Despite risks, more babies are co-sleeping

"This shows that a healthcare provider's advice matters, and they can play a key role in educating caregivers about the possible dangers of bed-sharing," says Eve Colson. (Credit: votredame/Flickr)

The number of infants co-sleeping with a caregiver has increased sharply, despite a strong link to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Between 1993 and 2010 the incidence of infants sleeping with a caregiver more than doubled from 6.5 percent to 13.5 percent, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

White infants slept in bed with their caregivers less often than black or Hispanic infants. More than half of the participants also reported that they did not receive advice from healthcare providers about bed-sharing.


To prevent sleep-related infant deaths, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants share a room with their parents, but not a bed for sleeping.

Eve Colson, professor of pediatrics at Yale University School of Medicine, interviewed nighttime caregivers of infants—85 percent of whom were mothers—participating in the National Infant Sleep Position Study.

The study consists of annual phone surveys of 18,986 caregivers in 48 states. Almost half of the caregivers were 30 years or older, had at least a college education, and had a yearly income of at least $50,000. More than 80 percent of the participants were white.

The participants were given a list of places infants usually sleep and were asked where their infants slept in the past two weeks; and whether the baby slept alone, or shared a bed with another person or child.

If the infants did share, the caregivers were asked about quilt and comforter use. They were also asked whether a physician or other healthcare provider had ever spoken to them about sleeping arrangements, and whether the provider’s attitude was positive, negative, or neutral about bed-sharing.

Advice matters

Participants who received healthcare provider advice to not bed-share were more likely to follow that advice. If a healthcare provider was indifferent, the participants were more likely to bed-share.

“This shows that a healthcare provider’s advice matters, and they can play a key role in educating caregivers about the possible dangers of bed-sharing,” says Colson, who also emphasizes that the widening racial disparity is very troubling.

“We find this concerning because black infants are at a higher risk of dying of SIDS than white and Hispanic infants.”

The researchers say more studies are needed to investigate some of the factors related to the racial disparity in bed-sharing.

A grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development helped fund the study.

Source: Yale University