Babies who die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) while sharing beds may have a risky sleep profile, a new study shows.

SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant under 1 year of age. Its exact cause isn’t known.

The new study, published in Pediatrics, comes a year after the American Academy of Pediatrics issued its latest SIDS prevention recommendations.

Test During Pregnancy May Predict SIDS Risk

Bed Sharing Increases SIDS Risk

Take a moment to review those recommendations:

--Put infants to sleep on their backs.

--Put babies to sleep on a firm sleep surface (a crib mattress covered by a sheet).

--Don’t put soft objects such as pillows, quilts, or comforters under a sleeping baby.

--Keep soft objects including pillows, quilts, blankets, and stuffed animals out of babies’ sleeping environment.

--Don’t smoke during pregnancy.

--Infants shouldn’t share beds or couches with grown-ups or other kids during sleep.

--Babies may sleep in a safe crib, bassinet, or cradle in the same room as the mother.

--Don’t bring the baby to the bed of a parent who’s overtired or using medications or other substances that could impair their alertness.

--Consider offering the baby a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.

--Dress babies in light clothing for sleep to avoid overheating.

--Don’t overbundle the baby.

--The baby’s bedroom temperature should be comfortable for a lightly-clothed adult.

--Avoid commercial devices marketed to reduce SIDS risk.

--Don’t use home monitors as a strategy to reduce SIDS risk.

--Encourage “tummy time” for babies who are awake and are being watched.

--Continue the “Back to Sleep” campaign to promote putting babies to sleep on their backs.

Pacifiers May Protect Babies From SIDS

New SIDS Study

The new study doesn’t prove that bed-sharing causes SIDS. But it links bed sharing to several SIDS risk factors.

The study focuses on 239 New Jersey babies who died of SIDS between 1996 and 2000.

Data came from the SIDS Center of New Jersey at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

That’s where researcher Barbara Ostfeld, PhD, works. Ostfeld’s team found that 39 percent of the babies died of SIDS while sharing a bed or couch.

“Bed sharing with respect to SIDS is a controversial topic,” write the researchers.

They didn’t try to explain why the babies died of SIDS. Instead, they looked for patterns among bed-sharing babies who died of SIDS.

Those babies were more likely to have been put to sleep on their sides. That’s an “unstable sleep position,” the researchers note.

The bed-sharing babies who died of SIDS were also more likely to have sleep risks like sleeping with soft, loose bedding (such as pillows, quilts, or blankets), or to have slept in the same bed as other kids.

Those babies were also more likely to be black, have a mother less than 19 years of age, and a mother who smoked.

The study doesn’t show whether household income affected SIDS risk, or whether the findings apply to other babies who die of SIDS.

Preventing SIDS: New Advice for Parents

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: Ostfeld, B. Pediatrics, November 2006; vol 118: pp 2051-2059. American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Pediatrics, November 2005; vol 116: pp 1245-1255. News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.