"The recommendations are very straightforward and clear: Babies should not be asleep in the same bed that their parents are sleeping in," said James Kemp, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University and a world-recognized researcher on SIDS.
Kemp was one of three physicians acknowledged in the American Academy of Pediatrics new position paper on sudden infant death, which was released on Oct. 10. October is SIDS Awareness Month.
The policy statement strengthens recommendations offered in the last American Academy of Pediatrics paper on infant sleep position and sudden infant death syndrome, which was published in 2000, said Kemp, who is director of the Sleep Disorder Program at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital.
"The recommendation five years ago said that in some circumstances, allowing a baby to sleep in an adult bed can be dangerous. This one said you shouldn't do it. It's a gutsy type of statement," he said.
Kemp's research, published in the October 2003 issue of Pediatrics, found that babies who sleep in an adult bed face a risk of suffocation that is as much as 40 times greater than babies who sleep in standard cribs.
He also has found that SIDS is more common among African-American infants than in babies of other races because they are more likely to be put to sleep in adult beds or on surfaces other than cribs, such as sofas.
"There are varied reasons for sleeping with your kids. In St. Louis, we found that the practice was more common among families who could not afford safe cribs," Kemp said.
Advocates of bed-sharing argue that allowing a baby to sleep in his or her mother's bed promotes breastfeeding and closeness.