

The SIDS infants were also more likely to have been swaddled, to have slept on a pillow, and to have a mother who smoked during pregnancy.

On the website of the British Medical Journal, the authors say these differences applied regardless of the age or social group of the parents. Advice on avoiding tobacco smoke, dummy use, and sleeping in the side position is being taken, they found.

They conclude: "Specific advice to avoid dangerous co-sleeping arrangements is needed to help reduce these deaths even further."

In an editorial, Professor Edwin Mitchell of the University of Auckland, Australia, writes: "We already know enough, the challenge is how to change behaviour."

He calls for regular surveys of parents' knowledge in order to "inform health education and promotion".

Blair, P. S. et al. Hazardous cosleeping environments and risk factors amenable to change: case-control study of SIDS in south west England. The British Medical Journal, 2009;339:b3666.

Mitchell, E. A. et al. Risk factors for SIDS. The British Medical Journal, 2009;339:b3466.

Tags: Australia | Child Health | Drug and Alcohol Abuse | UK News

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