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The number of infants who sleep in a bed with an adult or another child has doubled over the past 17 years, according to USA Today.
The statistics are a troubling development given research showing that bed sharing increases an infant's risk of death from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or other sleep-related causes, such as accidental suffocation and entrapment in bedding material, says a new government-funded study.
The increase was most notable among African-American infants, according to the study reported Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Overall, the percentage of nighttime caregivers who reported that an infant usually shared a bed rose from 7% in 1993 to 14% in 2010. Among black infants the proportion increased from 21% to 39%. Among white infants, it rose from 5% to 9%. Among Hispanic infants, it rose from 13% to 21%.
"The disparity in nighttime habits has increased in recent years," said lead author Eve Colson of the Yale University School of Medicine in a statement. "Because African-American infants are already at increased risk for SIDS, this trend is a cause for concern." Advice from physicians could significantly reduce infant bed-sharing, also known as co-sleeping, for all families, finds the survey of nearly 20,000 caregivers conducted by researchers with the National Institutes of Health and others.
Caregivers who perceived physicians' attitude as against sharing a bed were about 34% less likely to report that the infant usually shared a bed than were caregivers who received no advice. To reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related dangers, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing babies to sleep in the same room as the caregiver, but not in the same bed.