Pinrels, by Daquella manera / Daniel Lobo, via Flickr

Pinrels, by Daquella manera / Daniel Lobo, via Flickr

In the May issue of AJN Bunny Wong writes about the recently reported rise in infant bed deaths over a 20-year period. From 1984 to 2004, the rate of deaths resulting from accidental strangulation and suffocation of infants quadrupled.

The most important question, of course, is: why? Wong writes:

Although the authors conclude that the reason for the increase in deaths is “unknown,” a few suspects have emerged. One is improved identification methods: what once would have been classified as “cause unknown” is now filed under suffocation and strangulation. The other is cosleeping (bed sharing), which became popular during roughly the same 20-year period as the one in which the infant deaths increased; in the study, 53.3% of the 2003–04 cases reported bed sharing.

Wong also spoke with Diane L. Spatz, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. She said that nurses should remember that cosleeping, among other benefits, may encourage breastfeeding, and “unless we know concretely that

[the deaths are] due to cosleeping, I don’t think it’s wise to place the blame there.” Nurses, she said, should have “honest conversations with families about any practices that may put the child at risk.”

Since we went to press with Wong’s story, several news sources and blogs have reported infant deaths, pondered the reasons for them, and debated the cosleeping issue.

• The Los Angeles Times reports that in Los Angeles cosleeping “was blamed for 42 deaths in 2007.”

• Written by a pediatrician, a blog called MomLogic discusses four recent Wisconsin deaths of infants blamed on cosleeping. Also in Wisconsin, the city of Milwaukee has launched a campaign against cosleeping.

• Physician Kristie Leong lays out the pros and cons of sharing a bed with an infant on the blog Beyond Jane.  She suggests that parents might find a compromise in placing the infant’s crib in their bedroom.

• But when is that safe? The Washington Post blog says that that cribs are “not the safe sleeping environments we all imagine them to be.”

Nurses, tell us your opinions and experiences with this issue. Should parents sleep with their infants? Do you recommend the practice to your patients?

–Joy Jacobson, AJN managing editor

Bookmark and Share