Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association

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Co-sleeping of infants - Guidance from the CPHVA


Due to recent media coverage, many members are probably aware by now that following the publication of new research, there is now new evidence that shows there is an increased risk of cot deaths occurring in infants up to the age of eight weeks when they co-sleep/share a bed.

The research shows that the increase in risk is small but significant, therefore the advice given needs to be changed. As a consequence of this evidence, we at the CPHVA are receiving queries from members wanting to know what new advice they should be giving to their clients.

The new evidence has highlighted an increased risk of cot death in the first eight weeks of life where bed sharing occurs. This information should be given to all parents. Previously co-sleeping in certaincircumstances, such as breastfeeding, was not seen as a risk factor to be avoided. Now, whether or not the mother is breastfeeding, they should be advised that the safest place for their baby to sleep is in their cot. The remaining advice remains unchanged

Parents should be advised not to co-sleep if they are smokers if they have been drinking alcohol if they are taking medication that causes drowsiness

In order to reduce the risk of cot death all babies should be placed in their cot on their backs. The baby’s feet should be at the foot of the cot, ensure the baby’s head remains uncovered and that they are not allowed to become overheated.

The literature available to clients informing them of the risks of cot death will be updated and available shortly.

For more information members can log onto the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths website,

For further reading on this issue members can refer to the research article published in The Lancet.

R G Carpenter, L M Irgens, P Blair, P D England, P Fleming, J Huber, G Jorch, P Schreuder, ‘Sudden unexplained infant death in 20 regions in Europe: case control study’, The Lancet, Vol. 363, 16 Jan 04

,Lead Professional Officer, Health Visiting, CPHVA

40 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3UD

Tel: 020 7939 7046 ,Fax: 020 7403 2976

January 16th 2004