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In a new study published in the October issue of Pediatrics, researchers examined data on infant deaths from 24 states and came to a startling conclusion: putting your baby to sleep on the sofa dramatically raises the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

Overall, almost 13 percent—or about 1 in 8—infant SIDS deaths occurred on sofas, leading researchers to remark “The sofa is an extremely hazardous sleep surface for infants.”

A number of factors were linked to the high incidence of sofa-related deaths, including sharing the sofa with other people and objects, sleeping on their side, going to sleep in a new location, and prenatal (before birth) tobacco exposure. The most dangerous of these was surface sharing, which accounted for the majority of sleep-related deaths.

Overall, SIDS is the leading cause of infant death in the first 30 days of life. Parents are advised to always put their babies to sleep on their backs. Since the Safe to Sleep campaign started in 1992, SIDS deaths have declined by more than half.

Unfortunately, the decrease in crib- and bed-relates SIDS death only drew more attention to the dangers of sofa and couches, which offer none of the protections of a safe sleeping environment. In fact, the risk of SIDS in infants who are placed to sleep on sofas is 49 times greater than babies sleeping in beds and 67 times greater than babies sleeping in cribs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies should always be placed to sleep on firm surfaces. The AAP also recommends:

  • Breastfeeding to reduce the risk of SIDS;
  • Making sure your child is immunized, which can reduce the risk of SIDS by 50 percent;
  • Foregoing bumper pads in cribs, along with wedges and other sleep positioning device;
  • Avoiding bed-sharing;
  • Room-sharing up to age 1, but at least for the first 6 months of life; and
  • Keeping plush objects out of the crib.

Takeaways

  • Sofa sleeping is a bigger risk for SIDS than babies who sleep in beds and cribs.
  • About 13 percent of SIDS deaths occur from sofa sleep.
  • Always put your baby to sleep on a firm surface, without a pillow, and without extra padding.

References

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. AAP Expands Guidelines for Infant Sleep Safety and SIDS Risk Reduction.
  2. Pediatrics. Sofas and Infant Mortality.

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