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Health & Baby

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A Separate Bed For Baby

The government weights in on dangers of sleeping with baby.
WebMD Feature

"He sleeps in the crib next to the bed, but Meg brings him into bed to nurse him," Sherline explains. He suspects that, as with daughter Mara, the habit will eventually evolve into Little Lee sharing the bed with his parents. "Mara slept with us until she stopped nursing," says Sherline.

Study Discourages Bed-Sharing

But things have changed since two-year-old Mara was the baby of the house. Now the federal government is weighing in on the issue. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), any child under the age of two should not sleep in an adult bed. The result could be deadly, says a study published by CPSC researchers in the October 1999 issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

After looking at more than 500 infant deaths that took place over an eight-year period, the researchers concluded that placing children younger than two years to sleep in adult beds exposes them to the following potentially fatal hazards:

  • Overlaying by a parent, sibling or other adult sharing the bed
  • Entrapment or wedging between the mattress and another object
  • Head entrapment in bed railings
  • Suffocation on waterbeds

"These deaths are largely preventable," says Suad Nakamura, one of the study's authors.

Discouraging Breast-feeding?

Yet many parents, far from being grateful for being made aware of the dangers of bed-sharing, charge that the practice is cultural and important for establishing the bond between the mother and the child. La Leche League, an international organization that promotes breast-feeding, went so far as to question the study's results and say it discourages breast-feeding.

"That's not what we said at all," Nakamura asserts. The public outcry both surprised and shocked her. "We got all kinds of comments. People were upset because they like to sleep with their infants," she adds.

Nakamura hasn't made recommendations for danger-proofing adult beds. Instead, she maintains that "using a crib that meets all of the government's standards eliminates all hazards."

But Nakamura does point out that the risk of death drops dramatically after the child has reached three months of age. That's when the baby may be strong enough to lift its head or roll over should its mouth or nose becomes blocked. The risk of overlaying, however, still remains.

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