Baby Suffocation Due to Co-Sleeping Rises 400% in Last 20 Years


Baby suffocation deaths around the world are on the rise. Co-sleeping infant deaths quadrupled over the last 20 years as more parents sleep in the same bed as their babies. Victims are often just weeks old when an adult, who thinks that they're doing the right thing by co-sleeping together, rolls over in their sleep killing the baby.

The Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board (NSCB) reviewed cases where two babies died in 2016 and 2017.

Investigations led to the parents of the victim, often the parent or parents that were in the bed at the time, being charged with neglect. The Norfolk incidents ended with one mother being found of neglect and both parents of the other child convicted of neglect.

The victims were both in similar situations:

  • Overcrowded housing

  • Parents known for substance abuse problems

  • Involvement of social services

Investigators also provided 14 recommendations that were given to doctors and all professionals working with families with babies. Safe sleeping guidance can help, and this guidance includes:

  • Placing the baby, on their back, in a cot in the same room as you for the first six months of their life

  • Do not sleep with a baby on an armchair or sofa

  • Keep blankets away from the baby's head and tucked in no higher than the baby's shoulders

But, despite the risks, there are an increasing number of parents that are sharing their beds with their children.

Parents Continue Co-Sleeping Despite the Dangers

Parents are continuing with the deadly practice despite the dangers and risks to their baby. Canadian parents are one group which is ignoring the warnings of accidental suffocation and sleeping with their children.

One study found that 33% of mothers claim that they share a bed with their infant frequently.

Over the last five years, one study found that 40% said that they never shared a bed with their baby. An additional 33% claim that either they or their spouse share a bed with their baby often. The dangerous trend is a risky one according to researchers which have seen the number of infant deaths rise over the last two decades.

The Public Health Agency of Canada warns parents to avoid co-sleeping for the safety of the baby. Co-sleeping can lead to suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome. Parents are ignoring these warnings because they claim that they and the baby enjoy a better sleep when sleeping together.

Babies are less fussy, and parents have the ability to roll over and comfort the baby if they cry in the middle of the night. 

"Room sharing" is what officials recommend instead. The option allows babies to remain in the same room as their parents, but the baby can avoid the risk of suffocation and other injuries. Mothers will still be able to keep a close eye on their children, but room sharing will not offer the same "good sleeping" options that many mothers take advantage of with co-sleeping.

Health officials around the world do not recommend that parents sleep in the same bed, or even on the couch, with their infant children.

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