Kansas health advocates warn parents against sharing bed with infants

by Alex Smith, Heartland Health Monitor

Health advocates have a simple message for parents: Don’t share a bed with your baby.

Unfortunately, it’s a message some Kansas parents aren’t taking to heart.

This year, seven infants in Sedgwick County have died while sleeping in a bed with their parents, a practice that can lead to suffocation. That’s equal to the bed-sharing deaths in Wichita for all of 2015.

Three infants in Leavenworth County also have died this year while sharing a bed with their parents.

“What I’ve learned from the parents I’ve talked to is they just never thought it could happen to them,” said Christy Schunn, executive director of the Kansas Infant Death and SIDS Network.

Sharing a bed, or what Schunn calls “co-bedding,” doesn’t typically happen because the parents don’t have an extra bed.

Instead, it’s more likely to result from parents’ exhaustion, drug or alcohol use, or misinformation about infant safety.

“The majority of the deaths that we’re seeing are when people have just decided that I’m going to go ahead and co-bed with my baby,” Schunn said. “Often there’s a crib in the room, but it’s not being utilized.”

Co-bedding has been championed by some infant care groups but rejected by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which released a study in 2014 showing bed sharing to be the greatest risk factor for sleep-related infant deaths.

Co-bedding shouldn’t be confused with “co-sleeping,” the practice of sleeping in the same room with an infant, which is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Health experts recommend that infants should sleep alone in a crib without blankets.

Schunn said the State Child Death Review Board of Kansas is examining the co-bedding deaths to better understand how they occurred, and whether they might provide lessons to guide prevention strategies.

The nonprofit KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor reporting collaboration. All stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to KHI.org when a story is reposted online.

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