Bed sharing among infants and family members, particularly among adults and infants, is common in some cultures in the United States.22 Many mothers share a bed with their infant because it makes breastfeeding easier and enhances bonding. Even though some believe that bed sharing might reduce the risk of SIDS because the parent is nearby to monitor the baby, studies do not support bed sharing as protective strategy for SIDS.23
On the contrary, evidence is growing that bed sharing increases the risk for SIDS and can also lead to suffocation, entrapment or injury.24 In some situations, bed sharing can compound the risk posed by other factors. For example, the risk for SIDS is even higher than either risk factor alone when bed sharing occurs with:
- A mother who smokes, has recently consumed alcohol, or is fatigued
- The infant is covered by a blanket or quilt
- There are multiple bed-sharers25,26,27,28
Research has shown that the presence of other children in the bed increases the risk of SIDS more than fivefold.29 In addition, bed sharing in an adult bed not designed for an infant exposes the infant to additional risks for accidental injury and death, such as suffocation, asphyxia, entrapment, falls, and strangulation. Infants younger than 4 months of age and those born prematurely or with low birth weight are at highest risk. This may be because their lack of motor skills and muscle strength make it difficult to readjust and avoid potential threats.30
Bed sharing with infants—even when mothers do not smoke—is also a risk factor for SIDS.31,32,33
The safest alternative to bed sharing may be room sharing, a situation in which the infant shares a room with the parents, but has his or her own crib, bassinet, or sleep space.34,35 The AAP recommends keeping the baby's sleep area close to, but separate from, where others sleep. Parents who wish to room share can place the infant's crib near the mother for easy breastfeeding and should return the infant to his or her own sleep area after breastfeeding. Families also should follow all other recommendations to reduce the risk SIDS and sleep-related causes of infant death.