Bed-sharing determined as factor in infant death

Bed-sharing determined as factor in infant death
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The death of an infant is at least partly due to what's called "bed sharing." The Kern County Coroner's office has released findings into the baby's death last October, saying the child was sleeping with three other people, and that contributed to the death.

Medical experts say putting a baby in bed with adults is simply dangerous.

"My condolences to the family," Dr. Fernando Fan said. "But bed sharing, the Academy of Pediatrics has an official statement that says bed sharing is not recommended." Dr. Fan's a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente.

The coroner's office statement on the death gives the baby's age as four months, nine days. The family lives in southeast Bakersfield.

"The laboratory studies are complete," the autopsy results read. "The cause of death is sudden unexplained infant death with a contributing factor of bed sharing with three other people. The manner of death is undetermined."

The practice is also called co-sleeping, and Dr. Fan admits there are some advantages. "Babies and moms are less stressed, and moms get more sleep," he says. "Babies do grow a little bit better when they're sleeping closer to the family."

But, the pediatrician says there are safer ways to do that. "It's better in a separate crib where there's barriers on three sides, and only one side to the parent." He notes there are companies that make special bassinets that can attach to the parents' bed. He advises families to get that, if they can afford it.

And, Dr. Fan says there are some situations when it's extremely risky to put baby in bed with adults. "If the parents are smokers, they use drugs, or have any condition in which they might sleep to the point where they're not as alert to wake up," he said.

Dr. Fan says it's also dangerous to put an infant in a bed with a sibling who's under the age of nine, because the younger children can be very sound sleepers.

Health experts say babies should sleep in a crib, bassinet or portable play area. One that's safety-approved, according to information provided by the Kern County Public Health Department. They also say the crib or bassinet should have a firm surface covered with a fitted sheet.

They advise parents to keep things like soft toys and loose bedding out of a baby's sleep area. Pillows, quilts and crib bumpers should not be in the crib.

Also, health experts say babies should be positioned on their back for naps and at night.

"It's tempting to want to sleep with your baby," Dr. Fan admits. But, he says it's never advised to put the infant with you in bed.

"It's not recommended," Dr. Fan said. "Now, do people do it? Yes. But currently, I can tell you that we do not officially recommend it, although a quarter of families with babies do end up co-sleeping at least so some degree."