A leading paediatrician has shared guidance for safer co-sleeping with babies, after it was revealed that nine in ten parents had slept alongside their baby at some point.
Dr Steve Turner, a Consultant Paediatrician at Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital, appeared on Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4 this week to discuss NHS guidance on co-sleeping, which carries a higher risk of cot death.
According to the NHS, around 200 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly each year. Around half of babies who die from sudden infant death syndrome (Sids) are co-sleeping at the time of death.
Experts have called for a step-up in safety advice after research revealed how common it is for parents to sleep in the same bed as their babies.
Nine in ten parents polled said they have slept alongside their baby but only four in ten said they have been advised by a health professional on how to reduce the risk of Sids, also known as cot death.
Speaking on Woman's Hour, Consultant Paediatrician Dr Steve Turner offered advice on co-sleeping to reduce the risk of cot death after it was revealed that nine in ten parents polled by the charity Lullaby Trust said they have slept alongside their baby - despite the increased risk of cot death
NHS GUIDANCE ON SAFER CO-SLEEPING
- Make sure babies sleep on a firm, flat mattress
- Lie them on their backs
- Do not have any pillows or duvets near them
- Do not have other children or pets in the bed at the same time
- Never sleep with a baby on a sofa or armchair
The survey, carried out for the charity Lullaby Trust, found that more than 40 per cent of parents admitted they had fallen asleep with their baby in a potentially dangerous way, such as on a sofa or in an armchair, which can increase the risk of Sids by up to 50 times.
Dr Turner was speaking alongside Chief Executive for the Lullaby Trust, Jenny Ward, who said that while in the past people had assumed that 'never co-sleeping' was the message, she said it's clear from the survey's results that many parents do end up sharing their bed with their infants at one time or another.
Paediatrician Dr Turner said there are things that parents who co-sleep with their babies can do to reduce the risk of Sids, with avoiding sleeping on sofas and chairs together one of the main pieces of advice.
He told the programme there were two scenarios where parents should think carefully about not sharing their bed with an infant under six months.
He explained that drugs, alcohol or medicines which make parents drowsy made co-sleeping instantly higher risk: 'If you've got a very small baby, there is no doubt that having more than two units of alcohol or having taken recreational drugs is not good for the parent, and certainly not good for the baby.'
Only four in ten parents said they have been advised by a health professional on how to reduce the risk of cot death, a survey by Lullaby Trust found File image
Speaking to Woman's Hour presenter Nuala McGovern, Dr Turner said the temptation to create a fence of pillows around your baby when sleeping in your bed could be dangerous, and that toddlers should be discouraged from 'creeping' in at night
Other parents shared their own experiences of co-sleeping with their babies, saying advice had often not been consistent for parents
The consultant said many parents were tempted to create 'a fence of pillows' around their baby in bed but said that could also be dangerous because the fence could collapse and 'become a ceiling'.
Dr Turner added that parents should be cautious about older toddlers 'creeping' into bed at night, which could change the sleeping arrangements.
Babies should, he said, be laid flat on their backs and ideally the mattress should be firm and the bed should be big.
Responding to the Woman's Hour clip, other parents shared their own experiences of co-sleeping with their babies, saying advice had often not been consistent for parents.
One parent wrote: 'THIS! I co-slept a lot with my daughter who needed me, and when trying to research how to do this as safely as possible, it was incredibly difficult to find how to do this safely, as the message was always 'don't do it'.'