New SIDS Room-Sharing Recommendation: High in Potential Sleep Disruption, Low in Empirical Support

If you’ve never slept in the same room as a baby before it is difficult to describe just how detrimental to your sleep this little eight pound miracle can be.

I’m not taking about the mandatory wake-up cries they signal out to indicate a poopy diaper or bottle hankering. I’m talking about sleep noises. When a baby is asleep they grunt, snort, hiccup, laugh, cough, sneeze, squeal, whine, throw in occasional cries to keep you on your toes: the list goes on.

To an experienced parent, the idea of sleeping in a room with your baby until his/her first birthday can be panic inducing.

This practice can be detrimental to family sleep dynamics; it promotes excessive surveillance by parents, which will negatively impact everyones’ sleep.

Rest assured parents will remain wide-eyed for eight to ten hours, every night, for a year, as long as there’s a sleeping baby in their room.

I’ve always felt lukewarm regarding the ever-changing SIDS recommendations. SIDS by nature is a mystery; therefore, attaching conditions to child sleep routines in order to prevent it seems a tad inefficacious.

Additionally, there’s the itty bitty vital detail that many SIDS cases are associated with factors completely independent of the sleep environment: prematurity, respiratory illnesses, parental smoking, and conditions impacting the baby’s development in utero—to name a few.

I believe it’s wise to try out the common sense approach; don’t put your kid in a scorching hot room, face down in smothering mode, with blankets covering his/her face.

However, when a recommendation is added to the already tiresome list that makes no sense, like sleeping parents somehow preventing a child from not breathing because they are eight feet away—I’d prefer a nice juicy piece of empirical support to back that one up.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)’s “Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment” stated: “There is evidence that sleeping in the parents’ room but on a separate surface decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.”

Too bad that stat appears entirely unsupported—yes, you read that correctly. The AAP cites four different case-control studies to support this bold claim and not one I read came close to supporting this stat.

I don’t blindly follow recommendations; I always try to research health claims on my own: hence I started a blog to share my research with other parents.

Listed below are three of the four case-control studies they cited and the conclusions drawn by each. (One case-control study is left out because it was not available online ((as far as I could find)). Even if that study supported the claim—a single study does not create a reliable stat.)

  • “Babies sleeping with parents: case-control study of factors influencing the risk of the sudden infant death syndrome” concluded that the risk associated with infants sleeping in a separate room from their parents is unclear because of potential confounding factors (Blair et al., 1999).
  • “Sudden unexplained infant death in 20 regions in Europe: a case control study” concluded that 36% of SIDS cases were attributable to sleeping in separate rooms but it is unknown whether room-sharing was protective or simply a marker for hidden confounders not measured in the study (Carpenter et al., 2004).
  • “Bedsharing, Roomsharing, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in Scotland: a case-control study” concluded that sleeping in a separate room did not appear to be associated with risk or protection unless one of the parents was a smoker, only then was the risk increased (Tappin, Ecob, & Brooke, 2005).

I’m not a pediatrician nor did I author a SIDS study; nevertheless, it’s evident to me that further research needs to be done in order to support a room-sharing recommendation.

I found it incredibly sketchy that a 50% decrease was cited when there wasn’t a single study substantiating a causal relationship; a couple indicated a possible correlation—a correlation clouded by confounding variables.

If you’re currently sleep-deprived as a result of following this recommendation—speak to your pediatrician and move your baby into another room ASAP. Severe sleep deprivation can have a devastating impact on you and your child.

As long as sleeping in the same room with your child does not negatively impact your sleep: by all means keep your baby in your room for good measure. Otherwise, don’t commit yourself to a year of misery just because you feel pressured by this recommendation.*

I’d love to see follow-up studies on room-sharing for 365 days and its impact on sleep quality—which directly impacts your mental/physical health and ability to care for small children.

*Always consult with your pediatrician re: sleep recommendations. Remember: it’s important to ask questions or seek clarification on guidelines set forth by your pediatrician.

 

Sources

AAP TASK FORCE ON SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME. SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162938

Blair PS, Fleming PJ, Smith IJ, et al; CESDI SUDI Research Group. Babies sleeping with parents: case-control study of factors influencing the risk of the sudden infant death syndrome. BMJ. 1999

Carpenter RG, Irgens LM, Blair PS, et al. Sudden unexplained infant death in 20 regions in Europe: case control study. Lancet. 2004

Tappin D, Ecob R, Brooke H. Bedsharing, roomsharing, and sudden infant death syndrome in Scotland: a case-control study. J Pediatr. 2005

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