Sharing a sleep surface with a baby can increase the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI), including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and fatal sleep accidents.
The safest place to sleep a baby is in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult care-giver.
Red Nose recommends sleeping a baby in a cot next to the parents’ bed for the first six to twelve months of life as this has been shown to lower the risk of SUDI.
- There is much debate in the literature about the practice of, and definitions for, bed-sharing and co-sleeping. For the purpose of this statement the term ‘sharing a sleep surface’ is used to include bed-sharing and co-sleeping practices. Bed-sharing refers to bringing the baby onto a sleep surface where co-sleeping is possible, whether intended or not. Co-sleeping is defined as a mother and/or her partner (or any other person) being asleep on the same sleep surface as the baby.
- Sharing a sleep surface with a baby can increase the risk of SUDI. A considerable proportion of SUDI occur on a shared sleeping surface.
- Babies most at risk of SUDI when sharing a sleep surface are those less than 3 months postnatal age, babies who were born preterm or small for gestational age.
- The risks are always much greater if parents smoke or are under the influence of alcohol or drugs (prescription or illegal) that cause sedation and impair their ability to respond to their baby.
- There is a very high risk of infant death, including deaths attributed to fatal sleeping accidents, when a baby shares a sofa or couch with an adult during sleep.
- There is no increased risk of SUDI whilst sharing a sleep surface with a baby during feeding, cuddling and playing providing that the baby is returned to a cot or their own safe sleeping surface before the parent goes to sleep.
- Sharing a sleep surface with a baby is a complex issue that encompasses many factors. Strategies can be used to reduce the risk in circumstances where parents share a sleep surface with a baby due to parenting preferences, cultural beliefs or unavoidable living circumstances, including instances where a parent may unintentionally fall asleep with a baby.
For further in depth information see our Red Nose Information Statement Sharing a Sleep Surface With a Baby.
Last modified: 12/10/16