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FOR RELEASE: July 1, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Adults Sharing Beds With Infants Can Be Deadly for Infants

Bed sharing of parents with their infants, a dangerous and possibly deadly practice, is on the rise in the United States. Between 1993 and 2000, infants sharing an adult bed at night increased from 5.5 percent to 12.8 percent. Adult beds are not designed to meet federal safety standards for infants, and according to Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) officials, bed sharing can lead to the Sudden Unexpected Death of an Infant (SUDI) as a result of accidental entrapment and suffocation. SUDI is the sudden and unexpected death of an infant due to natural or unnatural causes and is a more expansive category than Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

An infant sharing a bed with parents is in danger of accidental suffocation from blankets, pillows, and parents themselves. In addition, infants sharing a parent’s bed are at risk of entrapment between the headboard or footboard and the mattress, and the fall of an infant from an adult bed may result in a head injury or suffocation if the baby lands on a soft surface, such as pillows, blankets, or clothing.

The Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs (ASIP) recommends the following bed safety tips in caring for infants:

  • Back is the best sleep position for all healthy infants.
  • Infants should be placed on a firm, flat surface for sleep. Parents should avoid placing infants on waterbeds, pillows, soft materials, or loose bedding.
  • The infant’s sleep environment must be free of quilts, comforters, pillows, and stuffed animals.
  • Soft bedding should never be placed under a sleeping infant.
  • Infant sleepers may be considered since they eliminate the need for any covers over the baby.
  • If a blanket is used to cover an infant, it should be a thin blanket.
  • Placing the baby with his or her feet at the foot of the crib is another strategy to help prevent an infant’s face becoming covered by the blanket. The blanket should be tucked around the crib mattress, extending only as far as the baby’s chest. Care should be taken to assure that the head will not be covered.

Parents and other caregivers are also offered the following cautions:

  • Sleeping with an infant on a couch, recliner, or cushioned chair is dangerous, placing infants at substantial risk for asphyxia or suffocation.
  • Infants should never be placed to sleep on a couch, cushioned chair or pillow.
  • Bed sharing with an adult who is extremely fatigued, obese, or impaired by alcohol or legal or illegal drugs can be hazardous to the infant.
  • Infants who bed share with another child are at increased risk of SUDI due to accidental entrapment and suffocation as a result of overlying.
  • Infant exposure to tobacco smoke diminishes the infant’s arousal response and may increase the risk of SIDS when infants bed share with parents who smoke.
  • Infants, sleeping alone, should sleep only in cribs meeting federal safety standards.
  • Adult beds are not designed to meet federal safety standards for infants and have been a significant cause of SUDI related to accidental entrapment and suffocation.

“Practicing these few safety tips about putting infants to bed can help save lives,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. “It is our hope that parents, grandparents and other caregivers will be alert to the dangers of infants sharing a bed with adults and older children and take action to keep this from happening.”

For further information, contact Ellen Wisdom, OSDH Public Health Social Work Coordinator and SIDS Coordinator at 405/271-4471.

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