sleeping with infantsParents must focus on providing a safe sleeping environment for infants and babies.

Preliminary data collected in the New Hampshire revealed that 81 infants died in their sleep from 2006 through 2012. “This type of death is so easily preventable,” said Dr. Thomas Andrew, the state’s chief medical examiner, referring to co-sleeping and unsafe sleep environment deaths. “Of the infants sleeping alone, many listed risks such as fluffy bedding, soft mattresses, over-bundling, or other unsafe sleep environments,” Andrew said.

Probable potential risks and dangers include obstructing the infant’s mouth and nose, which can lead to asphyxia, or re-breathing exhaled carbon dioxide, which can also induce death.

Placing infants on their stomachs to sleep is also a high-risk practice. Sleeping with infants on couches and chairs are considered risks as well. Parents and other adults who smoke, drink, use drugs or who are obese also increase the risk of infant death if they co-sleep with infants.

Bed-sharing with infants and babies is generally considered as quite natural and if done safely, promotes infant health and family bonding. However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should not do it because it can lead to unnecessary deaths.

There are about 4,200 sudden unexpected infant deaths per year in the United States. Half are caused by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Deaths involved accidents during sleep, such as an adult rolling over on an infant, called accidental overlay, or the infant becoming wedged in a couch after slipping off a sleeping parent’s chest. Co-sleeping and unsafe sleep positions or bedding are more risky.

Deaths are increasingly caused by unsafe sleep environment. There’s a majority that were co-sleeping, and the remainder involved things like over-bundling, fluffy bedding and other unsafe sleep environments.

Infants don’t have the gross motor skills to rescue themselves, roll over or turn their heads when stuck in dangerous positions. A 3- or 4-week-old has minimal muscle control.

Parents should ensure that the mother is breast-feeding and the sleep environment is safe if they bed-share. Adults who use drugs or alcohol shouldn’t bed-share. Mothers who smoke also shouldn’t sleep with their infants.

Bed-sharing is only one way for parents and babies to be close at bedtime. Most experts agree that co-sleeping in the same room on separate surfaces such as cribs and portable cribs is beneficial and can be done safely.

A recently concluded survey in California revealed that almost 80 percent of new parents had slept with or were sleeping with their infants.Babies should sleep alone on a firm mattress with no soft blankets, no stuffed toys, no crib bumpers.

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