Coroner warns on babies in bed

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A CORONER has delivered a damning judgment against the practice of parents sleeping with their infant children.

He concluded that it increased the risk of the child dying.

South Australian Coroner Mark Johns made the ruling after holding an inquest into the deaths of five babies in 2007 and 2008 who had slept with a parent or grandparent.

"The message to be drawn from these five tragic deaths is that the risk of sudden, unexplained death in infancy is greatly increased where a child sleeps in the same bed with one or more parents or other adults, whether the mechanism of death is asphyxia due to overlaying, bedding or otherwise," Mr Johns said in his findings.

Seven-week-old Hannah Francis died after her father, who was trying to settle her, lay on the couch with her on his chest. It was about 3am and the tired father fell asleep. When he woke up about six hours later he found his baby suffocated, lying between a pillow and the back of the couch.

Naomi Kade was 10 months old when her grandmother joined her in bed to sleep. At some point in the night the grandmother's arm came to cover Naomi's nose and mouth, leading to asphyxiation.

James Cleland, four months, went to sleep with his mother and a four-year-old sibling with his head between two pillows. He was found lying slightly on his left, facing into a pillow.

Diesel Phelan, three months, and Jaia Nelson, three weeks, had been sleeping with their mothers when they died.

South Australian SIDS and Kids state manager Colin Cameron said his group had been advocating for 20 years against parents sleeping with their babies.

"We recommend that parents do not co-sleep at all," Mr Cameron said. "Infants are very vulnerable in those first 12 months."

... although co-sleeping increased risks of sudden death in babies, there were some benefits to parents sharing a room with an infant where the child slept in a cot.

... infants sleeping in the same room as their parents were more stimulated and therefore would not experience deep sleep, which cut the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Mr Johns said placing an infant in a cot beside the parental bed seemed reasonable ...

Professor Byard noted co-sleeping was common in some societies and cultures that had not experienced problems with infant deaths.

But in Western society the situation was different because bedding tended to be softer than some traditional Asian societies and parents tended to be heavily built and often affected by alcohol or other drugs ...

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448