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Rates of Infant Suffocation Have Quadrupled Since 1984

A new report published in the journal Pediatrics analyzes a dramatic increase in the number of infants who die as a result of accidental suffocation or strangulation. According to the report, "Between 1984 and 2004, infant mortality rates attributed to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed increased from 2.8 to 12.5 deaths per 100000 live births."

The reason for the increase remains unknown, but the Washington Post reports that "the trend roughly coincided with a sharp rise in bed-sharing, which has
become more popular to help mothers bond and breast-feed." This raises serious questions as to whether co-sleeping, the process by which a child shares a bed with one or both parents, presents serious dangers.

"Strangulation deaths are going up and bed-sharing is going up," John Kattwinkel of the University of Virginia said to the Washington Post. "It's certainly logical to draw a conclusion that there is a link. Parents should not bed-share with their babies." In 2005, Kattwinkel chaired an American Academy of Pediatrics panel that recommended against co-sleeping.

But some, like Dr. Charles Shubin, director of pediatrics at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, see the results much differently. "This doesn't represent more children dying of asphyxia," Shubin told the Baltimore Sun. "It means we are recognizing it more accurately. Medical technology has improved. Training of death investigators and examiners has improved."

For mothers who wish to co-sleep but are concerned about possible risks, Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times recommends these tips for making the bed a more baby-safe environment:

*Remove puffy comforters, duvets and pillows, which pose a
suffocation risk to infants. (Bedding also should be removed from
cribs.) If it’s cold, put the baby in pajamas, but don’t let the child
overheat. Parents should use only lightweight blankets if they have a
baby in the bed.

*Sleep in a bed with a firm mattress that fits tight against the bed
frame. Never put a baby on a water bed — 79 of the deaths in the
C.P.S.C. report occurred on water beds. Don’t sleep with your baby on
sofas or overstuffed chairs. All soft surfaces where a baby can sink in
pose a suffocation risk.

*Remove headboards and footboards. Not only can slats and elaborate
designs pose a risk, but babies can get stuck between the mattress and
board. Push the bed away from the wall and bed stands. Make sure the
bed is far from curtains, blinds, draperies and cords. The goal is to
eliminate places where a baby can get wedged in. The majority of deaths
reported in the C.P.S.C. study were due to entrapment in bed
structures, entanglement in cords and suffocation on water beds.

Click here to read the abstract from the study.

Is Bed-Sharing Safe?



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