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Advice on co-sleeping published

Parents should be kept informed of the links between co-sleeping and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) says a leading health organisation.

Updated guidance from the National Institute for Healthcare and Excellence (NICE) places emphasis upon the important roles GPs, midwives and healthcare professionals have in communicating these risks.

Elaine McInnes, a practice teacher of health visiting and professional development officer from the Institute of Health Visiting, helped to develop the new NICE co-sleeping recommendations.

She said: “The conversation about co-sleeping and the factors that may make SIDS more likely should begin before the baby is even born and discussed at every visit, up until the child reaches its first birthday.

“It's important that parents are given the most current evidence-based information as far as possible, are comfortable and happy in the decision they make with regard to sleeping arrangements and are supported in making the safest choices for sleeping arrangements.”

Hundreds of babies in England and Wales die of SIDS every year. Little is known about why it happens, but research suggests that co-sleeping combined with other factors may play a part in some way.

Professor Mark Baker, Director of the NICE Centre for Clinical Practice, said the updated guidance is important to consider alongside other safe sleeping advice.

“For many years, the Department of Health has advised that the safest way for a baby to sleep is on its back, in its own cot or moses basket in the parents' room for the first six months. This advice had, and continues to have, a significant effect on reducing baby deaths.”

“Sadly though, there remain a small number of babies who will die unexpectedly for no apparent reason.
We don't know what causes these babies to die suddenly, but we do know that if a parent smokes, drinks alcohol or takes drugs then SIDS is potentially more likely to occur if they then co-sleep with their infant.”