Cot-death advice updated to reflect risk of co-sleeping with babies

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New guidance recommends parents be informed of the link between sudden infant death syndrome and co-sleeping with a child up until their first birthday.

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The updated guidance stresses the increased risk of SIDS if parents co-sleep with their baby when they are under one

The draft guidance from the National Institute of Care Excellence (NICE), currently out for consultation, will replace current guidance, published in 2006.

Current guidance stresses the increased risk of SIDS when sharing a bed or sofa with a child, especially when the baby is less than 11 weeks old.

It advises the safest place for a baby to sleep is in a cot in their parents’ room for the first six months.

NICE is updating its guidance after the Department of Health asked it to review its recommendations last year. This followed new research, which suggested sharing a bed with a baby could increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Nearly 250 babies in England and Wales die from SIDS every year. While the exact cause of death is unknown, there have been long-standing doubts over whether sleeping with a baby is safe, says NICE.

The new draft guidance also includes a new recommendation that health professionals make parents aware of the increased association between co-sleeping and SIDS if their child had a low birth weight or was born prematurely.

GPS, midwives and health visitors are also told to continue to advise parents that the risk of SIDS is greater when co-sleeping if they or their partner smoke, have taken drugs or drunk alcohol.

Professor Mark Baker, clinical practice director at NICE, said, ‘Falling asleep with a baby, whether that’s in a bed or on a sofa or chair, is risky.

‘It’s imperative that all parents and carers know about the association between sudden infant death syndrome and falling asleep with a child under the age of one. This is especially important if parents drink alcohol, take drugs or expose their baby to tobacco smoke.’

A public consultation on the draft guidance will run until 31 July. The new updated guidance is expected to be published in December.