Researchers Worry As Bed-Sharing Rates Rise
Yale researchers call bed-sharing an "unhealthy trend," but some moms disagree.
A recent study from the Yale School of Medicine has found that the incidence of infants sleeping in the same beds as their caregivers has nearly doubled since the early 1990s.
Through phone interviews with nearly 19,000 caregivers, researchers determined that the percentage of bed-sharers jumped from 6.5 in 1993 to 13.5 in 2010. Bed-sharing was discovered to be more common among black and Hispanic infants than white infants. The racial disparity, researchers said, is particularly alarming because black infants are at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
In its statement announcing the study’s results, Yale researchers called bed-sharing an “unhealthy trend,” citing “strong links” between bed-sharing and SIDS.
Researchers called for healthcare providers to discourage bed-sharing, noting that caregivers who get professional advice on the practice are less likely to have infants sleep in beds with them.
Healthcare providers “can play a key role in educating caregivers about the possible dangers of bed-sharing,” said Eve Colson, a professor of pediatrics at Yale.
But not everyone agrees that bed-sharing is dangerous and bed-sharing moms who spoke to BabyZone defended their choices.
Takeallah Russell, a single mom in Memphis, says her bed-sharing arrangement is safe because she’s the only one in bed with her baby, she doesn’t use quilts or comforters—which pose a suffocation risk—near him and she has bed rails up to keep her son from rolling off.
At first, she said, “I was concerned with squishing him.” But that didn’t happen.
“I’m really mindful of him when he’s in the bed with me,” she said. “It just kind of came naturally to me.”
Russell was skeptical of the study’s findings, particularly with respect to the conclusions on black infants, bed-sharing and SIDS risk. Russell, a nursing student who is black, said she believes researchers are underplaying a different potential cause of SIDS in the black community—poor maternal diets that lead to complicated pregnancies and unhealthy infants. Indeed, some studies do link certain deficiencies in maternal diets to SIDS.
Bed-sharing, she said, “is not for everyone,” but she likes it because she feels it’s made breastfeeding, sleep training and bonding with her baby easier.
Devan McGuinness, another bed-sharer, echoes Russell’s reasons for bed-sharing. McGuinness, who is married and blogs at Accustomed Chaos, also takes extra safety precautions—she uses a safe “in-bed” bassinet with a metal frame that she says will avert any issues with blankets or “potential roll-overs.”
“We also reduce any other risks by not smoking, not placing the baby in bed with us if we’re feeling unusually tired, and exclusively breastfeed with no bottles,” she said. “We have a bed-side bassinet set up as well for when we’re extra tired and/or just want a little extra bed space for a night.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in the same room as their parents, but not the same beds—”room-sharing without bed-sharing.”
The academy suggests room-sharing can have similar benefits to bed-sharing.
“You can easily watch or breastfeed your baby by having your baby nearby,” the AAP advises on its “Reduce the Risk of SIDS” web page.
McGuinness said she’d like to see physicians provide information on safe bed-sharing and room-sharing.
Bed-sharing “is on the rise and may continue to rise,” she said. “I believe there would be far more benefit for health care providers to share how to safely bed-share or why room-sharing is recommended than fearmonger the whole practice.”
Image via morgueFile.
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