Jan. 17, 2006 -- Parents and babies shouldn't sleep together on the same couch, according to a new study on SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
The study shows a rise in SIDS deaths among babies who shared a couch with a sleeping parent.
"Although the reason for the rise in deaths when a parent sleeps with their infant on a sofa are still unclear, we strongly recommend that parents avoid this sleeping environment," write the researchers. They included Peter Blair, PhD, of the Institute of Child Life and Health at England's University of Bristol.
The recommendation is in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines on SIDS prevention, which includes discouraging parents from sharing beds with their children.
SIDS is the sudden, unexpected death of an infant who is less than 1 year old, with no explanation for the baby's death after a thorough investigation.
Blair's study, published in The Lancet, was done in the British county of Avon.
From 1984-2003, the study team learned of 369 unexpected infant deaths and interviewed the babies' parents as soon after those deaths as possible. Investigations blamed SIDS for 300 of the deaths.
SIDS cases dropped over the years -- probably because of a British campaign to teach people about SIDS prevention by placing infants on their backs for sleep. Although the number of SIDS deaths with parental bed-sharing has gone down, the number of SIDS deaths involving parents and babies sleeping together on a couch has gone up.
Those cases were still rare. The study shows one case in 1984-1988, compared with four from 1999-2003.
By the study's end, SIDS was most common among babies born to low-income families, single mothers, younger mothers, and mothers who smoke. Babies who died of SIDS also tended to be their mother's firstborn child, between 1 month and 8 months old when they died, and had had a lower birth weight.