A new analysis of data from five previous studies, published this week in BMJ Open, a journal of the British Medical Association, has found that babies are at five times the risk of SIDS when co-sleeping with a parent, regardless of whether the baby is breastfed or the parents smoke or have recently taken alcohol or drugs.

Lead author of the study, Professor Bob Carpenter from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said:"If parents were made aware of the risks of sleeping with their baby, and room sharing was instead promoted in the same way that the 'Back to Sleep' campaign was promoted 20 years ago to advise parents to place their newborn infants to sleep on their backs, we could achieve a substantial reduction in cot death rates in the UK. This advice could save the lives of up to 40% of those. Health professionals need to make a definite stand against all bed sharing, especially for babies under 3 months."

The analysis, which combined data from the UK, Europe and Australasia, estimates that 88% of the deaths that occurred while bed sharing would probably have been prevented had the baby been placed on its back in a cot by the parents' bed. The study’s authors say they are not suggesting that babies never be brought into the parent’s bed for comfort and feeding as this has not been found to be a risk factor – provided the infant is returned to his or her own cot to sleep.

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