Science

Sleeping in bed with parents dangerous for baby, report warns

A report released by the Ontario coroner's office found 41 infants died between 2006 and 2007 while sharing their parent's bed.

A report released Wednesday by the Ontario coroner's office found 41 infants died between 2006 and 2007 while sharing their parent's bed. 

The infants ranged in age from 11 days to 13 months.

The report found that 77 of 186 of child deaths reviewed involved unsafe sleeping environments. Forty-one of those involved bed sharing, and nearly one in five deaths involved drugs or alcohol.

"In our review of our current year, we found cases in which a parent would have been seen with an arm on top of a small infant — perhaps six to eight weeks of age — and it's our view because of that, that it impeded the child's ability to breathe properly and probably led to its death," Dr. Bert Lauwer, associate deputy chief coroner of Ontario, told CBC News.

Lauwer is the chairman of the province's pediatric death review committee and the deaths under-five committee.

One-third of deaths involved parents who were breastfeeding.

"Our message is we want you to breastfeed your child — we're entirely in favour of that — but what we want is the child to be with the mother, in the same room as the mother, in a safe, certified crib," said Lauwer.

Some other unsafe environments identified in the report include infant swings, car seats, play pens, extra padding and quilts in cribs, as well as throw cushions and blankets. These accounted for 36 deaths, according to the report.

The recommended sleeping environment for an infant would be for them to be on their back in a standard approved crib, says Lauwer. He says bumpers, quilts and any crib toys should be removed.

Parents should be aware of these findings so that further deaths can be prevented, he said.

"The population we're most concerned about are children under one year of age because they don't have the ability to move, roll or mobilize on their own," says Lauwer.

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